sGoals of Each Day’s DOSE of Scripture
1) INSIGHT:What is the Holy Spirit saying to me or showing me through this Scripture that I am reading?
- Read it a couple of times slowly, and ask God to show you what He wants you to see
- Is it something new, something convicting, something I know but am being reminded of, something I don’t like, etc.
2) CHALLENGE:What is God calling me to BELIEVE or DO because of that insight?
- Spiritual Growth in BELIEF:
- So often we fail to experience the life God designed us for, and live the life Jesus modeled, because we don’t REALLY believe what God has to say on a topic.
- Is there something in the Scripture that points out WHO God is, WHAT He can do, or WHO you are… that you are being challenged to START believing is true?
- So often we fail to experience the life God designed us for, and live the life Jesus modeled, because we don’t REALLY believe what God has to say on a topic.
- Spiritual Growth in ACTION:
- This is more the practical response to God’s Word we tend to think about, but remember… Believing precedes Doing. Once we start to BELIEVE the Gospel, we ACT accordingly, because we know we can trust our Savior.
- Is there something in the Scripture that God is leading you to ACT on in response to your BELIEF/FAITH in Him?
- This is more the practical response to God’s Word we tend to think about, but remember… Believing precedes Doing. Once we start to BELIEVE the Gospel, we ACT accordingly, because we know we can trust our Savior.
Then Finally… the conversation question for a DiscipleMaker Group, where you share some of what God is saying with a couple other brothers or sisters in Christ…
3) FAMILY: How can we help you BELIEVE or DO what God has called you to?
- Praying for one another throughout the week
- Encouragement phone calls, text messages, etc.
- Connecting more often for support and retelling of the insights/challenges expressed
- Reminding each other regularly of what you’ve identified you are not believing about the Gospel, or about what you need to START believing about the Gospel.
As you work your way through the Scripture today carry with you these reflection questions to explore.
DAILY DOSE DEVOS– THE BOOK OF ACTS
DAY 70: TUESDAY AUGUST 11, 2020
NOTHING IS WASTED OR MEANINGLESS
The seemingly “untimely” death and horrific tragedy of beloved Stephen shook and broke the hearts of his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Perhaps they thought his life was too short, his service to Christ just getting started, and now… having to face the jarring reality about their future fate.
When we’re in the middle of tragic circumstances it’s oftentimes emotionally overwhelming as we sit in unbelief…”Did that really happen?…. Why did that happen?… Why is this happening?….God what are you doing?” In those moments of loss, especially with people we love, it’s often difficult to see from our limited human perspective “the good” that our Father will bring about through it. But NOTHING that happens in our human experience is ever wasted or meaningless. There is a plan and purpose, and perfect rhyme and reason to everything we experience this side of heaven. Actually “Everything doesn’t happen for a reason”…. God brings reason to everything that happens…and on that fated and fortuitous day the “seed” of Stephen’s body planted in the ground caused “the church” to scatter resulting in an unstoppable move of the Holy Spirit which has impacted you and me some 2000 years later.
The question is, could God be doing this now, in our time…..in our day…in our lives? Using COVID-19, what we might deem or see as a horrific tragedy, to scatter “His church?” There is no doubt, we are grieving the loss of being able to gather together as His body, but our impact to build His kingdom is not within the four walls of the building. We can have “church” in the building but we can only “be the church” outside the building. In “church” we get to sing about God’s greatness, but in the world we get to demonstrate it. In “church” we get to talk about God’s love, but in the world we get to be a display of God’s love. In church we verbally proclaim the gospel, but in the world we get to visibly demonstrate and tell the story of an ever-loving, ever-forgiving, ever merciful, ever-powerful God that can change someone’s life.
You and I ….”the church” of Jesus Christ have an unprecedented opportunity to “bloom where we are planted”….to bear fruit… in our towns, in our villages, in our places of employment, in our extended families, where we learn, and where we serve. We’ve been given an incredible opportunity to “be Him” in the lives of others we may never have.….to be the seed that God’s Holy Spirit will use to make an impact in the lives of others 2000 years from now.
The question is, do you believe that ? Will you ask God for that? And will you trust in the midst of those things you’re grieving, and missing God’s steadfast promise to take ALL THINGS and work them for the good of those who love Him, and been called according to HIS PURPOSE?
So together, LET’S PRAY….Lord God, I believe you have allowed me and the entire planet to be shaken from our comfort zones through the ever changing events in this world. I am grieving the loss “of things the way they used to be.” Help me to see the “things and ways” I used to hang onto as things that need to “pass away.’” I’m going to choose to believe that you will replace them in my heart with different, better, and more fulfilling desires. I am going to choose to believe that despite what I see that you are, and you will work ALL THINGS out for my good as they glorify you and bring others into a saving relationship with you. Father, I believe your ways are higher than mine, help me rest through the mess and trust you.
DAY 69: MONDAY AUGUST 10, 2020
In Christ we are perfected and made whole, WE LACK NOTHING….because He who is in us, promises us and tells us that “through His divine power we’ve been given ALL THINGS that pertain to life and godliness”….the capacity to love, the capacity to forgive, and the capacity to extend grace, and mercy beyond measure. This is the life Stephen was living. With the empowerment of the Holy Spirit nothing would ever be impossible for him, even forgiving those who’d deeply hurt and wounded him.
Imagine the scene as Stephen, this innocent man, falls to his knees…rocks unjustly hurled at him from the angry hearts of the men who surrounded him. It’s barely comprehensible to imagine the anguish and the pain let alone believe in the depth of grace and mercy he extended as he cried out in the midst of it all for His Lord to forgive them…..But for Stephen…
“There was no greater love that would be shown to Him that Jesus, his Savior and friend would lay down his life to forgive him.”
Stephen walked in the revelation that no greater gift could be given to him as the gift of forgiveness…COMPLETE PARDON…. through the power of the Holy Spirit that God placed within him. A POWERFUL and miraculous gift that freed him so that he could unburden the hearts of those around him.
…He didn’t earn the right to be forgiven.
…He didn’t deserve to be forgiven
…There was nothing he could ever do to pay Jesus back for what He’d done for Him.
…His sin was like “a rock he’d unjustly thrown in anger at Jesus” that crucified Him.
He now served Jesus, “a high priest who in every way was able to emphasize with him” as the Spirit filled him with the capacity to forgive like Him.
When we let the Spirit speak to our hearts the depth to which we have been forgiven, we are then able to forgive others as we’ve been forgiven……..
……but we forget, and we let anger, bitterness and resentment build up and hold grudges against one another as we live in unbelief thinking…
….”Someone” needs to pay for that wrong.
….”Someone” needs to admit they’re wrong.
….”They” need to be shown the error of their ways.
….Others “need to be warned” of this person to protect themselves.
….”Someone” needs to learn to “live rightly.”
….”Someone doesn’t deserve grace, doesn’t deserve to be loved, doesn’t deserve respect after all they’ve done….maybe they deserve God’s judgment”.
….“They” need to understand the depth to which they’ve hurt me/others.
….What they’ve done is “unpardonable”.
….The pain we’ve incurred from rejection, insults and emotional injuries is greater than the power of Jesus’ forgiveness.
How true is it that all these things could be rightly said by Jesus to His Father about us…. but He didn’t….He willingly gave up His right to justly convict and condemn us to free us… so that through us we could free the world…one person at a time…maybe someone who would go on through this radical Spirit-given gift to become a “Paul.”
When we forgive sins, we empower the Holy Spirit to unlock hearts and save souls. The first heart He unlocks….is ours.
So together, LET’S PRAY……Father it is both an utter miracle and a mystery how your forgiveness towards me can flow through me, heal me, and have the potential to heal others who’ve offended me. It’s almost incomprehensible to wrap my mind around the forgiveness that Jesus has extended to me. Holy Spirit, my helper, thank you for reminding me again and again of my Savior’s love, grace and forgiveness towards me that can free me to love others who’ve hurt me…I can only pray that the power of your forgiveness that flows through me saves another hurting soul that you can set free.
DAY 68: FRIDAY AUGUST 7, 2020
LIVING HOPE IN JESUS
It’s doubtful, in our lifetime, that any one of us would be dragged into the supreme court to answer for blasphemous charges that were levied against us….although, nothing is impossible with God. But think on this…aren’t we standing in the “courtroom of life” everyday? Aren’t we, in our everyday interactions with our families, friends, neighbors, co-workers, casual acquaintances and social media posts giving others “the reason why we have HOPE today?”
That day, standing before the council, Stephen was giving his listeners HOPE….hope beyond their righteousness, hope beyond their limited view of life, hope that would free their hearts from the sin that entangled them, hope for an eternal future with their Father, hope for enduring the hardships they’d encounter in life, hope beyond anything the world could offer them, hope beyond “self-help,” hope in their God who would give them a permanent, lasting ….LIVING HOPE in JESUS…. a redeemer and a savior to fill their empty souls.
Stephen was a HOPE dispenser… and it rested on his faith in who His Father was. As we read through chapter 7 He basically tells us everything He believed, his life was dominated by TRUST:
“God rules history. I’m a part of history. God rules me. God determines destiny. I’m within the framework of destiny; God has determined my destiny. What am I going to worry about? God is in control of my life, he sent Jesus to prove it and I have the Spirit to remind me so.”
What is your HOPE in? In the “courtroom” of life what do your words communicate to others about who or what you trust and believe in? If your hope is in anything other than Jesus you may find words springing from your heart that convey anxiousness, fear, despair, anger or hopelessness….at times we all do…..we live in unbelief because we forget about the THE MAGNITUDE of our Fathers care, love and protection over us and His faithfulness to us in giving us Jesus. Stephen was a hope dispenser, but he couldn’t do it on his own…it wasn’t “in him” and it isn’t “in us,” it’s only through the power of the Holy Spirit within us that we can bring HOPE into this world….a hope that’s greater than ourselves and a hope that can take others beyond any other hope they hold onto in this world….a LIVING HOPE in JESUS.
DAY 67: THURSDAY AUGUST 6, 2020
WITHOUT GOD ITS FRUITLESS
Imagine if you will, for just for a moment, that you’re Stephen going about your day spreading the truth of life and hope in Jesus to anyone who has ears to hear…..And then, an antagonistic group rises up and starts speaking against you…. ….they spread horrific false rumors of your blasphemous talk and rally others up to stand against you…..NOW, all “daggerous” eyes are on you, imploring you to defend yourself, but in a low whisper that rises above the clamour you hear Jesus words to you “APART FROM ME YOU CAN DO NOTHING”…and they calm you because you know you’re not all alone, you know on your best day you couldn’t withstand all the pressure that is on you, and you know what you’re called to do isn’t all on you because you have a friend, someone who knows you and loves you with you…the Holy Spirit in you.
This what Stephen believed, He didn’t doubt what the Spirit in him would enable him to do. He knew that apart from Him he could do nothing. Along the way, maybe he tried and failed only to realize that EVERYTHING he did without the Lord ended up fruitless, difficult and looked “a lot like him.”
What if Steven embraced the “I GOT THIS” mentality that’s so prevalent in our culture today thinking he didn’t need the Spirit of the Lord? Who knows, he might have hurled some Jewish expletives at them, raised his fist up in anger at them, repaid evil for evil shouting back angry retaliatory words at them, he might have “dialed up” his friends and complained about them, he may never have asked God to forgive them, he would have failed to love them, or he might have run away and hid from them.
Sounds funny, but does this look “like us” apart from Him? With “that guy” that cut us off on the road, our neighbor, our spouse, our kids, our extended family, our co-workers, our friends, our “enemies,” our government or state officials?
When Jesus said those words “Apart from me you can do nothing”….He meant EVERYTHING. We can’t…..
Banish our anxiousness, fears and doubts without Him.
Control or contain our emotions without Him.
Have faith in Him, without Him.
Have deep abiding love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness and self control towards others without Him.
Speak words that bring life and hope to others without Him.
Parent well without Him.
Be single well without Him.
Create a healthy marriage without Him.
Honor those we work for without Him.
Praise and thank Him, without Him.
Be aware of our blessings without Him.
Pray without Him….
….Get up in the morning without Him, answer that 10th telemarketing call or any call without Him, talk to that person we might not be so fond of without Him, walk into Walmart or anywhere in our community without Him, sit in waiting rooms or long lines without Him, do the mundane everyday chores of life without Him.…..we simply can’t do anything without Him. Given all this, we still do many of these things apart from Him. We live in the “I GOT THIS” generation, and sadly all those things we do apart from Him have the potential to be “God things,” transformative things in our lives or the lives of others. Instead, they’re oftentimes difficult moments of fruitlessness, that look “a lot like us.”
Jesus wants us to want Him and include Him in every moment of our lives, not because He needs us, but because we need Him, and the direction, guidance and help of the Holy Spirit far more than we think we do…. IN EVERYTHING….so that, our lives and this world, the way we act and react look a lot more “like Him.” This is where we build a relationship with Him, really come to know Him and desire more of Him….this is where He takes all the secular moments of our lives and makes them sacred, as we abide and trust in Him.
So together, LET’S PRAY…Jesus I need you, I need you, truly…. every hour I need you. I’ve witnessed the effect in my life and effects on those around me as I try to do “life” without submitting and leaning on you. Sadly, the fruit of my efforts is a reflection of me and not you. Forgive me for moments in my life when I assess that “something” will be easy to do, and I go it alone without you. Thank you for the constancy of your presence abiding in me, always ready, willing, and available to help me. My desire is for my life and everyone I come in contact with to see the fruit of my life that bears witness to you…and I simply can’t do it with you.
DAY 66: WEDNESDAY AUGUST 5, 2020
GOD WILL DELIVER AND HE CHOSE YOU
God intentionally created Steven “for a time such as this”…..a moment in his life that would change all of human history and advance the gospel in ways Stephen would have never planned, dreamed or imagined. He was “standing on the shoulders” of Abraham, Issac, Jacob, Joseph, David, Esther and Solomon who God had uniquely crafted and given each a reason, a purpose, a calling unlike any other.
In the eyes of our Father, our lives are no less important than theirs. Our time on earth is never an accident, inconsequential and never to be compared with anyone else…. BUT WE DO….it’s challenging not to compare ourselves with these spiritual “greats” and many others throughout biblical history, even those in our spiritual family, and think “I’m not doing enough, I’m not accomplishing enough, maybe I’m not spiritual enough, aren’t “sold out” to Jesus mission enough, aren’t passionate enough, aren’t selfless enough, or “doing things” that are important enough.”
This is a subtle, but highly effective trap of the enemy! Really, think about this…this is the dilemma with “trying” to become “enough”….
“Either you can’t make yourself “great” (so you feel like a failure), or you do make yourself “great” (and you’re terrified of losing it).
We need an identity that isn’t founded on questions of “enough.” We need an identity that isn’t a matter of what we’ve done—because that’s never going to feel like enough.” quote: Pastor JD Greear
Your identity, who you are….your worth and value was never meant to be determined by what you do. It’s a lie from the enemy, a lie from our culture, it’s your unbelief that undermines the worth and value that only our Father has the right to ascribe to you…...What you do, never earns the right to value you….
What made Stephen “great” was his steadfast belief that JESUS LOVE DEFINED HIM, He stood behind Him, and esteemed him enough to put him in service to Him….that was enough for him, regardless of what he would accomplish for Him.
If we were able to sit with Stephen, for just a moment, he might pass along these three pearls of spiritual wisdom:
STOP ASSESSING YOU and START ASSESSING THE ONE WHO RESIDES IN YOU….
…….When your beginning “to spiral” into the “not enough” syndrome ask the The Holy Spirit to help you. He will always lead you to Jesus, who He is and what He’s done to esteem and value you…TO TAKE THE FOCUS OFF YOU….and remind you that who you are is not what you do.
DON’T UNDERESTIMATE THE IMPACT OF WHAT OUR FATHER WILL DO THROUGH YOU…
….The Holy Spirit used Stephen’s confidence in the face of death and his mercy toward his enemies to make an impression on Saul, one of the greatest persecutors of the early church. Stephen wouldn’t even live to see the HUGE seed he’d planted and the ripple effect his willingness to depend, lean and follow the lead of the Spirit would have to spread the name of Jesus to the ends of the earth. But his identity wasn’t tethered to an outcome, it was tethered to His Father’s undying love for him.
IT’S NOT ABOUT THE “GREAT, HEROIC OR “BIG THINGS” YOU LOOK TO DO….
…Stephen didn’t have aspirations to “do” great things,” for God. His identity was rooted in a “greater thing”…. to believe in Jesus, follow Him and never stop meditating on his love and forgiveness towards him. Jesus had already done “the greater work” of saving and redeeming him. Nothing Steven did could ever compete or compare with what Jesus had done for him. It’s often in the “everyday things” of life, where the Spirit does extraordinary things through you… the unintentional things…The way you love, forgive, show mercy and grace to your family and others God has placed around you, regardless of what they do… out of Jesus undying, unconditional love for you.
IN JESUS, YOU ARE ENOUGH…HE DIED TO MAKE YOU ENOUGH, so that
YOU COULD LET HIS LOVE, NOT WHAT YOU DO, DEFINE YOU.
So together, LET’S PRAY…. Jesus, thank you for seeing me through the lens of what defines me with the greatest value in the world. That I am your child. That there is nothing I could ever do to make you love me MORE, and nothing I could ever do to make you love me less. Help me to carry that truth into everyday of my life more and more, so I don’t get lost in the fight to try and make my own way. Help me learn to rest in your love and stay in close PROXIMITY to you, not in my PRODUCTIVITY!
DAY 65: TUESDAY AUGUST 4, 2020
LIVING THE DREAM: part two
FOR STEPHEN, LIFE WAS NEVER ABOUT WHAT HE THOUGHT HE COULD OR COULD NOT DO, IT WAS ABOUT WHO HE KNEW……
….it wasn’t about being in control of his life because HE BELIEVED that his life rested in the hands of His Father who was POWERFUL ENOUGH, FAITHFUL ENOUGH, LOVING ENOUGH, MERCIFUL ENOUGH, GRACEFUL ENOUGH, FORGIVING ENOUGH, COMPASSIONATE ENOUGH AND HUMBLE ENOUGH to step down from His throne, TO CHASE AFTER HIM, serve him and release him from the powerful grip sin had over him. For Stephen, the only thing more powerful was the Holy Spirit working in him, teaching him, guiding him, and reminding him again and again of the extravagant grace and lengths Jesus had gone to, to save and serve him…..so he could “go, therefore; and do the same” in the lives of countless others.
With that Spirit given revelation how could he not desire to offer his life as a sacrifice in service to him? Stephen’s belief in WHO GOD WAS AND WHAT HE HAD DONE FOR HIM, more than anything else in his life, was the most significant thing, the greatest thing that would ever happen to him, it gave him purpose…..It burned in his heart day after day……it drove him, compelled him and excited him above all else to submit and surrender his life to Him. Stephen was “living the dream”….. he chased after it, because Jesus had chased after him.
Stephen had learned that chasing after any other dream or purpose in his life would fall short of truly fulfilling him …..that “something” would always be missing.
Maybe through your story you have tried chasing…
- the perfect career
- the perfect spouse
- a good marriage
- well behaved kids
- raising “successful” kids
- having another kid
- having no kids
- being a “success”
- being seen as “successful” in the eyes of others
- the “white picket fence”
- two cars in the garage
- having the latest greatest
- amassing more material possessions
- the ultimate vacation plan
- a vacation home
- the latest greatest “experience”
- owning our own business
- attaining the perfect “image”
- the perfect body
- perfect health
- the need to be “important”
- to be “respected”
- to be significant
- receive accolades
- chase after true love
- a “better lover”
- things we feel entitled to
- things we think we deserve
- the next “high”
- the need to belong
- be loved
- be heard
- be our “best self”
- be self-fulfilled
- the search to find yourself
- to find fulfillment in yourself
- the perfect retirement plan
- to find contentment
Stephen knew that His Father had placed him on this earth to experience more than “the Jewish dream.” We don’t know much about his short life, but perhaps he’d experience the emptiness that came from chasing after experiences, relationships, “things,” and “perfect circumstances” in this world, when the Holy Spirit revealed to him that his ultimate fulfillment would never come from those things. Stephen’s “best life now” would come from losing his life, and connecting himself to something….SOMEONE larger than himself….. so he chased after a relationship with Jesus and yielded himself to the Holy Spirit who walked with him, led him, directed him, empowered him, filled him with unsurpassed peace and joy and loved him to the end.
What are you chasing after? Where do you look to find purpose, meaning, fulfillment and true JOY that runs much deeper than the fleeting illusion of “happiness” which is here today and gone tomorrow?….. Do you have a sense in your Spirit that our Father has placed you here on earth to experience “more”? Are you overwhelmed, anxious, dry, empty…..
The truth is, your ultimate sense of purpose and meaning will be lost, skewed and blurred as you let any piece of “the American dream” take priority in your life and lose sight of the One thing, the Main thing, the Only thing worth building your life around….the Only thing that matters…the extravagant grace and lengths that Jesus had gone to, to serve, save and chase after you…So that you might “go therefore,” empowered by His Spirit, with unexplainable JOY, to do the same in the lives of those your Father has placed around you.
So together, LET’S PRAY….Father how gracious, merciful, loving and kind are you to give my life direction, meaning and purpose. Without you I would just chase after the things of this world that never truly satisfy, like being in a relationship with you. I know you want me to enjoy them, but not find my life in them. You may never call me to be a “Stephen” but you’ve called me to be on mission with you in this world. Like Stephen, let my life not be about what I do, but rather, the joy and fulfillment of knowing you. Thank you for the moments in my life when the Holy Spirit awakens my heart and steers me back to the One thing, the Main thing…the Only thing that truly matters, the lengths that Jesus would go to save and serve me. Holy Spirit, imprint this pivotal, life-changing truth on my heart each and everyday and help me to NEVER LOSE SIGHT OF IT, BELIEVE IN IT AND LET IT GUIDE MY LIFE.
DAY 64: MONDAY AUGUST 3, 2020
LIVING THE DREAM
There is no higher honor or privilege in this world that compares to being on mission with, and empowered by the Holy Spirit to advance our Father’s kingdom herdze on earth. There is just no greater purpose or sense of fulfilment that compares to it. How astounding is it that He would take broken, fraile, weak, inept, rebellious, sinful people to advance His kingdom here on earth. Just as the early disciples, we were ALL chosen by Him to be a light, to be salt, to sow a seed, to “be” love, be “uncommon” in every way to the onlooking world as we display the magnificence of His glory through our imperfect lives.There are not enough words of praise to describe the genuine deep seated joy and peace that comes from CHASING AFTER this reality as our highest priority…. but Stephen found them…..HE WAS LIVING THE DREAM….
….As He stood before the people, the elders, the scribes and the high priest and gave a speech that would forever alter the world…but the words didn’t come from Him, they were from the Holy Spirit within him.
…..As he sat before the council His face was like that of an angel. He was undisturbed by all the bitter things that were being said against him, his countenance was radiant… full of love, trust, peace and confidence, and joy in the realization that he was serving his Master, as His Master had served him.….but this realization, and the radiance of His face didn’t come from him, it came from the Holy Spirit within him.
….As Steven boldly and brilliantly encapsulated “the arc of redemption,” THE ENTIRE HISTORY of God’s glorious plan to bring sinful humanity into a relationship with him… culminating in the truth of Jesus as the fulfillment of His plan, his accusers gnashed their teeth at outrage against him…but Stephen didn’t look down in defeat, HE LOOKED UP and saw JESUS STANDING, looking down at him…..but his ability to “see” didn’t come from him, it came from the Holy Spirit within him..…As Steven was dragged out of the city by the angry mob and innocently stoned, he incredulously cried out for mercy from the Lord to forgive, and not hold this brutality against them...but these words of empathy and compassion didn’t come from him, they came from the Holy Spirit within him.
So… Together let’s pray…. Jesus thank you for accomplishing the victory on the cross that would give us the POWER to live the life you call us to. Without you, a life of obedience to what you modeled and to Your Spirit would be impossible. Help us to LOOK UP in the middle of our struggles… in the middle of our pain… in the middle or our confusion with eyes to see YOU. So that the world would see YOU THROUGH me!
DAY 63: FRIDAY JULY 24, 2020 (from Bible.com)
HARDER THAN IT NEEDS TO BE
A friend of ours, Debby Wright, leads the Vineyard movement in the UK with her husband John. She is amazing at stepping out and praying for people. One of the reasons we find her so encouraging is she makes it seem so normal and so doable!
About nine months before the time of writing, Debby went to collect a parcel from a neighbor, Emma. They had never met and so she introduced herself and they had a little chat. Debby then returned home and sat down to have her quiet time. As she sat down she felt what she described as a “flicker” or a “butterfly” and the words “acid reflux condition.” She thought That must be for Emma. After some deliberation—it’s so easy not to pay attention to these things—she decided to go back around and ask. She rang the doorbell, and when her neighbor answered she said, “Hey, Emma, I’ve come back because I’m a Christian and sometimes Jesus speaks to me. I’ve just had a little impression and the words ‘acid reflux condition.’ Is this something you have?” Emma was amazed and said it was. She explained she was on pills for the condition and that there were quite a few foods she wasn’t able to eat. When Debby offered to pray for healing, Emma invited her in.
Debby laid a hand on Emma’s tummy. She invited the Holy Spirit but didn’t take long and she spoke to the condition. She commanded the acid reflux to stop and for Emma’s body to become receptive to the foods it was reacting to. It didn’t take more than a couple of minutes. Afterwards, Debby told Emma to make sure she didn’t come off any medication, but suggested that she try a few different foods and visit the doctor if she noticed any improvement. She said, “Thanks so much for letting me pray for you,” and left.
Debby didn’t see Emma for several months and then one day there was a knock at the door. It was Emma. She was smiling as she said, “You’re not going to believe this,” (so which Debby said, “I think I am”), “I have been eating everything I want to eat. I’m now off the medication. We’ve just come back from an all-inclusive holiday and we’ve eaten everything. We always used to go self-catering because I had to have special food. Now I’m totally better. Whatever it is you did, one of those “impressions” you talked about, if you ever get it again, you’ve got to do it to other people.” Debby said, “I didn’t do anything. It was the power of Jesus.” Since then they’ve met up a few times. Emma is not yet a Christian, but she is on a journey.
Both of us are inspired by people like Debby. We feel inadequate and unsuccessful when it comes to power evangelism. We are, however, realizing that we’ve made it harder than it needs to be. We have resolved to step out in praying for the people we know and grow into praying for those we don’t. Debby and others demonstrate that if we make a mistake, or the person isn’t healed, the kingdom can still be advanced. People are almost always touched when we offer to pray.
We are Jesus’s ambassadors. He sends us out to advance his kingdom. We go with his authority and with the Holy Spirit. Let us grow into followers who proclaim the kingdom and who demonstrate the kingdom. Let’s be the one who offers to pray.
DAY 62: THURSDAY JULY 23, 2020 (from Bible.com)
HEARING THE ORDINARY
After some time, I began to notice God was speaking to me through books. Again it’s normal, ordinary and unspectacular, but it was his voice nonetheless. I’ve always enjoyed reading but I began to find that I’d pick a book off a shelf, seemingly at random, and it would end up speaking profoundly into what was going on in my life at that time. This didn’t happen all the time, and as you read this it may seem like mere coincidence, but it’s happened so frequently that it’s now something I expect. I see God’s hand behind it.
I remember praying one week about what to speak on at church and the thought came into my head that I should speak on death. I’d never given a talk on death in my life and I was pretty reluctant to start then! The very next thing that happened was I noticed a book on my shelf. It had been there for years; I’d never opened it and can’t remember how I even got it. I suddenly had a sense I needed to read it. I said aloud, “If that book is on death, then that’s what I’ll speak on.” To my amazement the whole book was a meditation on death and dying.
When I look back I wonder if God began to help me join the dots with scriptures and books to encourage me that I wasn’t totally deaf to his voice.
As I began to grow in confidence that God was speaking to me, I started to practice prophecy a little more. When I look back, one of the things that surprises me is how unspiritual it felt. I had always assumed, when I’d heard other people’s stories, that something akin to electricity had raced through their body and they had announced a message that had just been burned into their souls.
When I started to practice, it didn’t work like that. I went through a season of trying to have a prophecy a day for somebody. I’d sit in my room at university and ask God to give me a word for someone. Usually, after a while, someone would come to mind and I’d get a Bible verse, a picture or something else. I still wasn’t feeling confident, so I decided to text people the prophecies—it saved me the embarrassment of getting them wrong face to face! I did this for two or three weeks, and I’m pretty certain that I sent out a lot of “blessed thoughts” rather than prophecies. Most of my texts went something like, “I see a waterfall and God says he loves you…”
Then one day God brought to mind a friend who I hadn’t been in touch with for months. In my mind I saw a picture of an apple with a bite taken out of it. I texted her the picture and a message that I thought went with it, “You’ve only taken one bite out of your life, and the Lord wants you to know that there is so much more to enjoy.” It felt pretty simple, but she texted right back, “That’s amazing, thank you so much.” She explained she had been due to get married but about nine months before had broken off the engagement. I didn’t realize it, but that was the very morning she would have been walking down the aisle.
DAY 61: WEDNESDAY JULY 22, 2020 (from Bible.com)
It’s vital to understand this if we want to live everyday supernatural lives. The supernatural life isn’t one where we wander around with pumped-up confidence throwing power bombs at people. If it were, only a few people could ever live it. Instead, it is a life available to anyone. All we need to do is depend on God, trusting that his power can work in our vulnerability.
Our friend Ants Watts tells a story about his little girl Hannah that illustrates how this works. Ants came home one evening, and Hannah came running up to him, saying, “Daddy, Daddy, can we build a fire?” Ants agreed, and so they gathered all the bits of wood and paper they needed and arranged them in the fireplace. Once they’d lit it, Hannah knew they needed to blow on the fire to help it catch. She knelt down, put her face near the fire and began to blow. The sound was like someone blowing a raspberry. Ants said so much dribble came out of her mouth he was sure more water went on the fire than oxygen. But after a few minutes the fire suddenly caught and began to spread. Hannah turned, beaming, to her dad and said, “I did it, Daddy! I did it!” “Well done!” he responded. “You did do it, you clever girl!”
What Hannah didn’t see was that whilst she was kneeling down blowing a wet raspberry at the fire, her daddy was crouching next to her. Every time she blew, Ants was taking a deep breath and blowing on the fire from behind her. She turned in delight at what she’d accomplished, not knowing that her daddy had been helping her all along.
We love what that father-daughter moment illustrates about how the everyday supernatural life works. Even the “strongest” among us will only ever achieve the equivalent of a wet raspberry. But our Father is behind us. As we step out he breathes out the wind of his Holy Spirit, and fires begin to catch. Weakness is the way. This means no lack of qualifications, no lack of gifting, no lack of fashion sense can ever get in the way of God working through us. It means that you are in!
If God delights to use the weak, then it means he delights to use you and he delights to use us. God wants to pour his treasure into your cracked pot. He wants to use you—even when you feel weak, broken, vulnerable, fearful and confused—to bring him glory.
DAY 60: TUESDAY JULY 21, 2020 (from Bible.com)
THE WORST OF THE WORST
In New Testament times, when rabbis chose disciples they would go to the rabbinical schools and choose the best of the best. One of the questions they would ask themselves was, “Could this man do greater things than me?”
When Rabbi Jesus chose his disciples, it appears that he went for the worst of the worst. Think about them: Whenever Peter opened his mouth, he put his foot in it. James and John were nicknamed “Sons of Thunder,” not because they had digestive problems, but almost certainly because they were bad-tempered. We’re told in the gospels that they were ambitious. When Jesus had just been telling them about how he was going to die on the cross, James and John said, “Could you do us a favor? After you’ve done all your suffering, could we sit at your right and left and be really important people?” Jesus wasn’t impressed (Mark 10:35-40).
They were vengeful and violent. When some Samaritan villagers didn’t invite them in for a cup of tea, they suggested to Jesus that they should call down fire from heaven and have them burnt up (Luke 9:54). Jesus must have wondered whether they would ever understand.
One of the other disciples, Simon, was a Zealot. In other words, he was trying to violently overthrow the occupying Roman army. Today he could well be labeled a terrorist. Matthew collected taxes from his own people on behalf of the occupying Roman power and was regarded as a traitor to Israel. Thomas was every pastor’s nightmare. He was negative, wouldn’t believe anything anyone said and always seemed to see the cup as half empty. Yet Jesus chose them. He loved them. He was committed to them. For three years they misunderstood him and had wrong motives, but Jesus didn’t give up on them. In the end his love changed them and they changed the world.
If we want to look at some other characters in the Bible, think about this: Noah was a drunk, Abraham was too old, Isaac was a daydreamer, Jacob was a liar, Leah was ugly, Joseph was abused, Moses had a stutter, Gideon was afraid, Samson was a flirt, Rahab was a prostitute, Jeremiah was too young, David was an adulterer and a murderer, Elijah was suicidal, Isaiah preached naked, Jonah ran from God, Job went bankrupt, Peter denied Jesus (three times!), the disciples fell asleep whilst they were praying, the Samaritan woman was divorced (and quite possibly a sex addict), Zacchaeus was too small, Paul murdered Christians, Timothy probably had an ulcer and Lazarus was dead! If God can use a dead man he can use us.
If it’s true that God’s “power is made perfect in weakness,” that has to mean God’s power is not made perfect in our strength. Why? Because when we know our weakness we trust in his strength. That’s why God delights to use people who know they are weak. So you don’t need to wait until you are sorted, whole, mature and know your Bible back to front before God can use you. God can use you now. And he’ll sort you, heal you and make you whole on the way.
DAY 59: MONDAY JULY 20, 2020 (from Bible.com)
Over the years I have had many airport disasters. Once I arrived at Stansted airport to go to Berlin only to discover I’d forgotten my passport. I tried checking in with my driver’s license but they wouldn’t accept it. I phoned the Soul Survivor office and my friend Ali rushed to my house, got the passport and drove to the airport.
Unfortunately, Ali arrived just as the plane was leaving. I was so angry with myself and as we were walking dejectedly to the car I noticed a man standing on his own with his suitcase beside him. A little thought flashed through my mind: That man needs encouragement, go and pray for him. I generally dismiss those thoughts but this time I made a big mistake: I mentioned it to Ali. To my annoyance she got excited. “This has never happened to me before,” she said. “It’s like one of those Christian books. Let’s go and pray for him!” I tried to assure her that it was just my little thought and said, “I’m fed up; all I want to do is go home.” She was too excited to listen. “But what if it’s from God?” she said.
In the end I realized I was going to disappoint her if I didn’t make an effort. I said, “Okay, let’s walk past and see if God says anything else.” We walked past. Nothing. We walked past a second time. Still nothing. We walked past that man seven times. In the end, more out of desperation than anything else, I went up to him. “Excuse me, sir, we’re not weird,” (he didn’t look convinced), “but we think Jesus told us that you need encouragement and we wondered if we could pray for you.”
He looked at us in astonishment and said, “I’ve just arrived in this country to pastor a church in Essex. I’ve been waiting for two of the elders of the church to collect me but they’re late. I’ve been standing here thinking, ‘What on earth have I done? Why am I here?’ And I just prayed a little while ago, ‘God, I would love it if you would give me some encouragement before they arrive to collect me.’”
I was more amazed than the pastor was! “Are you serious?” I asked. So we prayed for him and went on our way rejoicing. As we drove home talking excitedly about what God had done, I couldn’t help but think of all the times I’ve had little thoughts like that and dismissed them. How many times I hadn’t taken the risk. How many times I’d thought, It’s just me.
DAY 58: FRIDAY JULY 17, 2020
IS THAT YOU HOLY SPIRIT
Remember the magic of radio we talked about a few days ago? It feels magical, but if you understand a little bit about radio waves, towers, and antennas, some of the wonder fades. Hearing the Holy Spirit’s voice is sort of the same way. We never really lose the wonder, but when we learn how God speaks, it can start to feel more natural.
So, how do we know it’s actually the Holy Spirit’s voice in our head? It’s not as hard as you think. Remember that God wants to speak to you, and He built you to hear His voice. When you hear or feel something you think might be God, you can run it through a few simple tests to be sure.
First, test it against the Bible. Is that voice in your head asking you do something that doesn’t match up with God’s character as described in the Bible? If so, then it’s probably not the Holy Spirit. God never lies. And God will never direct us to sin or to make wrong choices. He loves humanity deeply, even the people that you don’t like.
So sometimes, He’ll ask us to do things that we’re sort of uncomfortable with, like giving someone a second chance after they hurt you or going out of your way to encourage someone you’d rather ignore.
That’s why reading the Bible is so important. The Holy Spirit can use what you read in the Bible to teach you about God’s character so that when you hear His voice it sounds familiar.
Next, you can test it against your own selfishness. As humans, we’re naturally selfish. So, when that voice in your head says to do the unselfish thing, or to think about someone else first—that’s probably the Holy Spirit. You know how it feels when a parent or a teacher encourages you to do the right thing, and you really don’t want to do it? On the inside, you resist it. That little rebellious voice—that’s not God. But, the voice that’s asking you to do what’s right instead of what’s easy—that just might be the Holy Spirit.
One final test—does it sound like something Satan would do? I know this one’s probably obvious, but if you haven’t read much from the Bible, it can be easy to confuse his voice for something good. Satan always makes things sound good, but one of the Holy Spirit’s jobs is to give you something called discernment. Basically, that means the Holy Spirit will help you recognize when something is coming from Satan instead of God. So, if the voice in your head is asking you to do something that sounds a little off, but you can’t quite pinpoint the reason—that’s probably the Holy Spirit helping you recognize the wrong voice.
Sometimes, people can throw God’s name around like a badge to do and say some ridiculous and sometimes hurtful things. Don’t do that. If you ever feel like God is telling you to do something that could hurt someone else, it’s probably not God.
DAY 57: THURSDAY JULY 16, 2020
THE HOLY SPIRIT IS ALWAYS ON AND ALWAYS AVAILABLE
Have you ever been jealous of Jesus’ disciples? He sat across from them at the dinner table every night. They went everywhere together. They could ask Him about anything. If something He said wasn’t clear, they could just poke Him on the shoulder and ask what He meant. But, Jesus was limited by His human body. He still had to eat, sleep and go to the bathroom. Sometimes, He would even hide from everyone so He could have some alone time with God.
Those first disciples could literally reach out and touch God. It’s easy to get jealous because Jesus was so real to them. But, when He was preparing to leave earth, Jesus told His followers they would be better off because He was sending them the Holy Spirit. Instead of having to find Jesus to ask a question, the Holy Spirit would live inside them. He would be available at any moment for any reason. Just think about Him, and He’d be there. Need guidance? Feeling confused? Wondering what to do? Just ask and He would hear.
Our relationship with God isn’t limited. We’ve been promised the same real time access to God through the Holy Spirit. He lives inside of us, and He speaks into our thoughts, our emotions, our dreams, and our passions.
Imagine that God wanted to do something in your school. He might start by having the Holy Spirit whisper parts of His plan to several people. They might not even know each other or attend the same church, but they’re each listening to the Holy Spirit and doing what He says. Piece by piece, He lays out a plan of action to accomplish the thing God wants to do. In His timing, the pieces come together and God’s plan happens.
In fact, the book of Acts is full of crazy stories about how the Holy Spirit put the right people together at the right time to make something special happen. Honestly, with the Holy Spirit living inside each of us, the possibilities are as limitless as God himself. Our only job is to listen to that quiet voice in our head and do our best to obey.
But wait, how do I really know that the voice I’m hearing is from God? Great question. We’ll talk about that tomorrow.
DAY 56: WEDNESDAY JULY 15, 2020
JESUS PROMISED TO GIVE YOU THE HOLY SPIRIT
Can you imagine trying to send a group text using pen, paper, and the post office? Imagine writing out letters by hand to your five closest friends, buying stamps, stuffing envelopes, and mailing them to five different addresses. After waiting for two or three days, the letters would start arriving at your friends’ houses. Then, each would respond with a letter of their own, making copies for each person in the group and waiting a few more days for each reply. Whew! I’m exhausted just thinking about it. It seems silly since you can accomplish the same thing in a few seconds using your smartphone.
The Holy Spirit works sort of like that. He makes it possible for Jesus to communicate with every single one of His followers in real time across the globe. Jesus could only be in one place at a time. His first disciples didn’t know much about the Holy Spirit or His purpose. That’s why Jesus spent His last days on earth preparing them for His death. They didn’t know He was about to die, and they certainly didn’t understand why. So, instead of trying to dump His entire plan on them all at once, He made them a promise.
He said that when He left He’d send someone else in His place—the Holy Spirit. Jesus wasn’t saying that they would be trading their relationship with Him in exchange for the Spirit. Instead, the Holy Spirit would come alongside them and help them understand everything Jesus had taught. Plus, the Holy Spirit could teach them new things as they learned to hear His voice.
When the Holy Spirit came, He would lead them to the truth. He wouldn’t have His own agenda, but He would be totally committed to completing Jesus’ mission on earth. In fact, the Holy Spirit would do everything to bring honor to Jesus. He would relay messages straight from Jesus into the hearts and minds of all His followers. But, here’s the best news of all: That promise wasn’t just for the disciples who were sitting around that night. It was also for you!
Think about how that changed the game. Before Jesus gave us access to the Holy Spirit, Jesus was the single source of information, and He was limited to physically being in one place at a time. He had to spread His message one crowd at a time. But, when the Holy Spirit made His home in the heart of every believer, Jesus’ message was engraved into our hearts.
Now, without cell towers or smartphones, the Holy Spirit can speak directly into our hearts and minds. Tomorrow, we’ll begin to explore His amazing power that’s available to us any time or place.
DAY 55: TUESDAY JULY 14, 2020
IS THE HOLY SPIRIT THE SAME AS GOD
Before we dive too deeply into how the Holy Spirit can help us, let’s take some time to figure out exactly who He is. Where did He come from? Is Holy Spirit just another name for God? How is He different? All great questions.
Imagine as far back in time as you can. Before earth. Before our universe. God was there. But He wasn’t alone. Well, not exactly.
God has three different forms. There’s God the Father, or just God for short. Then there’s Jesus, God’s son. And there’s the Holy Spirit. Mysteriously, all three are different, but they’re all 100 percent God. Each one uniquely expresses God’s nature to us, but none is greater than the other. In Christianity, this three-in-one concept is formally known as the Trinity.
When you read your Bible, it can seem like Jesus first came on the scene as a baby 2,000 years ago. Then, out of nowhere, the Holy Spirit appears in the book of Acts. But the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have been hanging out together as far back as you can imagine.
In Genesis, when God created everything, it was actually the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit working together. Now, you might be wondering, if all of them are God, what’s the point of having three? Another great question.
While Jesus was on the earth, He was only obeying His Father. He didn’t do anything on His own but only what He saw His Father do. When His curious disciples asked Him to show them the Father, He said, “If you’ve seen me, then you’ve seen the Father.” Basically, Jesus was telling them that He was God in physical form. God the Father has no physical form, but Jesus is God with skin on. Through Jesus, the love of God became something tangible we could see and feel.
But, as Jesus’ time on earth was nearing an end, He made a promise. He told His followers it would be best for them if He went back to Heaven because then God would send them the Holy Spirit. In the same way that Jesus became the body of God in tangible form, the Holy Spirit revealed Himself as the mind of God living inside of us.
So, the Holy Spirit leads us to the truth. He’s the very mind of God, available to you at all times because He lives within you when you choose to follow Jesus. He’s the voice that fills your head with God’s thoughts. Intimate. Close. Personal.
In His physical form, Jesus couldn’t engage with people at the level of thought. That’s why He said it was better that the Holy Spirit come. Tomorrow, we’ll talk about Jesus’ promise and what it means for you.
DAY 54: MONDAY JULY 13, 2020
WHO IS THE HOLY SPIRIT
Picture this: You’re on a road trip, and you’re mindlessly scrolling through Instagram with music blaring through your headphones. Suddenly, you pass through the middle of nowhere and you lose your cell signal. Sure enough, Spotify cuts out, the music stops, your feed is frozen, and you’re left to your own thoughts. No music. No more texting. In the midst of your technological desolation, you remember the car has a radio. With the tap of a button, music fills your car.
Radios feel like magic. In desolate places where smartphones are useless, a reliable, old radio can tap into the invisible signals all around us and fill our silence with music. At the turn of a knob, you can shuffle from Ariana to Drake. Maybe even mix in a little Luke Bryan—maybe not. No buffering. No dead batteries. Just voices pulled from thin air.
The Holy Spirit feels sort of magical too, maybe even a little spooky. He’s everywhere. He’s watching you read this right now. Weird, right? The air around you is filled with the invisible noise of God’s voice, and like a radio, you were built to hear it and relay His thoughts to people through your own words and actions.
Most people miss this, but God wants to speak to you. Did you catch that? He wants to speak to you, and He built you to hear His voice. He doesn’t usually speak out loud, but His voice comes from inside of you. It takes practice to learn how to separate your own thoughts from His voice, and different people hear Him in different ways.
Sometimes, the Holy Spirit sounds like thoughts in your head. Sometimes, He drops in a mental picture. Other times, He gives you a dream that just feels different. Most often, He speaks by illuminating parts the Bible—reminding you of a verse you’ve read and helping you understand it in a new way.
When Jesus promised He would never leave us alone, the Holy Spirit was the fulfillment of that promise. When you become a Christ follower, the Holy Spirit moves in. We become His house. So, when He speaks, His voice comes from inside you. What if all this time you’ve been hearing His voice without recognizing it?
So, when you’re driving through life and your journey leads to you to a dark place where you feel alone and abandoned, know that you’re never really alone. Even when nothing else seems to work, the Holy Spirit is right there with you. With only a thought, He can speak life, hope, strength, joy, and encouragement to you and over you. Even better, if you learn to listen intently, He can help you avoid some of those dark places.
Over the next several days, we’ll learn who the Holy Spirit is and why it’s impossible to live a godly life without Him.
DAY 53: THURSDAY JULY 9, 2020
LOVING ONE ANOTHER EVEN WHEN WE MIGHT DISAGREE
You’re down at the local Stewarts just getting a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread….while your waiting in a long line, you can’t help but hear the tenor of conversation over in the booths getting louder and louder. “PROTESTORS…RACISM….COVID…POLITICS.. GOVERNMENT.” The conversation is all over the place, people roving from one topic to another hurling accusations….angry words flying as each person INCREASES THE VOLUME TO BE HEARD. You pay for your stuff, turn to walk out and someone accosts you and asks “What about you, what do you think?” In that moment, what do you do? What do you say?
This was the emotional state of some antagonistic men from what was called the Synagogue of Freedmen. They were riled up over what Stephen was preaching…. THEY NEEDED TO DO SOMETHING… so they STIRRED UP public opinion and roused the elders who carried “clout” to justify their position, and set up false witness against him. But this angst wouldn’t stop him, Stephen was compelled to love them because of how Jesus had loved him……He loved them more than he loved himself and his desire was for the Holy Spirit to speak to their righteous hearts and move them from the emptiness of religion into a life-giving relationship with Him. He wasn’t intentionally trying to antagonize or demean them, only point out that JESUS WAS the greater Moses; JESUS WAS GOD; JESUS WAS greater than the temple; JESUS WAS the fulfillment of the law; and that JESUS WAS greater than their religious customs and traditions….JESUS WAS THE FULFILLMENT of all they believed, valued, held sacred and rested their identity in. But, they construed it as an attack on them, and levied false accusations and judgements against him.
How this mirrors our society today! The world is STIRRED UP because of issues that threaten their beliefs and values, and what they rest their identity in. Maybe you’ve found yourself angry and emotionally STIRRED UP over the state of affairs our country is in, and the effects it’s having on your life..but there is a cost. When our emotions are high…
- We don’t listen….if we are, we’re not HEARING. We listen only to respond, not understand…
- We’re close minded…
- We pick a side based on feelings of being short changed or offended…
- We form arguments before we have information…
- We’re rigid, unmoving, defensive..
- We unnecessarily stir up others to take on our point of view…
- Render unfair accusations…
- We pit ourselves against those we don’t even know or understand…
- We stand in pride and self-righteousness…
- We take things that aren’t personal and make them personal…
IN ALL THIS, THERE IS A COST….. The apostle Paul would later go on to write about it…”If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, BUT DIDN’T LOVE OTHERS…..but loved my opinion more than I did them, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal….because love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
The love of Jesus, that the Spirit poured into Stephen’s heart, empowered him to be FREE of retaliating with harsh words, or render false accusations against them, or garner the other disciples to rally around him and start a conflict… he was listening to them, he was on their side. It wasn’t a “sides” issue, it was a sad issue because they didn’t know Jesus.
Steven’s motive was not to judge, only love….at the cross Jesus freed him from taking on that position..… his value and identity were not caught up in politics, religion, the approval of his opinion, the need to be heard, or his need to “be right”….. His righteousness was in Christ. Steven knew that Jesus had purchased his right standing before his Father…he was secure in Christ…and that was enough….He was controlled and under the influence of the Holy Spirit filling him with an uncommon peace in the midst of the accusatory storm….
Because of Jesus…..We no longer have to play the position of judge, At the cross, HE FREED US TO LOVE.
Because of Jesus…. We no longer “have to be right” before others, AS HE HAS MADE US RIGHT WITH THE ONLY ONE WHO MATTERS…OUR FATHER.
Because of Jesus…We no longer have to rest our identity in our political affiliation, opinion, the NEED to be heard, the NEED to be right, doctrine or religion…..AS HE HAS ALREADY ESTABLISHED OUR VALUE AND WORTH AS OUR FATHERS BELOVED CHILDREN.
Because of Jesus….We no longer have to try harder to contain our negative emotions, WE’VE BEEN GIVEN A MIGHTY AND POWERFUL HELPER, a friend, the gift of the Holy Spirit to temper them, speak truth to our hearts, and empower us to STIR UP one another in this love.
Because of Jesus… We no longer need to fear when we see bad circumstances turn worse… We were given victory, through His death. The darkness that day became the greatest light. His love bled for us, as a cross meant to kill was our victory.
How might these gospel truths calm your anxious heart, transform you and put a purifying filter on the way you view the circumstances and people around you?
So together, LETS PRAY… Lord, thank you for setting me free from bondage to the kingdoms of this world, and what I can understand. Thank you for the freedom given in Christ, where even if things look troubling around me, my peace, joy, and patience don’t need to be influenced by them. Thank you for the model of YOUR love, and the POWER to share your love with one another by your Spirit. Our nation needs you Jesus. Use this climate we are in to expand the reach of the Gospel for Your Name and Glory!
DAY 52: WEDNESDAY JULY 8, 2020
THE MOST PRECIOUS COMMODITY
“If you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as silver and search for it as hidden treasure..then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God, for the Lord gives wisdom.”
WISDOM, we all desire it, we all need it….but from a biblical perspective what is it, and how does our Father want us discover of it?
Within a few short verses Dr. Luke makes it a point to share with us that Stephen possessed this “treasured commodity,” so much so that those who “rose up against him couldn’t even withstand the WISDOM with which he was speaking.” After he spoke, his opponents didn’t know what to say, they couldn’t even muster up a counter argument as the words that came from his heart were life and truth brought to his lips by the Spirit of the Lord. It’s likely that Stephen wasn’t highly educated, hadn’t learned “the art of winning in confrontational conversation,” didn’t have a loud commanding intimidating personality that caused others to back down from him, nor did he possess a motive to shame or devalue those who stood against them.
If you’ve ever been around someone you deemed had wisdom, you couldn’t help but notice something distinctly different about them…. an attractiveness that compelled you to listen, and want to be around them. According to the world’s standards those people might be described much like a dictionary definition: Well educated, highly intelligent/knowledgeable, able to take experience and apply it to issues confronting them, able to “hold their own” on a wide variety of topics in a conversation, older, confident in themselves/poised, well read, able to make good decisions, keen insight.
Some of these qualities might be present where the wisdom of God is expressed, but it falls far short of capturing it. Where is the “power” in it, the WISDOM that no one can withstand? James the brother of Jesus had a very different, revelational working definition of it….
“But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere.”…..this definition describes it, but what or who is it?
In 1 Corinthians 2, the apostle Paul writes about the difference between the wisdom of men and spiritual wisdom. “The wisdom of men is “coming to nothing” ….But God’s wisdom is “no longer hidden in a mystery because it has been revealed to us by God’s Spirit.” So, WHAT IS THIS WISDOM??….. In short, Jesus Christ and Him crucified. It seems so simple…..too simple, especially in the information age, the idea of wisdom boiled down to this one simple truth. And yet, this is what scripture reveals to us, that…
JESUS is WISDOM
THE HOLY SPIRIT IS THE MANIFESTATION OF THIS WISDOM…..
….This is the wisdom Stephen laid hold of. Through his devotion to the word the Spirit was giving Steven “the mind of Christ,” a hidden treasure, words given to him that no man could withstand. It wasn’t Stephen with whom they had to contend, it was the Holy Spirit, the unseen One within him.
So, HOW do we lay hold of this wisdom? How do we lay hold of “JESUS” as the answer to the ever increasing areas of our lives where we desperately need wisdom…. in our marriages, parenting, finances, health, relational struggles, emotional issues, in essence…everything? How much time do we spend looking for answers on google or practical self-help resources, or the advice of friends?
These things aren’t bad things but they lack POWER, they are devoid of Jesus and the insight and the illumination for every situation only the Spirit, our friend, our helper can bring. No matter how much knowledge we acquire, it will never take the place of His quiet, still, discerning voice. Only He is able to give us the very mind of Christ and faithfully give us insight to see our lives and our situations and our hearts as He sees….
And how do we lay hold of it?…
“If you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding…the Lord will give you wisdom”…..If any of you lack wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”
He was present for Stephen…giving Him the words, the insight and wisdom on his own that he did not have… He promises to do the same for you.
So together, LET’S PRAY…Father I can’t praise you enough for not abandoning me, and leaving me alone to walk through this life leaning on my own understanding. I often think I’m wiser and smarter than I am, and it’s only when I humble myself before you that I realize how foolish it is to be wise in my own eyes. Thank you for being the all-knowing wise Father you are, thank you for the wisdom your Spirit imparts to my soul as I meet you in your word and thank you for giving me access to the Holy Spirit to speak your life-giving words to those around me….words that direct our hearts towards Jesus…. and the wisdom only He can give to help us make better decisions in our lives.
DAY 51: TUESDAY JULY 7, 2020
UNDER THE INFLUENCE
Imagine you’re driving down the road and one of your favorite Christian songs starts playing…you crank up the volume…your head starts keeping time with the music, your hand tapping the dashboard, maybe you raise a hand in the air…you find yourself “lost” in the moment….until….. the siren behind you is louder than the music, and you get pulled over.
You can’t imagine why? You were well within the speed limit, as far as you know you don’t have a tail light out. The officer approaches the car, politely asks you to get out, and asks “Do you know why I pulled you over”? You respond in kind that you have no clue. He continues…“Well I have great suspicion from your actions in the car that you’re under the influence of “something,” I need you to take the sobriety test.” You walk that solid line obligingly and joyfully as straight as an arrow, as you tell the officer you were “under the influence of the Holy Spirit.”
Given our social climate today, you might find yourself in jail after making that statement, who knows, maybe it would give you an opportunity to talk about your faith in Jesus! Nonetheless, we see this notion of being “influenced” revisited by Dr. Luke in his use of the word “FULL”…Peter FULL of the Spirit (4:8) the believers FULL of the Spirit (4:31) and now in the life of Steven, “a man FULL of faith and of the Holy Spirit (6:5)” To be FULL of the Holy Spirit is to be CONTROLLED or INFLUENCED by Him.
We may not consciously view it this way, but every waking hour we are controlled or influenced by something or someone….and whatever that “something or someone” is becomes the driving force in our lives. What we are FULL of, or CONTROLLED by becomes the determining factor by which we make our decisions and dictates what we let rule our lives. For some it’s…
- Your smart phone..ever notice how it can easily “rule” and control you… seriously, think about how our “need” for information, connection, “the latest news” can rule and control us…..as well as
- our feelings, emotions and thoughts
- our job, promotions, better positions
- past experiences
- our spouse, the lives of our children, parents, other significant family members
- our health, the acquisition of possessions
- our failures
- media, the news
- our preoccupation with how others “see” us
- our successes, our comfort, pleasure, our need for mind numbing substances
- our “happiness”, our longing to be significant and find significance,
- the approval of others
- the need to be productive and useful
- greed, lust, power, pride, our need to be in control
Whatever controls and influences you is attached to what you love or what you fear.
- If Steven was controlled by his pride or need to be seen “as significant” in the eyes of others, he may have declined the role of serving the widows, not deeming it prestigious enough.
- If he were controlled by his past failures or insecurity he may have declined the role out of fear over this new undertaking.
- If he were controlled by his love of comfort, the long hours this position would demand would have been a deterrent.
- If he were controlled by his love of money and the acquisition of material goods this “no pay” job wouldn’t have been an option.
But, Steven wasn’t controlled by any of these things, he was CONTROLLED, INFLUENCED and FILLED WITH HIS DEEP LOVE FOR CHRIST. As he made the commitment to empty himself of “other loves” that failed to sustain his life and soul, the Holy Spirit filled him with something better…..HIMSELF.
Who of us doesn’t long to be there….FULL OF LOVE FOR JESUS, INFLUENCED and CONTROLLED by the Spirit of God? But, it always begs the question HOW? What does this “look like” in our lives? How do we know if we are FULL of the Spirit…not just merely caught up in a moment of singing a song, but truly ”riding” under the influence of Him? The evidence is in our responses and actions. ESPECIALLY those moments where we’re “surprised” at what we said or didn’t say, how we acted or didn’t react…
…You were calm and gentle with your spouse when they “messed up.”
…You actually didn’t yell at your kids, you hugged them and listened to them.
…You REALLY didn’t feel hurt at another’s comment, snub or judgement of you.
…You didn’t let that failure diminish, depress or define you….
…You really didn’t have to get the “last word in” or make that conversation about you.
…You offered a genuine heartfelt- kind word for someone who doesn’t like you.
Fill in your moment where the Spirit has surprised and influenced you……prayerfully you’ve had them and vividly recall them as they were His gracious evidence to you of His beautiful presence in you…..filling you with something better……HIMSELF, the fullness of all that He is, living His life through you.
So together, LET’S PRAY…Holy Spirit, my helper, my friend…. I want nothing more for my life than to be FILLED, CONTROLLED AND INFLUENCED by you. Live through me, love through me, speak through me, cast off my desire to be controlled by anything other than Jesus’ deep love for me. Thank you for this ever-growing deeping relationship I can have with you, knowing I can trust you to show me areas in my life where I’m more influenced by others and this world more than I am you. Thank you for the glorious moments in my life where I’ve watched you miraculously work through me, that have caused me to delight, and find joy in being with you.
DAY 50: MONDAY JULY 6, 2020
When I first professed my faith in Jesus, I was both bewildered and amazed as to WHY the Creator of Heaven and Earth, the Holy Perfect One, would step down from heaven to rescue me. What kind of love is this, that Jesus would take on all my past, present and future transgressions against Him? And the thousands of times I’d think “I didn’t need Him” that only hurt and grieved Him… yet I still would find Him with open, loving arms to welcome me back again. It was the enormity of His grace that began to deepen my love for Him….but I had a problem….I was faced with a list longer than a roll of toilet paper of ways my heart and my life wasn’t aligned with Him!
It was all too overwhelming, until one day an elderly lady in the church enlightened me to the fact that “I wasn’t alone” in trying to combat my sin and learn how to follow Him….. that Jesus Himself had given me a helper, the Holy Spirit, a mighty and powerful friend to strengthen and walk with me in my journey towards Him.
It sounded wonderful, and I naively thought “this is going to be easy,” ….but I soon realized it was hard…….I was FULL of myself, my desires, my will and wanted my way…I’d never imagined He’d bring so many INTERRUPTIONS, REDIRECTIONS and unexpected circumstances into my life to change them.
So, what about Steven, this new disciple that Dr. Luke introduces us to in chapter 6? Here he is, in the community of believers, witnessing what could have been a major dispute, a mess of egos, pride, clashing opinions, jilted feelings and raw emotions regarding a decision on how best to care of the widows…when all of a sudden he is appointed with a few others to lead this new ministry position! Did he struggle with this INTERRUPTION and REDIRECTION of his life?
As long as you’re upright, walking and breathing on this planet you understand what it’s like to experience INTERRUPTIONS and REDIRECTION. All of our lives are filled with a revolving door of non-stop day in and day out inconveniences, frustrations and unexpected events. Things break…accidents happen…the phone rings as you crawl into bed….”traffic” makes you late….layoffs happen….covid 19 breaks into your “normal routine,” we incur expenses just when we don’t need them….the kids run into the house with another crisis…. that “long winded person” seeks to have your listening ear at the most inopportune time….. unexpected illness occur, and the list goes on and on!
If we’re honest, sometimes we handle them poorly….maybe with anger, irritation and frustration, maybe you feel like a 3 year old wishing as an adult you could get away with stomping your feet, we engage in pity parties, and we rationalize our behavior by blaming it on our circumstances or the very people who interrupted us that God has called us to love. During these moments maybe you’ve asked or even begged God to “GIVE YOU PATIENCE!”
No doubt, Steven must have incurred his fair share of interruptions and plenty of redirection after he gave his life to Christ…maybe he thought it was going to be easy…but realized it was hard….as little by little he had to yield his plans, his schedule, his dreams, his time, his desires and his self-centeredness so the Holy Spirit could use these as pivotal moments of transformation. We can only surmise that in his journey Steven learned to see the unexpected, inconvenient, redirections in life as HOLY INTERRUPTIONS from his Father who loved him and wanted more for Him…..AN INVITATION to refine Him, move closer to Him, become more like Him and grow in His transformative grace.
Steven’s willing redirection would send him into the lives God wanted him to interact with….He would be sent to those who would most likely want to bend his ear as they were hurting, broken and needed a touch of Jesus in their lives. For Steven it was about so much more than developing a heart of patience; it was about experiencing TRUE LIFE….God’s agenda, God’s way and opportunity through the INTERRUPTIONS of everyday life to exhibit the miracle of God’s grace.
How about you…is your life filled with interruptions? Have you ever seen them as a Holy opportunity rather than a bother? Have you ever seen your Father’s loving hand at work in you, through them….perhaps an opportunity to grow in His grace?
So together, LET’S PRAY….Abba Father help me to see the MANY interruptions in my life as good, rather than an annoying and irritating thing. We both know I have room to grow, as I don’t always handle the unexpected well. Holy Spirit, I need you to help me more readily see the interruptions and redirections in my life as you do…loving opportunities to let go of what “I think is mine,” opportunities to better love those around me, opportunities to hear your voice, opportunities to praise you, opportunities to experience more of you and less of me and opportunities to grow in your love and grace as you make me more into the image of your Son.
DAY 49: FRIDAY JULY 3, 2020
This is the beginning of the weekend that marks our nation’s birthday. Independence Day is tomorrow and there is a lot to celebrate on July 4th. Liberty, freedom, choice, and autonomous leadership separate from England’s rule over the American colonies. Independence to us carries with it this idea of separating ourselves unto our own autonomous rule.
But if you are a Christ follower, the celebration on July 4th should look different. In fact, the way that we look at the word INDEPENDENCE should be different. See, because Jesus came and lived a spotless life, because Jesus died on our cross, and because Jesus rose back to life… Jesus has saved us from being INDEPENDENT…
Without the cross, we are independent of Him… we are independent of one another…
Now, because of the cross and empty tomb we have been rescued from INDEPENDENCE where we used to be stuck, relying on ourselves, acting or reacting based on our own limited abilities. NOW, because we have the Holy Spirit with us, we are living IN-DEPENDENCE… we are living inside or under a whole new value system where we can learn daily what it looks like to grow more DEPENDENT on our Heavenly Father, and our Spiritual Family.
You were not designed by God to live isolated. You were designed to be a part of a team… a part of a family… Like the team assembled, empowered, and sent out by the disciples in Acts 6.
The church leaders were inviting new, but qualified people to share the load of ministry, because the church was expanding so ridiculously fast. Stephen was one of those fast up and comers they had great faith in.
The church leaders were learning to BE dependent on one another when there wasn’t enough food to go around… learning to BE dependent on God the Father to provide what they needed when the money was running out.
We need to recognize that the gift of INDEPENDENCE in our nation that we are so grateful for, could be in conflict with what it looks like to live yielded in GOD-DEPENDENCE, as a part of this new family we are apart of. After all, we are “no longer our own” but have been “bought at a price.” We cannot find peace, love, joy, etc apart from Jesus. DEPENDENCE on Him in an ever increasing way.
So together, LETS PRAY… God I THANK YOU for all you have done to rescue me from the trap of INDEPENDENCE that keep me looking in the mirror at myself… but I thank you for awakening me to the gift of DEPENDENCE on you and DEPENDENCE on my church family. I don’t deserve your kindness, so I worship you for it, and ask you to help me keep pursuing you and the life you have called me to live.
DAY 48: THURSDAY JULY 2, 2020
ENEMY TACTIC #2- DISTRACTION
For the first time in the book of Acts Dr. Luke is now referring to the believers as “disciples,” indicating a commitment of their hearts TO MORE THAN JUST A MOMENTARY DECISION. This is who they were, this is how they identified themselves; they would no longer have to be defined by the world…only by Jesus’ love. Their lives were swept up in the powerful truth of who He was, what He had come to do for them and the authority He’d given them by the power of the Holy Spirit “to go therefore and make disciples.” The Lord was no longer “adding” to their number but MULTIPLYING the number of people whose hearts desire was to pursue Jesus and follow Him together. Imagine the sheer frustration of the enemy…. as his plan was to DIVIDE them! He tried to destroy them through persecution, deception, and dissension to no avail, however; his next attack was the cleverest of all…DISTRACTION.
Pastor Adrian Rogers once said that “If Satan can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy.” There was nothing the enemy would have loved more than to see the 12 disciples “leave the word of God and serve tables,” as it was the profession of the living word and the work of the Holy Spirit radically changing the hearts and minds of countless souls.
Prior to this time the twelve apostles had apparently been ministering to widows, waiting on tables, distributing food and funds. Earlier, in Acts 20, the angel who released the twelve had ordered them to “Go, stand and speak to the people in the temple the whole message of this Life.” And in Acts 5:42 we see they immediately obeyed and that… “every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.” But now because of the massive growth, the apostles were becoming negligent in their “sermon prep,” so to speak. They were getting behind in their commission to be Jesus’ witness and to win souls to Him. The apostles had not made a choice between good and bad, it wasn’t bad to minister to widows….it wasn’t “beneath” them…. but they had made a choice between the good and the best, desiring to do what God had specifically designed and wired them to do.
What do you think would have happened if the disciples decided to “step up the pace,” and work more hours to provide for the widows who weren’t yet receiving their allocations?
What if they continued to allow themselves to be consumed with the “busyness” of filling this need?
What if they resolved to just work harder… longer… faster… stronger?
Would they still be able to carve out enough time to just “be” with the Lord in prayer and in His word? Would their relationship with Him still grow?
Would their ears be as attentive to the lead of the Holy Spirit?
Would their confidence and bold witness begin to grow cold?
Would they become disenchanted with the seemingly endless needs around them, and then…. burn out?
It’s hard to imagine that these men hadn’t experienced exhaustion before in their work. Or seen it in their parents. Surely, they had moments in their lives where they let the needs and the busyness of life consume them. Work, careers, passions are GOOD things. But now as “DISCIPLES” they have discovered the BEST thing. And they are filled with a Holy Spirit strength through the word of God.
We see this in their quick and decisive response…. “We will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word,”they knew that it was Jesus’ word that brought “life” to their lives and to the lives of others. Jesus himself WAS the living word and without a steady ingestion “of Him” and the Spirit’s revelation filling their souls they would have ended up burned out, disillusioned, ineffective and let the enemy win.
“The word of God is Spirit and life; it is living and active, and when it’s “made alive” by the Holy Spirit it has the DYNAMIC POWER to impart spiritual life to us.”
As I write this devotional the “ding” on my i-phone is beckoning me from the other room and my “flesh” wants to respond but the Spirit tells me not….. i-phones, tablets, social media, tv, other forms of entertainment, the necessary and unnecessarily duties of life, our jobs, the demands of our roles as a mom or dad, the needs of those around us, the “things” we think we need to do that perhaps we don’t need to or aren’t called to do……..all of these things are encapsulated by the idea in Acts 6 of “serving the widows.” In and of themselves, they are not wrong things, but instead good things and necessary things… but they are never the BEST thing.
Do we let what’s GOOD distract us from what’s BEST?
Has the enemy gotten us so conditioned to “doing” that we’ve forgotten or haven’t yet grasped how “to be” and sit and enjoy the radically gracious gift of getting to know our Father through the Spirit of God?
Have we let “busyness” define who we are; rather than His love and His gracious call on all our lives to be His disciple and follow Him?
Are you tired of letting the enemy win? Are you tired of being tired and being burned out from the pace of life you think you need to maintain? Have you tried to “unbusy” your schedule to no avail?
Wherever you are right now….turned off your i-phone, walk away from all distractions and just sit and “be”….. enjoy the silence of just being still before your loving Father WHO LONGS TO BE WITH YOU….. and ask His Holy Spirit to help you desire to be with Him…
So together, LETS PRAY… God I WANT to grow in my relationship with You, help me learn to carve out a rhythm of time to draw near to You daily. I am your disciple, it’s who I am….. I know I am not what I do, but I lose sight of that often… You have told me in your Word that I am not defined by what I achieve or accomplish… and that the busyness of life, no matter my reasoning, will only weary me. But God, I believe that Your Holy Spirit will fill me, guide me and give me discernment as to what’s good and what’s best, and I will begin to be more in tune with hearing Your voice rather than my own voice, rather than the voice of the enemy, and release me from striving to live up to the demands of this world. Lord, help me remember that every other voice but yours is a harsh taskmaster only looking to DISTRACT me from what my soul is really searching for….true rest in in my Savior Jesus!
DAY 47: WEDNESDAY JULY 1, 2020
ENEMY TACTIC #1- DISSENSION
To this point in the book of Acts Satan’s attacks on the church have come on different fronts. He’s tried to destroy “the infant” church by persecution from without, then deception from within, and now seeks to sow seeds of dissension within by raising up one group of Christians against another. There was already tension between the two groups as the Hellenistic Jews were the “new kids on the block” so to speak. Satan tried to take advantage of the growing differences between them and the native born Hebrews by luring the Hellenists into the familiar “age old” trap of COMPLAINING, MURMURING, GRUMBLING AND EXPRESSING THEIR DISCONTENT.
…Can you hear it?….unfortunately, it’s all too familiar….It happens in the church building, outside the building in our home, places of employment….it starts in the form of a low whisper, an undercurrent of discontent between two people or a group of people….
“Hey I don’t think those Hebrews have a heart or the sensitivity to see that our widows need help…..they call themselves followers of Jesus, what’s wrong with them!” They haven’t really welcomed us from the day we arrived!
What started out as an undercurrent of discontent among the Hellenists must have finally grown loud enough to come to the disciples attention. Dr. Luke’s use of the word “complaint” indicated that the Hellenistic Jews had a legitimate concern but expressed it in an illegitimate way. The enemy sought to put a wedge in the growing unity of the followers by convincing the Hellenists that they must be forgotten, or not important enough as some of their widows were missing out on their food distributions. In all actuality, with a church growing as rapidly as they were, they just “fell through the cracks.” The real problem appeared to be the “food problem” but the enemy was just using that as a “smoke screen” to cover up a much more serious problem….UNBELIEF.
While the Hellenists were pointing fingers, sitting in anger or despair and complaining amongst themselves, what they most likely didn’t realize is that they were falling hook line and sinker for the subtle lies of the enemy as his plan to sow seeds of dissension were beginning to blossom! Furthermore, they didn’t realize that every complaint they rendered against the Hebrews, was really a complaint against God.
What we complain, whine and murmur about is an expression of our unbelief that our Father is ultimately good. Every need we have was designed to be filled and satisfied by Him, but we often look to the world or other people to meet those desires….. and when they don’t we tend to complain. What we complain about reflects our needs, our preferences, our desires….what we think is important…. and says to God “I don’t think you’re doing good enough, so I’m going to take matters into my own hands.”
It was much easier for the Hellenestic Jews to blame the Hebrews rather than look at their own hearts and their unbelief:
-Did they think their Father saw the plight of their widows and didn’t care?
-Did they believe He didn’t love them enough to help them?
-Did they believe He was distant and too busy for them?
-Did they believe He wasn’t powerful or wise enough to know how to help them?
Were they trusting He would come through for them or did the urgency of the widows’ plight cause them to take matters into their own hands risking the division and dissension of their new found brothers and sisters?
We’ve all seen it, been a part of it and witnessed this in our midst….moments of discontent where we’ve complained, murmured, grumbled over the affairs of “the church,” the music, the length of services, programs we’d like to see, people groups we think we should help, the Pastor, the staff, members whose conduct we don’t approved of……sometimes it’s disguised as “the need to pray” as we murmur or gossip about someone. As we do, we are allowing the enemy to sow seeds of dissension and disrupt the unity in our family, with our brothers and sisters…
….it happens outside the church as well, as we render complaints against the government, complain about our spouses, our kids, our job, our finances, the weather, our health, etc. It’s as if our hearts CAN’T HELP but spring forth words like fiery darts of discontent! Sadly, in the moment, we forget or don’t realize that our grumbling is really saying “God if you were good, then perhaps “they” wouldn’t act/respond that way, or my situation/circumstances wouldn’t be this way,” rather than seeing it as an opportunity in humility to address our self-centeredness and unbelief.
When we grumble about another person….we’re really saying to God “your not good, I don’t trust the image you’ve made them in. I don’t trust you working in them. I COULD HAVE DONE MUCH BETTER IF I WAS IN CHARGE!”
When we grumble about our circumstances….we’re saying the same thing “God your not good, if you were you would have orchestrated my circumstances differently! I COULD HAVE DONE MUCH BETTER IF I WAS IN CHARGE!”
When we grumble about ourselves, things we like or don’t like about ourselves….We’re saying to God “I don’t like the image you’ve made me in, I don’t think you did a good job with me. I COULD HAVE DONE MUCH BETTER IF I WAS IN CHARGE!”
When we complain about the weather….how the church is run…..(you fill in the blank) we’re saying “God you’re not working this out to meet my preferences, you’re not really that good.” And I am actively believing that I COULD HAVE DONE MUCH BETTER IF I WAS IN CHARGE!”
Before you stop reading this devotional and walk away in shame (we all could)…..know this….What we complain about, what we’re angry about, and what we’re disappointed over can act as an incredible catalyst to move us closer to our Father, as we allow His Spirit to transform the orientation of our hearts from unbelief to belief…and trust Him with those people and situations we tend to complain about.
Every disgruntled moment gives us an opportunity to let the Spirit “work out” the fruit of self-control in our hearts. Only He can give us THE POWER and continual desire to not grumble and complain. Only He can direct our hearts to PRAISE GOD for what we have and the circumstances we’re in, and only He can prompt us to THANK HIM for the difficulty God intentionally places in our lives to grow us more into the image of His Son.
What would have happened that day if the Hellenists trusted God with their issue, believed in His goodness towards them and their ailing widows…would that have prompted them to seek out the apostles first before throwing accusations at the Hebrews? We don’t know, but we do know from the text is that God ultimately worked out their situation for good…because HE IS GOOD…. and giving us His Son…is all the proof we need.
So together, LET’S PRAY….Abba Father I’m sorry for the whining, complaining and grumbling about LIFE!…so many things! In those moments my self-centered heart is forgetting about how good you are and how faithfully you’ve taken care of everything you know I’ve needed. Thank you for the power, love and concern of the Holy Spirit over my life to remind me of your goodness, praise you for what I have, the circumstances I find myself in and the people you’ve placed in my life to make me more into the image of your Son. Give me the discerning wisdom to more quickly see the “trap” the enemy lures me into as I spew out my discontent to all who’ll listen. In your strength and power I desire to live a life of contentment in everything and with everything that comes from your gracious hand and grow by trusting in you.
DAY 46: TUESDAY JUNE 30, 2020
OUR HEART FOR JESUS IS REVEALED IN OBEDIENCE
Dr. Luke’s account of the early church has just begun, we’re not even a quarter of the way through, and so far we’ve been witnesses to one of the greatest movements of God’s Holy Spirit throughout all human history! Through the outpouring and manifestation of His presence we’ve witnessed…
….The newfound assuredness and courage of Peter, and all the disciples, the number of those professing their faith in Jesus rapidly growing, an uncommon commitment to this new community of brothers and sisters in Christ, their steadfast boldness in the face of persecution, the manifestation of God’s Spirit through miraculous signs and wonders and the reassurance that their God was with them….
It’s exhilarating to read about, but challenging not to question “WHY”….Why was the Holy Spirit moving in such a powerful way then…. where is His presence in our lives now? The answer to this broad sweeping question could perhaps fill up a theological dissertation and our “best guesses” might be pure conjecture and speculation. BUT, the disciples’ response to the leader’s inquisition in our reading today lends us powerful insight, as they share with the council that “God has given the Holy Spirit to those who obey Him.”
Up to this point, with the exception of Ananias and Sapphira, we’ve witnessed Jesus followers passionate desire to obey Him, regardless the cost. It’s tempting to think they were “spiritual rockstars” as we look at our own lives, but the same Spirit that empowered them is the same Spirit that lives in, and empowers us now. They’d not been given anything more or less than you and I, but they were willing to say YES to the promptings, lead and voice of the Holy Spirit. Through their obedience, their Father revealed more of Himself, and NEXT STEPS to them.
Our ability to hear the Spirits voice in our lives is sharpened through obedience. Jesus shared with us that “Those who accept my commandments and OBEY them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them and I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.” Our obedience aids the Spirits work in our lives. The more we obey, the more we hear. If we look back over scripture we see the pattern our Father follows as He reveals NEXT STEP in the lives of his sons and daughters who obeyed. If we ignore something He’s asked us to do, He may not reveal the next steps to us until we follow through. If we want to hear more from God, we need to give Him a reason to tell us more, even though what He prompts us to do is something we might not understand or comprehend. In those moments we just “flat out” don’t know what He desires we do, we just take the NEXT STEP, and continue to listen for redirection and confirmation as we do.
Let’s “think this through” with a practical example…. let’s say you’re having a family issue with your parent’s, spouse, or kids and you hear a prompting “to apologize.” That may not be easy for you to hear, but you now have a choice to make. You can run through all “the rationalizations” as to why you shouldn’t have to or you can ask God “what holds you back from doing what He’ s asked you to do.” This one question will reveal your unbeleif, your pride and who you love. Theologian John Stott once said “The test of love is obedience and the reward of love is the Spirit’s manifestation of Jesus through you.” It’s through our obedience that we allow God to restore His image in us, it’s an ongoing process that happens over a lifetime, and it happens each time we say YES to Him by the power of the Holy Spirit. No where else in our lives do we face the challenges of obedience more than in our relationships with one another, but through them, the gospel’s power of love and forgiveness is never more brilliantly on display.
What if you obey and it “goes awry”! Your apology isn’t accepted, you’re rejected, the person is still seething in anger at you? Hmmm are you beginning to “feel” a little of what the disciples were feeling? Their obedience was met with anger and rejection…BUT IT DIDN’T MATTER….all that mattered was their love fueled obedience to Jesus and their willingness to continually ask “What next Lord”? The outcome wasn’t theirs to engineer or create it was in the hands of their Father. Their role, and heart’s desire was to be obedient to their Father, as Jesus had been obedient unto death for them…. “And through it He was transforming them into His image with ever-increasing glory, which came from the Spirit of the Lord.”
This was the ongoing lifestyle of the disciples….sometimes the Holy Spirit would clearly direct them, but in the day to day they were OBEDIENT to His word and all they knew would please Him, not to earn His favor, but out of their passionate love for Him.
Are you willing to say YES to Him as He leads you? Is there something your Father’s asked you to do, a NEXT STEP that you’re unwilling or afraid to do? If so, meditate on His undying, forgiving, constant love for you!
So together, LET’S PRAY…..Father show me where I’ve ignored your voice calling me to act on, or do something. Search my resistant heart and reveal to me what I’m not believing about you, why I’m not trusting you, what is it Lord that holds me back from doing as you desire. Sometimes I feel stagnant and “stuck” in my walk with you, unaware of what “next steps” you want me to take. Perhaps it is me hindering you by not trusting the things you’ve already asked me to do. Forgive me, and help me to take that leap of faith knowing that I need the help of my helper, my friend, the Holy Spirit who can love me through an obedient transformative life in you.
DAY 45: MONDAY JUNE 29, 2020
HE IS MY FRIEND… I THINK?
Persecution against those proclaiming the name of Jesus now begins in earnest. Anger among the priestly group against the disciples is so great that they are enraged to the point of warranting their deaths. Here we see the beginning of the cosmic spiritual collision of this present world system with Jesus and His kingdom.
As the disciples stood before the council there was NOTHING, that could stop them from proclaiming the gospel. They were taking hold of understanding the Holy Spirit, this new found person, His presence and His power within them. When Jesus told them “It is to your benefit I go away” it may not have made sense to them, but now, we see them partnering with Him and communing with Him, just as they had Jesus. They were INVITING HIM, the Holy Spirit, into everything they did, and His presence was EVERYTHING Jesus promised it would be. As they yielded themselves to Him, He was directing their steps, He was controlling their thoughts, they were open to His lead….and a trusting relationship was flourishing between them. And we see this, as they confidently proclaim in unison before the council, ”We are witnesses to the risen Messiah, and so is our friend, our counselor, the one who impresses this truth on our hearts, the one our Father has given to all who obey Him…the Holy Spirit.” (paraphrase)
It wasn’t their intention, but their response provoked outrage amongst the council, they must have thought this was lunacy!…… It was incomprehensible to them, because their hearts were hardened to believe in Jesus, let alone entertain the thought that a Holy God would make His dwelling in them. Without the Holy Spirit they would never have the eyes to “see” God, or the “ears” to hear Him….sadly, they would never have a relationship with Him, grasp the true meaning of scripture without Him, see others as God would see them, walk in humility with Him, have a tender teachable spirit, be clothed with “the mind of Christ”, or the capacity to experience the fullness of all that is Him….His love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.
Maybe you wrestle with this reality as well, maybe it seems incomprehensible to you as you try to wrap your mind around this loving breathing person…. the one who breathed His very life into you…..whose sole desire is to have an intimate relationship with you… NOW LIVING IN YOU!
To be sure, it is a sheer grace of God and a mystery that we will never be able to fully comprehend. Understanding Him is not an intellectual endeavor, it’s the ascent of the heart and a choice to INVITE HIM IN, begin to know Him and experience Him. To know Him, is to know His love for you. To know Him is to know His care for you, His ultimate desire to guide you, lead you into all truth, share His wisdom with you, speak to you, enable you to speak to others, and comfort you as He transforms you.
His desire to partner with you to do all this and more, is no less today than it was for the disciples then. As you deepen your relationship with Him, you can’t help but trust and obey Him….but you need to INVITE HIM IN.
Do you know this beautiful person within you? Do you know what He thinks of you?
Are you afraid of Him? Do you resist Him? If so, why?
Do you desire to yield your life to Him and listen to Him?
If you had to tell someone about Him, would you be able to describe Him?
How/Where have you witnessed His presence manifest His life through you?
So together, LET’S PRAY….My partner, my helper, my leader, my comforter, teacher and friend…I do find it incomprehensible at times that you would choose to make your home in me. I’ve so many areas in my life where I’m hardened to giving myself over to you….areas I’ve not invited you in….. because I don’t know you enough to trust you. I believe you can change all that if I seek you and get to know you… please open up my heart enough to. Help me to discover the barriers I’ve erected in my heart that keep me at arms length from you. In humility and honesty, prompt me to talk about you with a trusted friend, so together, we can share in the joy and wonder of getting to know you.
DAY 44: FRIDAY JUNE 26, 2020
THE SWEET SOUND OF REPENTANCE
As a young girl traveling about in New York City I’d often see men and women on the streets holding cardboard signs with the word REPENT, in HUGE blackened letters. Standing on their “soap boxes” they’d yell as loudly as they could “REPENT AND BE SAVED!” As I approached one of these messengers I’d make a wide arch around them, as I didn’t know what to make of them. All I could remember is the guilt, shame and remorse I’d feel as their voices seemed to point a “guilty” finger at me. I didn’t know that later that word would be like sweet music to my ears..
….And sweet it was to many in the early movement of the church as the Spirit of God imparted the depth of it’s meaning to souls of thousands who needed the ongoing hope it offered to cleanse them, strengthen them and deepen their love for Jesus. For others, including the religious rulers, the call to…….REPENT……to change their minds about who Jesus was…leader, Messiah, ruler over all, the ONE to be worshipped, submitted to, revered and feared, the Anointed One sent by God we are to turn to in the depth of our sin….. for them, they wanted nothing to do with that rhetoric.
What comes to mind when you hear the word REPENT? Does simply the sound of the word evoke guilt and shame in you, or have you embraced and experienced it as an ongoing gift of grace given to you?
It was the Spirit of the Lord that loving convicted you, comforted you and whispered to you how much you needed Jesus. You knew deep down you needed a way to escape all that was oppressing you, so He placed within you a desire to turn from the sin that separated you from God…. turn from self-rule to His rule…and turn from independence to dependence on Him. Maybe you felt the weight of Jesus crucified for you as you asked and received His forgiveness…. REPENTED…. and made the choice to turn from towards Him, resulting in turning away from your sin.
By the power of His Spirit, now living in you…
You became a new creation…that old desire to sin is still BEING replaced with the desire to live out of your Father’s incomprehensible love for you….
You were given a new heart, the Spirit’s presence in you, to help you as your heart of stone is still BEING removed and you are, given a heart of flesh…
Somewhere in the midst of this glorious reality you realized, “the old man” dies hard….that “working out” this new creation is a struggle, sometimes a wrestling match, at others times a guilt ridden, shame laden arduous endeavor you just want to abandon!
Do we however; make it harder than it has to be? Do we spend more time trying to overcome our sin in our own strength and our own power than we do leaning on the Holy Spirit’s power within us? Do we spend more time in guilt and shame rather than embracing the joy that comes from the cleansing, strengthening power of ongoing repentance that fuels our love for Jesus?
If you connect more personally with the difficulty of turning towards Jesus than the joy of it, let this be sweet music to your ears.
- The Holy Spirit within you has already given you EVERYTHING you need to turn from your sin, shame and guilt and walk towards Jesus…YOU’RE NOT ALONE……..He holds the power to do what you cannot do, and WANTS MORE THAN ANYTHING to help you. Apart from Him, you’ve no chance to escape the sin that hurts you and your Father’s heart.
- The kindness of the Holy Spirit will lead you to repentance and help you understand what it is that you’re not believing about your Father that’s causing you to sin. His desire is to comfort you, walk with you through it and deepen your understanding of what Jesus’ grace and sacrifice has done to free you.
To put some TANGIBLE HANDLES on what the power of biblical repentance can do to free you…. let’s walk through an example….
YOU: “I messed up again! I can’t seem to control my tongue when it comes to loving my spouse well and giving them grace when they don’t live up to my expectations. It drives me to anger, it aggravates me that they don’t have a heart for what I need and what might hurt and frustrate me. I feel they don’t respect me, so I get short and quippy with them. Sometimes I raise my voice in anger at them. Sometimes I say things that are downright mean to them. After the fact, I feel horrible guilt and shame over what I said or what I did. I know it was wrong, I vow I will never do that again!
HOLY SPIRIT: You think you have the strength to not “go there” again? Hmmm how many times has this happened? How many times have I witnessed you sitting in the despair of your guilt and shame? Why don’t you let me help you? Why don’t you talk with me and see if we can get to the root of why you do what you do, that you don’t want to do! Let’s discover together what you might NOT be believing about your Father that causes you to react the way you do?”
YOU: “I don’t have a clue…..”
HOLY SPIRIT: When you’ve done things that haven’t lived up to your Father’s expectations, done things that anger Him, frustrate Him and hurt Him…how does He respond to you?”
YOU: “With grace, patience and love….but I don’t have that!”
HOLY SPIRIT: “No, your old person didn’t, but with me you do. I’ve placed within you all those things, but you have to lean on me, my power and my strength and let them flow through you…it’s a choice to believe that with me it can happen. “
“Do you trust me with your spouse’s heart? Do you believe that through your anger and frustration you can change it….. or might it work better to talk with me about your frustrations and choose to believe that I, not you can change it?
Do you believe I care and love them far more than you ever could? Do you believe that in time I will work out whatever needs to be done in their heart?”
Will you partner with me so I can transform your controlling heart to one of grace and love, knowing that’s how Jesus changed yours?”
YOU: “It’s all hard to believe…but Yes, ….will you forgive my unbelief in WHO you are, and WHAT You can do IN me?
HOLY SPIRIT: Yes, it was already forgiven at the cross.
YOU: Thank you…..Once again I’ll surrender to your love for me and my spouse and will choose to believe that you will do the work in me and in them. But I can’t promise I won’t slip again. And, Holy Spirit… did Jesus really ALREADY pay for the multiple times I’ve been here, caught in my sin?”
HOLY SPIRIT: “If/when you slip again…there’s grace for that…and “Yes Jesus did pay for that and everything else He knew, that with a lack of belief in His love and grace, you would act on and would break His heart… He has saved you, and He will continue to save you as you turn back towards His love and grace. His love is constant for you, isn’t He amazing?”
YOU: “Yes, it’s hard to believe it’s so good to be true, it makes my love for Him grow all the more!!”
Therein lies the sweet sound of repentance…..
So together, LET’S PRAY….….. Holy Spirit, lead me to a lifestyle of ongoing repentance to help me uncover the barriers that keep me from fully believing and embracing the love your Father and Jesus have for you. Through it, discover the Holy Spirit’s comforting, powerful presence in you, His transformative love for you and His ability to cleanse you, strengthen you and fuel your love for Jesus!
DAY 43: THURSDAY JUNE 25, 2020
IT’S A MIRACLE!
A MIRACLE! By God’s divine plan, the imprisoned apostles were released the same evening as their arrest! In less than 24 hours God’s display of power and sovereignty overshadowed the high priest’s attempt at silencing and “arresting” the movement of the Holy Spirit by sending an angel to release them. Prayerfully, you too have experienced and witnessed this miraculous movement of God in your life….the times you’ve been in a hard place, prayed and witnessed how swiftly He responded! We should never stop asking and trusting our Father for miraculous things, but know that either way it’s about His plan and purpose for us, which oftentimes is confusing and difficult to understand.
Maybe this is how the disciples felt when the angel of the Lord commanded them to “STAND and speak to the people all “the words” of this Life”….in other words “Get back out there, talk to the people about Jesus and let nothing dissuade you.” The message was not “RUN AWAY, BUT RUN TO……GO, STAND, SPEAK. How could the apostles obey this command given they’ve just been jailed for speaking about Jesus? The simple answer….. THEY COULDN’T! But they did, which is in stark contrast to their reaction to run away when Jesus was arrested. The Spirit of the Lord filled them with EVERYTHING they would need….. conviction, courage, boldness, purpose…..”He didn’t give them a Spirit of fear, but one of power, love and self control.” He enabled them to keep on speaking and moving towards “the relational heat” instead of away from it…
Today, speaking out for our beliefs, and sharing our gospel story is no less difficult than it was then. In this ever growing climate of self rule and respect for an individual’s freedom to mix and match theology that “fits” their perspective, we’re almost hesitant to
speak of Jesus. Maybe God has placed that “JUST ONE MORE” in your life, maybe someone you have a great relationship with…but the moment you attempt to share your life of faith you’re met with cold, hard, brickwall, opposition. What do you do? Do you “RUN AWAY” or continue to love them and wait for the Holy Spirit to OPEN the door you long to walk through with the Gospel with that person…. Continue to love them and WAIT for the Holy Spirit to lead you to GO, STAND & SPEAK…
Oftentimes, sharing our love for Jesus isn’t more a matter of “persecution,” than it is fear over….
WHAT to say…..you’re afraid you won’t have the “right words.” So you “rehearse your lines…gather your thoughts, and rehash in your mind over and over again what you should or should not say..
WHEN… “is the best time .” You’re afraid you might have this conversation “at the wrong time”. So you think of possible scenarios and places to orchestrate the perfect moment…
HOW…. to handle their “perceived” reaction, and “the outcome” if you’re met with opposition…. Again.
IF they say no... then “I have failed, and I know I shouldn’t have said anything… I was not the right person to do this… I can’t save anyone!!” (which is actually true, so celebrate that!)
Out of fear, we tend to overthink and over- orchestrate things……. WE FORGET about the presence of the living God in us who has given us EVERYTHING WE NEED to do what He’s asked us to do…. The biggest struggle we face is that we just don’t believe it completely, all the time.
What if it were OK to STOP thinking about what we were going to say, OK to STOP thinking about “the right moment” and timing of it all, OK to STOP trying to control the outcome, and instead realized it was BEST to START realizing that without the Holy Spirit, we will never get over our fears.
The Holy Spirit desires what our Father and Jesus desire….”that not one is lost.” He is the disciplemaker…it’s through His perfect care, love and concern that other’s come to know God personally…He is the one who “searches…..the deep things of God” and reveals them to the human heart.” It’s who He is, and what He does….and His ability, His words and His timing are far better than our own.
When you find yourself “trying in your own strength and power” to conjure up the right words, places and timing…STOP…get out of His way… and tell Him …”I TRUST YOU, I TRUST YOU, I TRUST YOU….to do what only you can perfectly do.”
So together, LET’S PRAY….Spirit of the Living God, how can I give myself to more of you? I want to die to myself…die to over-thinking and over-orchestrating EVERYTHING in this life to watch you move and do what only you can do. Help me to get out of the way as you use me to be the extension of Jesus’ work here on earth. I BELIEVE that you know me better than anyone, and the fears that lie deep in my heart…..the fears that keep me from TOTALLY TRUSTING you. I desire a closer walk with you. Teach me to depend on you, increasingly rely on you and watch you work through me to reach just “ONE MORE” for Jesus. I BELIEVE that with you, nothing is impossible.
DAY 42: WEDNESDAY JUNE 24, 2020
HOW I LOSE MY IDENTITY IN CHRIST AT TIMES
Many years before I realized my need for Jesus, I met a woman whose life was a brilliant expression of Him. We worked together in a retail environment, and I couldn’t help but notice her uncommon grace, patience and love. One day, after assisting a particularly difficult customer I asked her, “Why were you so nice to them!” She sweetly looked at me and simply said, “I don’t do things to please people, but to obey God.” I turned away and didn’t quite understand the true meaning of her words then, but as she loved me into a relationship with Jesus it became crystal clear.
These words echo Peter and the disciples’ words to the high priest as they stood before the council… “We must obey God rather than men.” As if the council of men weren’t perplexed and confused already, but now? Their entire lives were built on obeying God, every law, every ritual, every ceremony everything they thought displayed their obedience to God…..but they didn’t know His heart…they weren’t moved by His love. Even while Jesus was with them, He tried to convey the truth to them…
“You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. I do not receive glory from people. But I know that you do not have the love of God within you.”
Tragically, these men preferred receiving glory from one another rather than seek the glory of God. They didn’t realize that no sin or idolatry was more destructive and hurtful to God than living for the approval of man….We can well relate to this in those moments when….
Our flesh is craving that “atta boy,” accolade, praise for a job well done.
We compromise our values, just to fit in.
We’re sent into despair when we fail to please someone.
We could have, but didn’t share our faith, fearing what others would think.
We accepted the glory for being “a good person” without giving the credit to God.
We serve Him, attend service or read the word looking for acknowledgement (boasting or bragging to others what we’ve done).
We “lose our identity in Him” to become someone someone else wants us to be.
My friend could have rightly argued policy with the customer that day, the disciples could have cowered to the impending fate that might await them that day….But, their Savior’s love and the Spirit within them COMPELLED THEM to live for His glory, not their own. It was a matter of allegiance. The gospel of grace liberated them from the need to be approved of by anyone but Jesus, because in Him, they had already been approved by the ONLY ONE whose approval matters and the ONLY ONE whose approval satisfies…
Let’s do an honest “heart check”…
- Am I more concerned about what my Father thinks about my life than about what others think?
- Would I pray, read my Bible, give and serve as much if nobody but my Father ever noticed?
- Am I more concerned about pleasing my Father than I am about being accepted and appreciated by others?
So together, LET’S PRAY….I praise you Abba Father that you’ve liberated me from needing to seek the approval of others, and your Spirit reminding me that all I ever need is to please an AUDIENCE OF ONE! Not to earn your favor or blessing, but out of love for what you’ve done for me through Jesus. Your approval of me through Him is all that matters and the only approval that will ever satisfy the cravings in my heart. Thank you for your grace that’s liberated me from needing to be the center of attention and stealing you glory. Thank you for the continual faithfulness of your Spirit opening my eyes when I’ve wrongly glorified others…NEEDING them rather than wanting them to love me, appreciate me, respect me, and approve of me.
DAY 41: TUESDAY JUNE 23, 2020
Can you imagine the conversation that transpired between the officers who were sent to retrieve the disciples from prison to bring them before the Sanhedrin? “Who’s going to break this news to the boss!?” When they arrived they had to deliver the unbelievable….. “It was SECURELY LOCKED…GUARDS STILL STANDING… NO ONE INSIDE.” The rulers were “greatly perplexed….how could this be….can you imagine the anger and frustration? In their confusion, did their minds wander back to the day the stone, once SECURELY LOCKED, was rolled away with GUARDS STILL STANDING….yet NO ONE INSIDE?
Do you think in any way shape or form they expected the disciples not to be there? Did they expect Jesus not to be there? Did they expect this movement to die? We can only assume that they didn’t expect any of this…
They fully expected the disciples would still be imprisoned.
They fully expected they could stop this movement.
They fully expected the disciples would obey their authority.
They fully expected they could win back the allegiance of the people, even if “fear” tactics were needed.
They fully expected to defend and stand firm in their beliefs, even if it meant conspiring to tell stories for circumstances that defied their logic, “Jesus did not rise from the dead, some of His disciples came and stole Him during the night!”
…But their EARTHLY EXPECTATIONS were beginning to crumble down around them…
Their expectations revealed what they held most important… their power and prestige….THEMSELVES, their hopes, and their desires.They held onto their expectations so tightly that they missed out on a great move of God in their lives and the joy of placing their expectations in Him.
When the “Me-centric” expectations we hold for the people and the circumstances around us aren’t realized, all they produce is anger, frustration and disappointment. Maybe you can relate at times when……
You expected your kids to behave..
You expected your or your kids dreams to be realized..
You expected to get that job…
You expected that your spouse would do or say something you NEEDED them to.
You expected this world to be a much better place.
You expected your kids shouldn’t have so much darn homework.
You expected your employees to care as much as you do.
You expected that pay raise.
You expected your relatives to treat you better than they do.
You expected your kids to come around more, call more, respect you more.
You expected that you shouldn’t always have to be “the bigger person.”
You expected …………(you fill in the blank)!
William Shakespeare once said “Expectation is the root of ALL heartache”….and right now those in this world who do not know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and the GREAT EXPECTATION AND HOPE they could have in Him, are experiencing this heartache, anger and frustration. We were never meant to place our expectations in our circumstances or the people in this world..THEY ARE BROKEN SAVIORS.. even those closest to us, but we continually do, because we’re looking for our ultimate sense of belonging, love, acceptance, provision, identity and respect in all the wrong places.
The only hope we have to break the chains of our worldly expectations and transform them into Godly expectations is to look to the only UNBROKEN SAVIOR….Jesus Christ…and IT IS ONLY POSSIBLE THROUGH THE SPIRIT OF THE LIVING GOD whose burning desire is to point us to Him…. His perfect concern for us, His perfect acceptance of us, His perfect provision, His perfect sovereignty over this world, His perfect timing, His perfect goodness towards us, His perfect will to be done in us, His perfect grace and mercy towards us, and the unfailing perfection of His love for us in the midst of our broken expectations. Have you found Him there? Have you let the comforter, the consoler of your soul, the Holy Spirit, fill you with the joy that comes from placing your hope and expectation in Him?
So together, LETS PRAY….Abba Father I know that you’ve used the disappointments I’ve faced in my life to point me to you, as I’ve held unrealistic expectations for the people and circumstances around me. I’ve looked to them to be my savior… I’ve looked for them to line up with my needs and my desires, instead of you. Thank you for being the better Savior, the ONE who never disappoints, the ONLY ONE who can help me loosen the grip on my ME-CENTRIC expectations, and the Holy Spirit in me to faithfully point me to you.
DAY 40: MONDAY JUNE 22, 2020
Imagine the scene…..as Peter walks the streets of the city…..Peter the one who speaks with such eloquence, assuredness and humility….Peter the one whose truth and honesty have a “refreshing aroma” to all those who would hear….Peter the one whose presence you longed to be near. THERE WAS SOMETHING MAGNETIZING AND DIFFERENT about this man…..……He had great power and ability to heal, but quickly dispelled and deferred ALL THE GLORY to the one He loved, the one he served, the one he gave his life to follow…His friend and Lord, Jesus Christ.
People lined the streets as Peter walked by…just to be in the presence of his shadow was enough…His shadow cast hope and light. It cast love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness …..He was full of faith…. and once compulsive Peter….was now radiating self control. As he walked through the sea of desperate but hopeful faces he wasn’t thinking about what they were thinking about him, he wasn’t thinking about what a superstar he was, he wasn’t thinking about how many people he might heal that day, he wasn’t thinking about rushing to his next meeting, his agenda or how the crowd might deter him…he was “interruptible,”…..he wasn’t thinking about himself at all….he was thinking about Jesus and the effect His presence had on those around him.
Over the days and weeks that had passed Peter was learning to walk, lean and depend on “this power,” THIS PERSON, this new helper Jesus had promised him…. A person to walk with him, love him, care about him, teach him and guide him as Jesus himself had. A person to free him to love others more than he did himself. And as he walked the streets he was fixed under the “shadow of the Almighty” and that shadow cast light to everyone around him…. It wasn’t Peter’s power or holiness that was radiating, it was the presence and power of Jesus…..and everyone near Peter felt it as well.
Can we even begin to comprehend this? That the same glorious Spirit that lived in Peter, that lived in Jesus, lives in us? That we have something different, something magnetizing about us. His presence in us, that draws in those around us? There is an inward radiance that the Spirit emanates from us… A joy that can’t be explained, a love that can’t be explained, the fruits of the Spirit that cast a shadow of hope wherever we are….
NEVER UNDERESTIMATE the empowering presence of the Spirit of the Lord that is with you. Even as you walk through Walmart ask Him to help you, to not be consumed with you, your time constraints and what it is you have to do. Ask Him to be aware of Jesus presence in you, to be consumed and aware of those around you… and just watch what He will do.
So together, LET’S PRAY……Father I want less of me and more of you. I want to “radiate” your presence into the lives of those closest to me as well as those you put in my path. I confess the “shadow” of impatience, anger, frustration, dismissiveness and “uninterruptibility” I cast doesn’t reflect you as I become consumed with me and not you. Holy Spirit, my ever present helper I NEED YOU, I have nothing to offer those around me apart from you. I desire to be consumed with you, learn to talk with you, lean on you and allow your radiance to pass through me and draw others towards Jesus.
DAY 39: FRIDAY JUNE 19, 2020
THE KEY THAT UNLOCKS ALL DOORS
The doors SLAMMED, and this time it wasn’t just Peter and John that were thrown into prison, it was all of the disciples. Now, persecution in the name of Jesus escalates….this is getting REAL, as the jealousy among the priestly group enrages them to the point of warranting their deaths.
As the doors of this dank, dark prison SLAM, wouldn’t you have loved to be “a fly on the wall” to eavesdrop on the disciples conversation?
Would it be full of fear and doubt?
Were they complaining about the conditions they were in?
In that moment, WHAT DID THEIR RHETORIC COMMUNICATE ABOUT THEIR BELIEF OR UNBELIEF IN GOD during a hostile moment?
Would He rescue them from this place they most likely didn’t want to be…….or wouldn’t He?
Would He “open the door” or would He allow it to remain closed?
Although not under the same circumstances, each one of us have experienced situations, MAYBE RIGHT NOW, where we’ve asked the very same questions. We’ve all been “in places” we didn’t want to be in…wondering…..waiting….uncertain….maybe with a health diagnosis, a job situation, a tenuous relationship or family situation, finances, depression, anxiousness, loneliness…… perhaps feeling like a victim of circumstances.
In these “dank, dark, prison-like places” our faith in Jesus can either flourish or send us into the fruitless abyss of whining, doubt and fear… uttering words that convey our unbelief in Him. We can profess that we are BELIEVERS, insanely held and loved by our Father, but our words and actions don’t always display it as we let our circumstances dictate His goodness, His love, His kindness and faithfulness towards us….BUT, “these places,” are God ordained….THEY ARE A GIFT…if we choose to see them this way.
They give us the perfect opportunity to seek our Father….search for Him as you’d search for your misplaced car keys. When you lose them you leave no piece of paper unturned, no drawer unopened, no pocket untouched, no person left uninterrogated …until you find them…..Until you find HIM. This is how our Father desires we seek Him…. as “the Spirit imparts wisdom and understanding” to know that if the door remains “closed” or the door “opens” that His goodness, love and kindness remain the same.
We’ll never know what conversation transpired that night amongst the disciples. My guess is that it would sound much like ours would. One moments hopeful and faith filled, the next, questioning, unsure, and fearful about what comes next. Knowing that God can use extremely troubling circumstances, like Jesus’ crucifixion, for great purposes. And wondering if He might do that through their situation. But in the midst of the “not-knowing” they knew they were not alone… that they were FILLED with the Spirit of God.
Each of us have experienced the “dank dark prison” in life… No situation or circumstance could be worse than the prison of our own sin….and now, because Jesus had pursued us all the way to the cross, the chains had been broken… and God was with them… with you… in the person and presence of the Holy Spirit. Now, whether he opened or closed the door, it was irrelevant compared to the gift of growing closer to Him.
In the worst, dank, dark place in your life, trapped in you sin….your Lord and Savior chased after you….will you chase after Him? Will you seek Him and LET HIM…no matter what your going through, or what your facing…. pursuing Him will reveal His steadfast goodness, love, kindness and faithfulness to you?
So together, LET’S PRAY……Father I can’t praise you ENOUGH for rescuing me from the worst prison I’ll ever face in this life…a life trapped in my sin and separated from you. Forgive me when my circumstances “appear” greater and more powerful than you, as I allow them to control and consume my thoughts and emotions, more than you. Thank you for the incredible gift of the Holy Spirit WHO IS ALWAYS WITH ME and FAITHFUL to bring my unbelieving, whiny, doubting heart back to you.
DAY 38: THURSDAY JUNE 18, 2020
THE TRIAL OF THE DISCIPLES
Up to this point in the story we’ve seen a brilliant display of the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit to protect the movement of the early church. Through the disciples, now “clothed with power from on high” there is a great revival going on in Jerusalem centered on the name of Jesus and the testimony of the disciples of His resurrection.
God was at work in a magnificent way, BUT, whenever God is at work, you can expect the enemy of God to fight it with anyone he possibly can use against God. What usually surprises us is the ones that the devil uses to fight it. It was the religious leaders, the same ones responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus, who should be the most excited about the God of Israel bringing about revival, causing the resistance to the Spirit of God.
Read chapter 4 and reflect on these questions:
- What is God saying to me through this?
- What is He showing me that I am not believing about Him or myself?
- What is He leading me to DO in response to the text?
- Who can I share this with for accountability and support?
DAY 37: WEDNESDAY JUNE 17, 2020
MIRACLES AND MESSAGES
Read the story Dr. Luke tells in Acts 3 as a whole, and put yourself inside the story. What would you be thinking? What would you be feeling? What questions would you have?
And imagine being outside the temple courts hearing Peter deliver the Gospel Good News in front of thousands, where thousands respond in faith to say YES to Jesus.
- What is God saying to me through this?
- What is He showing me that I am not believing about Him or myself?
- What is He leading me to DO in response to the text?
- Who can I share this with for accountability and support?
DAY 36: TUESDAY JUNE 16, 2020
PENTECOST AND THE HOLY SPIRIT
Continue this week with recapping the journey thus far. And ask the same questions as yesterday. Sometimes we read through God’s Word so quickly when the Holy Spirit wants to do something deeper in us by slowing down and revisiting it. Often we need to grow in greater more consistent obedience to what we have ALREADY learned, more than moving on to something “new” right?
So read Acts 2 and walk through these questions:
- What is God saying to me through this?
- What is He showing me that I am not believing about Him or myself?
- What is He leading me to DO in response to the text?
- Who can I share this with for accountability and support?
This week, Monday thru Friday, we are going to revisit one chapter of Acts each day to recap the narrative Dr. Luke is telling us so far, of the earliest days of the church. Hopefully, in doing this, past “doses” of devo readings and Sunday messages will come back into your mind. Sometimes, the Holy Spirit can revive something that we have forgotten or missed by going back over the text of God’s Word.
So today, read Acts 1 and reflect on a couple questions:
- What is God saying to me through this?
- What is He showing me that I am not believing about Him or myself?
- What is He leading me to DO in response to the text?
- Who can I share this with for accountability and support?
Next Monday we will kick off again with new content starting in Acts 6, as we prepare to see God allow the church to suffer persecution.
DAY 34: FRIDAY MAY 29, 2020
WALKING IN VICTORY
As Peter moved through the crowd, people lined the streets as far as he could see, some of them sick and dying, carried out into the streets by their loved ones, lying on mats and cots, just waiting for their miracle. But this isn’t all Peter could see, … he could see their sin-scarred hearts and the oppression of their souls… years, decades of lies that kept them in bondage to “the ruler of this world,” the “liar, deceiver, ruler of darkness,” the unclean spirit… the one Jesus came to defeat.
The enemy of God is the one who would oppress them with the spirit of rejection, the spirit of hopelessness, the spirit of insecurity, worthlessness, pride, envy, jealousy, the spirit of failure, loneliness, guilt, pity, depression, anxiety… the spirit that would whisper to them “Try harder, your not enough, you’ll never succeed, you’ll never amount to anything, your not worthy to be loved, you’ll never be good at this parenting thing, your just stupid, your nothing but a failure, your spouse will never be able to love you as you desire, you’ll have to live with this guilt and shame the rest of your life, you have nothing to worry about you’re much prettier, more handsome, more intelligent, well spoken, likeable and talented than them, no one will ever love you, you’ll never be anything but an angry person, your life if a wreck..there’s no hope for you…..”
…..Peter knew all too well their spiritual suffering that was far greater than any physical suffering. He too had heard these voices that tore him down and spit him out ….or overly inflated his ego….
UNTIL he learned to listen to the voice of truth……
UNTIL his eyes were open to the very real, present, invisible war that Jesus came to wage with “The God of this world, “the spirit that was at work in the sons of disobedience,” the “ruler of darkness” who would disguise himself as the “angel of light,” and fill his mind with lies.
UNTIL, he learned that he would never be able to win this battle on his own, without his helper…..
The ever-constant presence of the Holy Spirit teaching and reminding him who he was in the eyes of His Father. A son of the most high King, adopted into his family, beloved, fully worthy and accepted, loved by His Father with the same love as his Master Jesus, his brother! Now, an ambassador of the kingdom, worthy and privileged to carry on in the footsteps of his Savior to do greater works than He. And by the power of the empathetic, compassionate Spirit in Him, Peter recognized himself as one of those in the crowd that day, “laying by the side of the road on a mat, waiting for his miracle.”
But no greater miracle could have occurred in Peter’s life than Jesus, his friend, giving up His life to crush the lies that would forever cripple him. Little by little he had to choose to believe that who His Father said he was, was true… and so don’t we, as we vacillate between “picking up our mat and walking” into the better identity Jesus died to give us, or allowing the enemy to convince us it’s better to go back and curl up on our mat by the side of the road.
Do you ever feel like you are living on a mat, by the side of the road at the SAME TIME you know who Jesus is and what He can do?
We forget that we live in the midst of a very real, ever-present invisible battle as we allow the enemy to gain ground in our mind and in our thoughts. We forget that JESUS HAS ALREADY OVERCOME every evil lie we’re tempted to believe about who we are. And we forget that we are utterly helpless apart from the help of the Holy Spirit.
It was the Holy Spirit that enabled Peter to see the lies he used to believe and how Jesus set him free….it was the Holy Spirit that reminded Peter again and again how His Father saw him that set him free… it was the Holy Spirit that gave him the wisdom to discern the voice of the enemy… it was the Holy Spirit that helped Peter combat the lies he believed with the truth, and it was the Holy Spirit that enabled Peter to see the souls of those along the street still held captive to the lies of the enemy…..BUT, Peter LET HIM, CALLED ON HIM, DEPENDED ON HIM, KNEW HOW MUCH HE NEEDED HIM, AND WATCHED HIS INCREDIBLE FAITHFULNESS to walk in the victory and set the other captives free…..WILL YOU?
So together, LET’S PRAY…..Father I believe that you sent your Son to rescue me from “the spirit of this world,” his oppressive rule over my life, and the blatant lies he tempts me to believe. I know “in my head” who you say I am, but it’s a daily battle to believe it in my heart. I admit that at times, it’s hard, debilitating, and threatens to steal my joy in you. I admit that I’m powerless to fight this battle alone, that I need the Holy Spirit to stand with me against the enemy you’ve already defeated. Help me to believe that your voice will drown out the voice of the enemy and break through the lies that keep me from fully knowing you. By the power of the Holy Spirit, give me the eyes to “see,” those in my life who need to hear the life- giving the truth of who they are. Use me to tell stories of the victories you’ve given me, so they might walk towards a transformative life in you.
DAY 33: THURSDAY MAY 28, 2020
AM I AFRAID TO LOSE WHAT I CANNOT KEEP ANYWAY?
Can you imagine how confused and conflicted the people of the city were to hear of the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira, then only to witness the apostles roaming around the streets performing miracles? There is no doubt that powerful deeds both repel and attract, frighten and excite….as those filled with the Spirit and sold out to the Lord were “all together in Solomon’s Portico”…..while “the rest” were “on the outside looking in.” They were in awe of what the disciples were doing, the community of Christians had a marvelous reputation for integrity, and everybody knew it was a serious thing to be a follower of Jesus….it wasn’t a community that invited casual commitment. Some were repelled out of fear while others were attracted as men and women at an unprecedented rate were being added by the Spirit of the Lord! They were so far from being deterred by the example that was made of Ananias and Sapphira, rather, they were compelled to become a part of this new community that displayed such radical devotion.Their hearts were open and they were EXCITED about the message of the risen Christ and what He had done for them….they knew there was a cost…but it didn’t stop them.
Those who choose to stand “on the outside looking in ” didn’t know their hesitation would also incur a cost, and that their fears would keep them at arm’s length to experiencing this new and better life. What were they afraid of? Was it fear of persecution from the authorities? Fear, they too, might have to sell their worldly possessions for the cause? Fear that God might strike them down?………..
……What do we fear? What is it that causes our hearts to be both “frightened and excited” as we navigate the tension and the cost of following Jesus? What are we afraid of losing? Let’s be honest….
Do we fear losing control over the direction and decisions of our lives?
Are we afraid of losing the time it might require to follow Him?
Will it cost our comfort, are we afraid of what He might ask us to do?
Do we fear losing our identity?… Will we lose “the things” in this world that give us meaning and significance?
Are we afraid this “Christian life” won’t truly provide the satisfaction we seek?
Are we afraid of what it might cost us financially? ….Afraid of the material possessions we might lose?
Are we afraid of losing our independence if we dare to experience “true community?”
Do we fear losing our freedoms as the world of God challenges our world view?
Are we afraid of losing our reputation, fearing what others might think or say of us?
Are we afraid of losing our privacy, knowing we might have to disclose our sinful habits and desires to others?
Control, time, money, reputation, independence, freedom, privacy, satisfaction, identity…….Aren’t all these things we fear losing bearing a heavier cost on our lives? Are they “really ours” to lose? Weren’t our very lives not “purchased by God for an extremely high price?” There is a cost to our fears, there is a cost to “being on the outside looking in” and the COST IS KNOWING JESUS, experiencing His presence, knowing His heart and His desires for our lives, WHICH IS FAR GREATER THAN ANY OF OUR LOSSES….There is a cost to never surrendering and witnessing the work of the living, breathing, all knowing, loving voice of the Holy Spirit and His desire to “cast out all your fears” and replace them with the steadfast trust and faith only found in Jesus. Are you willing to bear the cost?
So together, LET’S PRAY… Dear Lord, by the divine power and presence of your Spirit in us, search our hearts, reveal our fears and the reasons why we sometimes choose to stand at arms length from you and just be content “standing on the outside looking in” …not fully giving our lives to you. Thank you for wrapping our hesitancy with your love…Thank you for loving us through our fears, but loving us too much to allow us to cling to them instead of you. Thank you for never giving up on us. Thank you for the loving, gentle, caring presence of the Holy Spirit who is so readily available and present to remind us of the cost you were willing to pay to rescue and redeem us from our fears.
DAY 32: WEDNESDAY MAY 27, 2020
THE GOSPEL IS BEAUTIFUL
So here we are reading this story for the third day… Maybe you have asked this question already… “WHY did God take the life of Ananias and Sapphira because of just one lie?” We will dive into that in a moment, but perhaps the BIGGER question we should start with is… “WHY does God allow any of us to live when we are all guilty and condemned in our sin?”
God knew the deceit and the divisiveness we’d sow over a lifetime…
He knew either out of pride or ignorance, how many times we’d stray from Him thinking we didn’t need Him…
He knew the amount of time, patience, grace, forgiveness and mercy He’d need to show us over a lifetime….
He knew the countless times we’d put “the created before Him, the creator”….
He knew how much we’d deeply wound and hurt one another… even the ones we love deeply…
He knew our hearts were flooded with a desire to seek acceptance, belonging, worth, and a sense of identity anywhere we could find it, and that we would often settle for finding value in an identity far less than as the heirs to His kingdom…
He knew the glory we’d inadvertently steal from Him, to claim for ourselves, and the delight and pleasure we’d seek apart from Him…..
He knew the vast amount of times we’d refuse to just “BE” with Him and sit with Him… abiding in this restored relationship with our Father…
He knew what it would cost to restore us… to reclaim us… to adopt us as His sons and daughters… it would cost Jesus, His life….
WHY would a Holy God, knowing all of this in detail and far more than this, would He even allow human beings to live?
Why would He continue to recklessly love us, desire us, passionately pursue us and rescue us again and again from our sin and the messes we’d make and the trouble we’d get ourselves in?… Why would He even help us by giving us the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit to dwell in us, teach us, comfort us, advocate for us, reveal the truth of scripture to us, strengthen us by pouring His love into us, enable us to experience unsurpassed love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control, give us words to pray when we couldn’t find them, and words of life giving hope to all who would hear them….and the ability to walk away from ourselves and towards Him?
Why, would He set us apart to spend eternity with Him? And why would He choose such broken vessels as us to bring the GOOD NEWS of Jesus into this confused, lost and dying world?
Ananias and Sapphira, sinful and deceptive, attempted to lie in a way that they BELIEVED they could hide it from God, and no one would know any better… not ever God. They were surprised to find that God was present WITH them, that He saw everything, and that God held the surrendered heart of His servant Peter in His hands. God was establishing His divine nature and His holiness, not wanting the church to lose sight of His identity set apart. God was establishing that YES, the Gospel is beautiful in its grace and mercy for our sin… but God has not changed and He expects and now EMPOWERS us with His Spirt to be obedient sons and daughters to Him.
It’s amazing God let men and women continue to survive in the wake of our sinful demonstrations of our self-love… But… It’s a miracle that He paid the ultimate price for those sins and made a way for us to be restored fully to Him as His kids.
So together, LETS PRAY… Thank you for the Gospel. It is beautiful in that it establishes WHO you are. Holy, set apart, Creator, with expectations and majesty. But the Gospel also establishes WHO we are. Without you, we are nothing. With you, we can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens us. So, Holy Spirit continue to help me ABIDE in relationship with you more than anything else.
DAY 31: TUESDAY MAY 26, 2020
UNITY IN THE MIDST OF DIFFERING OPINION & PERSPECTIVES
It is easy to see the crisis in Acts 5. Everyone BELIEVES that those who are a part of the church are living authentically, sacrificially, and generously… when all of a sudden, a secret is exposed, and people die. Immediately when this happened, I am sure that it produced conflicting emotions of sadness, anger, resentment, and pity. Everyone probably had a different vantage point, with different opinions on the same situation.
Right now in our world, the same is true, even within the church. All of us have a different context that we approach this pandemic from. And we each have a slightly different lens we look at the world through, even though we have all been given the same Spirit of God. Our upbringing, our experience, talents, preferences, vulnerabilities, age, past health struggles, and risk factors all play into HOW we look at what is happening in our nation. We need to be vigilant that although we may have a completely different viewpoint for what is happening in our world, under the banner of Jesus, we don’t want to let ANYTHING cause division.
In the letter Paul writes to the church in Corinth, one that he traveled to many times, he draws attention to something shared with him by church leaders… that the congregation is allowing “quarrels” happening between the believers. Paul says “by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.”
We need to agree that each of us have an opinion and perspective on what has happened and what WILL happen during this COVID situation. But we need to have the humility to admit that we don’t KNOW what will come next. Only the Creator does. Let’s recognize, with grace, that most of our opinions or thoughts do not fall on the side of being RIGHT or being WRONG… they are simply different, and they are our own convictions or perspectives.
As we move forward as a society, it is common to see differing sides in conflict and attacking each other. Jesus looked at the conduct of the world around Him and when instructing His Church about the way forward for them, He said… “NOT SO WITH YOU!”
Extending grace to people who don’t look at things the way we do creates the opportunity for us to BE peacemakers. Let’s live out that mandate from Christ, and let us not allow ANYTHING to cause division in the church, rather focus on being of one mind and purpose. Our purpose is clearly given by Jesus himself. Love one another, forgive, show mercy, make disciples, baptize, and teach those you disciple HOW to obey everything I have commanded you… THIS is how we ABIDE in the vine and bear much fruit!!
So together, LET’S PRAY… Lord, help us keep our eyes on YOU! Individually and corporately. Help us share the same grace you share with us, with those who don’t think like us, and don’t have the convictions we have. Help us to see that gentleness, kindness, and patience will always reveal your Spirit, so that ONE MORE experiences WHO you are through us. And thank you for giving us the ability to live this way because we have your Holy Spirit.
DAY 30: MONDAY MAY 25, 2020
A HOUSE DIVIDED AGAINST ITSELF WILL FALL
““🎵It’s a wonderful day in the neighborhood, 🎵a beautiful day in the neighborhood”…..🎵a peaceful day in the neighborhood………UNTIL it all came to a screeching halt……a disruption in the camp, a disharmonious note, an altercation….as everyone within earshot could hear the voice of Peter “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land….you have not lied to man, but God.”
Oh no…was Peter “back,” the overly boisterous guy who didn’t think before he spoke? Why would he call Ananias out in front of everyone, couldn’t he have taken him aside to speak to him? Can you imagine how the emotional tenor changed in that moment…from joy and peace to confusion and then FEAR as Ananias drew his last breath, was wrapped up and carried out of the camp and buried….. just to experience the same horror again, three hours later, as Sapphira drew her last breath… ”GREAT FEAR came upon all who heard.”
Whatever their thoughts about Peter, he hadn’t reverted back to his “old unregenerate self”…quite the contrary…Peter was “full” of the Holy Spirit, he was sensitive to His lead and His voice and ready to respond out of obedience to Him. “The Spirit was interceding for God’s people in accordance with the will of God” through Peter. And the will of God was for all His children to be united, of one accord, of one mind, with no hidden divisiveness. This story reveals to us how essential unity is to our Father, and how seriously He takes deceit, gossip, bitterness, grudges, self-promotion, judging one another, lying…ANYTHING that would be a disruption to it.
We could make the assumption that the FEAR the people experienced that day was over “what their Father might do to them,” but these followers were under the heavy influence of the Holy Spirit…it didn’t dampen or put a check on their Holy joy, but it taught them to be serious, and it UNITED them around Him. This incident only served to establish in their hearts, ONCE AGAIN, that He, their Father alone, was the most Sovereign and Holy One. To “fear Him,” wasn’t a matter of being afraid of Him or regarding Him as an unapproachable tyrant. To “fear Him” was to have the wisdom to know that He and He alone was the holy and sovereign one, and THEY WERE NOT…..
……His desire for them, as well as us… all of His children…is that we stand together in reverential awe of who He is and yield to it…..even in the midst of life, when it comes to a screeching halt as it has in our world and lives today.
Have we yielded and surrendered our hearts to our “Father’s will be done” in the midst of the rapidly changing circumstances we find ourselves in? Have we yielded to His Holy Desire, His Holy Control, and His Holy Purpose in our lives for them? Or, have we inadvertently, through our disgruntled voices told Him….. “I don’t trust You?”
Might our inquiries and confusion and times of doubt and mistrust serve to lead us back to the cross, where our Father’s control over this world and our lives was never more evident as He laid down the life of His Son… Might it renew our trust, spark greater unity and create in us a God honoring “fear of the Lord” that brings us wisdom.
So together, LET’S PRAY….Father in one voice and one accord we acknowledge that “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so your ways are higher than our ways and your thoughts than our thoughts.” In one voice we PRAISE you for your never-ending mercy and graciousness towards us… THANK YOU, that you are our good Father who we never have to be afraid to approach. THANK YOU for reminding us through this story of your sovereignty and your supreme holiness, and your utmost desire for us as a body to be in one accord. We ask the Holy Spirit right now to lay on our hearts any estrangements we have with our brothers and sisters that would create discord. Lead us to repentance and in humility help us put the gospel on display as we “say I’m sorry”, ask for forgiveness, and extend your grace as we seek your wisdom.
DAY 31: FRIDAY MAY 22, 2020
THE POWER OF THE SPIRIT’S VOICE WHEN WE LEARN TO HEAR IT
“I am convinced that the Spirit of God is speaking to us all the time, we’re just not paying attention.” Hmmm, this quote by Pastor John Piper has a “familiar ring” to it, doesn’t it…. “I’m convinced that whenever I speak, my spouse is never listening!”
It’s obvious from this passage that Ananias and Sapphira were “listening and hearing” one another as they conspired together to hold back some of the proceeds of the sale. Sapphira, perhaps thinking she was being a “dutiful” wife or motivated by her own greed, held up her husband’s honor rather than the Lord’s through her deceptive response to Peter’s inquiry.
Together they agreed “to test the Spirit of the Lord.” We don’t know if Ananias and Sapphira had a good or a bad marriage, if they agreed often or fought often. But what we do know is that they sadly found agreement against God, instead of for Him as they lied to the Holy Spirit. Which leads us to question….were they, like the other followers, of “one heart and soul?” Did they have a relationship and a deep affection for Jesus? Had they understood that the “Spirit in them could be grieved,” and saddened? In the context of what they were experiencing did they cultivate abiding, open and honest relationships with others?…or were they just pretending?
Everyone of these questions could be asked of us, and in all honesty, at one point or another “we’ve been Ananias and Sapphira,” having a deeper allegiance and pursuit of our desires more than Jesus, grieving the Holy Spirit by lying to Him and hiding from Him, and not being truly transparent with one other about our inner thoughts and desires.
How would the narrative of Ananias’ life and story change if he had opened up his life and his heart to a few close men who decided to walk through this new life together? And Sapphira, what if she opened up her life, intentionally daring to be deeply known and to know a few others? What if their hearts were open to “hearing and listening” as God used His Spirit to speak a word of caution, love, truth and wisdom through their new found brothers and sisters, before they made the decision to disregard Him.
The Holy Spirit speaks to us in many different ways and one is through the lives of those our Father has placed around us… our Spiritual Family… your brothers and sisters can be the voice box of God through His Spirit (Pneuma)… BUT;
We can’t “hear” His Pneuma voice in a brother… when we choose to stay isolated… believing ”It’s just safer and easier alone.”
We can’t “hear” His Pneuma voice in a sister… when we choose to continue in this pattern of son… believing ”what I want for me is better than Jesus.”
We can’t “hear” His Pneuma voice in a family member… when we choose to allow our pride and our wisdom to dismiss the council of others… believing ”what could they possibly have to offer me?”
We can’t “hear” His Pneuma voice in a brother… when we choose to harden our hearts from obeying all of God’s truth… believing ”I can pick and choose what I want from the Word.”
We can’t “hear” His Pneuma voice in a sister… when we choose to avoid facing the hard reality of what we might need to hear from someone who cares about us… believing ”the guilt and shame are impossible to carry.”
We can’t “hear” His Pneuma voice when we choose to defend our position… believing “They just don’t understand what I’ve been through.”
We can’t “hear” His Pneuma voice because we’re always insecure in our spiritual identity… believing “because I’ve failed and fallen short, I can’t qualify.”
We can’t “hear” His Pneuma voice in a brother or sister to us, because we discredit them as a human being, believing “surely their opinion is not God’s?”
We can’t “hear” His Pneuma voice because so much of our satisfaction in life is based on “what I feel” that’s more important to us than any other voice… believing “my feelings won’t steer me wrong.”
We can’t “hear” His Pneuma voice when we pledge allegiance to cultural views or opinions more deeply than to Christ… believing that “my perspective is right, and surely it is God’s too.”
We can’t hear so often because our unbelief blinds us and makes us deaf… Remember… The Holy Spirit WANTS to speak… And all of us WANT to hear God’s voice… BUT……when we don’t “hear” the Pneuma speak audibly, we can forget that the two most consistent places the Holy Spirit speaks to us is inside His Word, the Bible… and through out new spiritual family…
This is why reading God’s Word, and being connected to one another as “family” inside God’s church is so vital. To choose to walk through life with a few trusted others who are consistently giving and receiving good Godly counsel conveyed through God’s Spirit… honestly, vulnerably, and accountably. Without that spiritual priority lived out, we suffer, and the lives of those around us suffer as well until we learn to listen. Ananias and Sapphira missed the beauty of what God created the church for. A place for the broken and lost to be transformed into relationship with God through Christ… where they can start to learn to discern the Pneuma (Spirit, Breath, Wind) Voice of God…
So together, LET’S PRAY…..Father, forgive us for the many ways we’ve saddened the Holy Spirit and tested His love for us, when we know His heartfelt desire and purpose is to speak to us, and guide us in all truth so we might not fall prey to making unwise and foolish decisions that lead our hearts away from you. Forgive us for the many times we flat out avoided or didn’t want to hear what a trusted brother or sister in Christ, by the urging of the Holy Spirit, was prompting them to say. We surrender our fear and our pride to you and ask that you place a sincere desire on our hearts to walk through life with a few trusted others who might speak words of life and truth. Help us to see how much we really need each other and fight for one another to fend off the voices of the enemy, the culture and our own, as we grow in our openness to “hearing” and “listening” to you.
DAY 30: THURSDAY MAY 21, 2020
NAVIGATING TEMPTATION, FAILURE, SIN, & SELFISHNESS
Why would God bring us through the first four chapters of the book of Acts, capture us with His grace, by baptizing the believers with the Holy Spirit…..Show us His impartiality and love for all by allowing every person to hear the good news in their native tongue… Put His mercy and forgiveness on display by using Peter to boldly proclaim the truth about Jesus… Establish His sovereignty by sparing the lives of Peter and John before the council…..Show us the magnificence of His power by literally shaking the place where the believers were praying… Manifest His goodness and provision by ensuring all His chilren’s need were met… but then, prompt gospel writer Dr. Luke, to tell us the story of Ananias and Sapphira?
At first glance, through the eyes of our “fleshly interpretation” we might see the account of what happened to this couple as disturbing or unfair, or wonder why Luke would seemingly “interrupt” the beautiful narrative of what God was doing in the lives of His children under the power and influence of the Holy Spirit. However; within the context of the entire biblical narrative, it made perfect sense.
All throughout human history, up to this point, we’ve witnessed heartbreaking first hand accounts of how sin not only brought about “an interruption” into the lives of those who committed them, but into the lives of those around them. Do we need go any further than to look at the lives of Adam and Eve, their disobedience, their “fig leaf cover-up” and the ripple effect forever changing mankind’s relationship with God? Adam and Eve lied because they didn’t believe the truth about who their Creator was. Even though He had given them..life, breath, meaning, purpose, value, acceptance, provision and His very presence with them to walk with them, teach them, guide them and lavish His love on them…it wasn’t enough. They fell hook line and sinker for the deceptive lies of the enemy…..“They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator..”…so did Ananias and Sapphira…and so don’t we.
Did Ananias and Sappira believe that God was their provider as “they kept back some of the proceeds for themselves?” Was it a sin to keep part of the proceeds, or WAS IT MORE ABOUT deceiving others into thinking they’d given the entire amount? If so, why didn’t they just tell the truth? Were they afraid of what others would say or think about them?
Just proceeding their story we see the followers of Jesus sell their land and homes and lay it at the apostles’ feet, then “the son of encouragement” Barnabus sold a field that belonged to him and donated the proceeds.” Can you imagine the “buzz” each time a generous donation was made? “Whoa, dude your amazing, look what you did?” Perhaps well-off Ananias and Sapphira “wanted in” on receiving the praise and accolades of others so they “covered it up” with a lie. They were deceived by the enemy to believe God’s approval of them wasn’t enough, as they conspired together to let the temptation of the moment DROWN OUT the voice of the Holy Spirit …and it came at a cost.
Luke’s Spirit led-desire to place Ananias and Sapphira’s story on the heels of such exhilaration was no accident….in the midst of “seeming perfection” there was imperfection….which is good news for us. It’s the story of everyone of us, as we DAILY navigate a myriad of temptations and failures and the choice to believe through them, how good and gracious and merciful our Abba Father truly is. Each day He’s given us the choice to allow and invite the Holy Spirit to walk with us through them, or yield to the voice of the enemy and ignore Him.
So together, LET’S PRAY…Dear gracious Father, although this story is hard to swallow and disturbing at best, we readily see ourselves in it as we struggle with the deception that lies in our hearts. We know there is a cost to our sin, Jesus didn’t die for us because our sin was trivial . Our sin was great, but He chose to die for us because His love for us was greater. Thank you Father for your mercy in our lives and the opportunity to invite the Holy Spirit into the lives and the temptations we face to speak a better word about who you are, and discern the lies of the enemy that keep us from choosing to worship and glorify you.
DAY 28: TUESDAY MAY 19, 2020
IT’S A CHOICE!
All too often we can look at the “GREAT POWER” of the disciples and the early “Followers of The Way” that moved them to fearlessly testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, but not really believe that in our town, through our lives, this could happen today. Have we become so accustomed to “what is” that we hold out little hope for “what could be?” Have our past attempts at sharing our faith and the ensuing responses left us discouraged, complacent or fearful? What was so different about the inspiring testimonies of the early church, compared with what we experience today?”
THEY LIVED EXPECTANTLY…. They unhesitatingly believed in who God was, they saw His nature and His character through the Old Testament scriptures, and then first hand in the person of Jesus. And then….there was no greater witness of who their Father was, as HE CHOSE to put Himself on display at the cross. This alone, gave them solid proof, a reason TO CHOOSE Him… to trust Him and entirely depend on Him to move on their behalf. They expected Him to show up, and they were willing to surrender to His will and His desires because they knew, with certainty, HE WAS GOOD…He would always be for them, never be against them. THEY CHOSE to believe with expectant faith that HE WAS GREATER than any situation they found themselves in, and GREATER than what “they believed” could happen to them….and, THEY CHOSE to believe that their helper, the Holy Spirit could, and would, “empower them with that kind of hope-filled expectant faith.”
THEY CHOSE TO BELIEVE IN THE AUTHORITY JESUS HAD GIVEN TO THEM: Before Jesus had left his disciples He told them that “All authority in heaven and on earth had been given to Him”, and THEY CHOSE to believe by faith that they had been given it as well! They didn’t think about their insignificance, their qualifications, what level of intelligence they had, how much experience or how long they’d been a follower of The Way….THEY CHOSE to believe that JESUS CHOSE THEM to be a part of His mission! And THEY CHOSE to believe that “the Holy Spirit, dwelling in them, would always give them the words to say.”
LET’S PRAY….Abba Father it is overwhelming to think that with you, we can have such a powerful effect on our world today! You have given us everything we need to live a life above and beyond what we settle for, the better life you created us for, and the empowering presence of your Holy Spirit to accomplish it all. Expand our minds and our vision of what could be. Create in us a spirit of discipleship..so together we WE CAN CHOOSE to live out of an expectant faith in who you are, CHOOSE to reinforce our hearts with your promises and CHOOSE to believe, without doubt that we are your agents of grace, your ambassadors who’ve been given all authority to speak on your behalf to those in our town, this county, and wherever your Spirit leads.
DAY 27: MONDAY MAY 18, 2020
PUTTING TO DEATH THE SINFUL NATURE IN EVERY WAY
The ending of chapter 4 is like a “progress report” of the continuing work of the Holy Spirit in the believers’ lives. He had brought about a devotion to the apostles teachings, a desire to pray, a genuine sense of family, and spirit of generosity. The Holy Spirit was radically changing and reorienting their hearts to build Jesus’ kingdom, not their own. Their mindset was “what is mine… is yours.”
Today this might seem countercultural, almost to the point of being incomprehensible, but in all reality the Spirit’s desire is to move our hearts to seeing what the early believers saw….the extravagant generosity of Jesus, that couldn’t help but spill over into the lives of those around them.
Everyone of us is either building our own kingdom, Jesus kingdom, or somewhere in between. We’re all on this journey, or continuum of allowing the Spirit to reveal our motives, as to how and why we give our treasures for the benefit of others.
What thoughts go through your mind when you are generous?
What temptations do you battle when you feel impressed to give?
What motives cause you to share something financial or tangible with someone, with a church, or with an organization?
Do you give in your own power, or because you “remain” in Christ, and His Spirit empowers you to give?
- Maybe you give because… it’s the “right” or “moral” thing to do…And your motive at times is to avoid the the guilt or condemnation you feel if you don’t give. If so, this can be an attempt to establish our own righteousness (or right standing) with God, wrongly believing that what we DO, corrects what’s wrong in us. What we don’t realize when we think this way is we diminish Jesus. REMEMBER… that what Jesus has done, His life, death, and resurrection is what gives us access to God once more and a right standing. Jesus alone! When we fix our thoughts on HIS sacrificial generosity for us, we too WANT to follow in His footsteps and BE like our Savior.
- Maybe you give because you’re concerned about what other people think of you… And your motive at times is to attempt to elevate your status in someone’s mind, forgetting that God your Father already thinks of you in every way He thinks about His Son… REMEMBER… you are a beloved child, chosen and adopted into His family, loved as Jesus is loved, a brother or sister of Jesus and a co-heir with Him who laid down His life for you BECAUSE of how highly He already thinks of you. When we fix our thoughts on HIS sacrificial generosity for us, we too WANT to follow in His footsteps and BE like our Savior.
- Maybe you give because you have enough left over to share some of it with a person or organization you want to support… If so, your motive to give and the metric you use to give is based on your level of comfort with the amount in comparison to your resources. This mindset reveals a wrong belief that you are your provider and you are giving out of the “overflow” of what you have… From this posture, it is hard to give sacrificially like Jesus models for us. REMEMBER… that God IS your provider and that in Christ Jesus HE PROMISES, AND WILL provide what you need. Look back and reflect on His faithfulness in your life so far, believing that His blessing multiplies in ways you might never be able to measure when we are obedient, and when we fix our thoughts on HIS sacrificial generosity for us, we too WANT to follow in His footsteps and BE like our Savior.
- Maybe you give because you feel as though God will show you more favor or blessing, wrongly believing that your performance earns you something from God. REMEMBER… God has already given us the greatest blessing we will ever receive in giving us Himself through Jesus, and presently right now we have His Spirit with us which will be for all eternity. Nothing else can compare to that blessing. Don’t allow something in this temporary, physical, broken world to deceive you into thinking its importance and value somehow compete with eternity forgiven and restored. Recognize how generous God has already been to you in Jesus, and anything else you are blessed with just give Him gratitude. This is possible because when we fix our thoughts on HIS sacrificial generosity for us, we too WANT to follow in His footsteps and BE like our Savior.
- Maybe you give because you need to be needed. Maybe your heart has NOT YET realized the exponential value your Abba Father has placed on YOU through Jesus, and that His validation is enough.
- Maybe you give because no one else will… Maybe we’ve forgotten that we’re not a savior and that it’s not “on us.” We don’t have to be “the hero.” We need to trust that we’re not Him. We’re not that important. And we don’t get to compete with His Glory. If God wants us to play a role, it’s for His Glory, not ours. He will accomplish what He wants, with or without us, but what a blessing to join Him in His plan.
- Maybe you don’t give regularly because you literally don’t know where your next dollar is coming from… You don’t know how you can afford to give God priority in your finances. You’re afraid to give because you “feel” you just don’t have it, and that Jesus will understand. And He does… but there are blessings of God that come through obedience to His Spirit that are never based on our “lack of” they are based in the Creator’s “abundance. REMEMBER that your resources are not limited by your ability, your career, or your past. Your resources, when surrendered to Christ, can do the impossible in your life and others because the Earth and everything in them belong to the Lord. When we fix our thoughts on HIS sacrificial generosity for us, we too WANT to follow in His footsteps and BE like our Savior.
In all truth, we’ve probably found ourselves occupying many spaces along the “generosity spectrum” as our fears and unbelief at times speak louder than His truth.
Romans 8 tells us to “PUT TO DEATH THE DEEDS OF THE SINFUL NATURE.” We too often are fixed on our deeds as behaviors, forgetting that Jesus helps us see what we DO flows out of what we BELIEVE… in order to overcome unbelief in how we give, we simply need to begin to discover the beauty of talking to God’s Spirit about every decision before us… just talk about financial decisions with Him, surrender your checkbook to Him, confess your conflicted heart to Him… that some days you are trusting Him more, and some days you are trusting yourself more… and choose to BELIEVE that He longs to pour His wisdom and discernment in all matters into your mind… Jesus did this as a model for us, and He was God… so how much more should you converse with God about your decisions?
As you bring your decisions to Him, you start to hear His voice louder and louder… What He will do is lead you to Jesus, reminding you of His generosity towards you. And what He will do is teach you…. overtime….to daily discern your Father’s voice through His word.
So together, LET’S PRAY….Oh Father, the decisions you call us to make regarding money are some of the most difficult! Jesus knew this would be the hardest test of our belief and trust in Him. Before we make quick decisions or rely on our assessment and assumptions of what “we can and cannot do”, before we think about what “we want” prompt us to first cry out for wisdom and discernment from the Holy Spirit and what you want, knowing our lives are no longer our own. Help us to see that you want far more FOR us, than you could ever get FROM us… Help us to trust that THE SPIRIT will teach us to hear your voice, as we increasingly discover your generosity and faithfulness towards us in your word.
DAY 26: SATURDAY MAY 16, 2020
DOES MY LIFE REFLECT JESUS… OR ME?
Chapter 4 of Acts ends summarizing how the early church lived “NEIGHBORLY” in relation to one another, and in relationship to their community… Luke, the author of Acts, very similarly ends chapter 4 how he ended chapter 2. Just 4 chapters into this historical look at the first few weeks of the church’s life, and here is a list of lifestyle decisions made by Followers of the Way everyday…
|- They were devoted to spiritual disciplines
|- Listening to the Apostle’s teachings
|- Fellowship, prayer, and sharing meals were priorities to them
|- Worship captured their hearts
|- Many signs and wonders performed as a result of deep faith
|- They shared what they had sacrificially
|- Shared in the Lord’s Supper (communion) together
|- The outside world watching them thought well of them
|- Unified in heart and mind
|- Generous, giving what they had to others in need
|- Publicly testifying to the real, bodily resurrection of Jesus
|- They trusted the church leaders with decision making
The question is… WHY? Why was this important for Luke to include so much in the first stages? Why did he highlight these behaviors?
In this teaching series we are in, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” we see at the heart of the early church a group of people who were responding in faith to the Gospel, drenched in love, and that presented a whole new understanding about God. That people were no longer judged by God, no longer trying to impress Him, but rather, God, in love, came and died for me… and for you… to set us free from sin, and restore us as His kids. There is nothing we can do to impress Him, but we have already been accepted by Him.
The Early Church, a group of people that KNEW how much they had been saved from, just wanted others to experience that spiritual transformation with Jesus, and so all of their other, prior allegiances, now came in a distance second to that of the mission of God to seek and save those who are lost, and to make disciples.
What are your priorities in these days? Very quickly, we can sit on the throne of our lives, and allow our decision making to become completely “self-centered”… but maybe God has a purpose in what we are experiencing… maybe God has something He wants to say to us… will we listen? Or will we be too busy talking?
The way that the Early Church lived in relationship to one another was the lightning rod that shook the first century. It wasn’t so much the declaration of the Gospel these people believed… it was the fact that they believed the Gospel so deeply, that they lived now in light of it… and that level of joy, grace, patience, peace, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, self control, mercy… that level of LOVE on display to their “NEIGHBORS” caused so many to lean in closer to find the hope that these earliest Christians had found in Christ. Remember… all of those FRUITS we read about these early Jesus Followers is ONLY possible because of God’s Spirit inside of them… the same Spirit living in us today, to manifest those same fruits to our neighbors, friends, and families… if we yield to Him.
So together… LETS PRAY… Father, I know that there are a ton of people around me that don’t know you, and often I feel lost and insecure about my role is trying to share Jesus with them. God I confess, that at time my fear paralyzes me. Lord, help me to see that my life lived in light of the grace I have experienced does preach the greatest message to those around me. Not only of what I believe so deeply that I build my life on, but also what I believe about WHO I am and WHO the people around me are, and how much they are loved by my Savior. Lord help me to love them with YOUR love… and may the fruits of your Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control) be evident to them, so Your Name can be given the Glory.
DAY 25: FRIDAY MAY 15, 2020
I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO SAY
Have you ever witnessed a friend spontaneously start telling someone, or
Have you ever been in the presence of someone who just knows how to pray? The words seem to flow effortlessly and continuously as they move from one thought to the other. You wonder if perhaps someone has inhabited them, taken them over, as their words seem to bring you into the very presence of God…. This thought is not far from the truth….
Jesus said “apart from me you can do nothing” and that includes prayer. It is His finished work on the cross that even allows us to speak our hearts in genuineness to our Abba Father who longs to hear from us. But it is the work of our helper, the Holy Spirit, that enables us to do so.
We’ve all experienced hard and stressful moments in our lives when we didn’t know what to pray, or what to say ….moments when we’ve felt as if we weren’t “good at prayer”, or afraid to speak our hearts aloud in the presence of others. Moments we’ve felt weak and inept as the burdens of life become too much to bear or the trials and temptations threaten to lure us away from talking with our Father. Maybe you’re in that season right now, but know this..….our good Dad already knew of our inadequacies in prayer, and out of His mercy, grace and love He’s provided the help He knew we’d need in speaking our hearts to Him, as it is….
….“The Spirit who helps us in our weaknesses, as we oftentimes don’t know what we should pray for. It is the Spirit Himself who makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be understood”….
As the believers gathered that day the Holy Spirit led their hearts as they spoke with their Father. He led them to talk about their steadfast confidence in Him. He led them to recount His faithfulness and goodness towards them. And he led them to ask for courage and boldness to speak out to others about Him. As the Spirit brought their prayers to the throne room, their Father “heard” them… He heard the condition of their faith-filled hearts and “the place in which they were gathered together was shaken….He made His presence known…. and their yielded hearts were filled with the Holy Spirit.”
The good news is that it is “not by our might nor our power, but by His Spirit” we’re able to be in our Father’s presence and speak our hearts to Him. All it takes is a humble admission of our weakness and a willingness to ask the Holy Spirit for the words we do not have and the faith to believe He will.
So together, LETS PRAY…. Lord, we are thankful for your presence in our lives, because we believe “apart from you we can do nothing.” We can’t even pray, or have confidence in our prayer, because without you Jesus, we don’t know who we are praying too, nor who carries our requests to our Heavenly Father. Lord thank you for wanting to hear about my life, my heart, and my burdens. Thank you for giving us the power and words to communicate with you boldly, and thank you for your promise to hear our prayers and respond according to Your will.
DAY 24: THURSDAY MAY 14, 2020
MAYBE YOU DON’T HAVE IT BECAUSE YOU HAVEN’T ASKED FOR IT?
Have you ever witnessed a friend spontaneously start telling someone, or even a group of people the story of how Jesus just “train wrecked” their life because of His love for them?
“This is who I was, this is what my life was like, these are the things I turned to to rescue me…UNTIL I MET JESUS, and the realization of what He’d done for me. I had no idea I was broken and in need of “someone” to save me from my self centered ways. I didn’t realize that my condition kept me from knowing how much my eternal Father LOVED ME, chased me and the sacrifice he made for me by giving up the very life of his Son to wipe away my sin… the sin that kept me from receiving and accepting His love. Jesus’ love and His grace towards me is what changed me, it changed what I thought was important in my life…. and still changes me!”
Whether you’ve ever witnessed this or not, no doubt you’d be awestruck at the boldness of this person to give this kind of genuine, straight up testimony about Jesus. This is what Peter did, but under extreme oppositional pressure as he was on trial before the same court that sent Jesus to Pilate for crucifixion! But he didn’t care…..why do we?
Why do we care so much about what others might think if we share our faith and the story of what Jesus has done in our lives? Do we fear “persecution” of some sort… rejection, being labeled as a “Jesus freak”… losing a relationship… having the news spread and our name “defamed” in some way before our coworkers? Why didn’t Peter cower in Acts yet he did deny Jesus when He was arrested? What was welling up in the heart of Peter now that could possibly explain his lack of fear and BOLDNESS?
Maybe an understanding of biblical boldness can lend some clarity:
BOLDNESS IS THE COURAGE TO ACT OR SPEAK FEARLESSLY, DESPITE REAL OR “IMAGINED” DANGERS…….
When a person acts boldly he or she takes action regardless of risks. A mom will boldly snatch her child’s hand and walk away if she senses danger from an onlooking stranger. A man may boldly stand up to a dictatorial boss, knowing he could be fired for doing so. Boldness is not to be confused with harshness or aggressiveness, it’s similar to assertiveness in that it empowers someone (introvert and extrovert) to do or speak what is necessary, in spite the possibility of a negative outcome.
Boldness was one of the first characteristics the Holy Spirit imparted when He came to indwell believers after Jesus ascended into heaven. The followers of Jesus had been hiding in fear of the Jewish authorities, praying and encouraging one another. Then the Holy Spirit came upon them, and those formerly terrified disciples became fearless preachers. A short time later, as the disciples faced persecution from the authorities, THEY PRAYED FOR BOLDNESS and history accounts for the fact that their prayer was answered. They were filled with the Holy Spirit and “spoke the Word with boldness”. God said YES to that prayer because their hearts desire was to obey and glorify Him.
It was Peter’s burning desire to share the depth of Christ’s love for him and the incomprehensible risk Jesus took for him that “controlled and compelled” this formerly fearful man to boldly proclaim Jesus name. Even when it may have not always been welcomed, His desire to Glorify God through sharing the Gospel filled his heart. The Holy Spirit empowered him to RISE ABOVE HIS FEARS…He didn’t fear man, because he loved God more, He feared disappointing his Father more than he feared rejection. What he wanted for his listeners, was far more than what they could do to him….
God answering that prayer filled Peter and John with His Spirit empowered Holy boldness, and that was lighter fluid on the fire that couldn’t be stopped or contained…
The thought of this right now will either exhilarate you, provoke some fear in you or paralyze you… maybe even all of them at the same time!
If you’re hesitant to speak to others about your faith and tell the story of what Jesus has done for you….don’t despair, PRAY! Ask the Holy Spirit, your infinitely faithful helper, to continually remind you of all Jesus has done for you, remind you of His incomprehensible love for you, and remind you of the risk He was willing to take for you. And TOGETHER with all the believers, those disciples you surround yourself with, PRAY for boldness….never stop. As the gospel increasingly bears weight on your soul, just watch the impact of what He will do in the lives of those around you!
So together, LETS PRAY….. Jesus you told us in your word “that our Advocate, the Holy Spirit, would teach us and remind us of everything you’ve spoken to us.” Without this steady reminder, we’re reminded of our fears that allow others thoughts and opinions of us to matter more than yours. Lord, by the power of your Holy Spirit, EMBOLDEN us, and give us the courage to never stop asking for it. Our desire is to be used by you, our flesh needs to be strengthened by you and we need brothers and sisters to pray with to help uncover the barriers of unbelief that prohibit us from fully glorifying you.
DAY 23: WEDNESDAY MAY 13, 2020
THE CHOICE WE HAVE… COMPLAIN & ATTACK OR PRAY & PRAISE?
After Peter and John are released by the council, “they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them.” They heard first hand, how they’d threaten them if they dare speak of Jesus’ name to anyone. “And when they heard the news, they lifted their voices together to God” and started praying and praising Him for who He was!…… What?
Put yourself in the shoes of the early believers before Jesus arrived on the scene. We can’t even begin to wrap our minds around the oppressive lives they were living by the hands of these same men. Then Jesus, their Savior comes on the scene to show them a deeper but very real oppression, lifts the burden of their sin, and promises them His presence by the power of the Holy Spirit…but then, they crucify Him…What?
Imagine the conversation that could have ensued? Maybe it’s the kind of conversation happening in our world right now….words filled with anger, hate, disgust, retribution, rebelliousness, cursing and defaming “the powers that be.” Conversation and words that in all reality, only shine a light on how much FAITH we have anchored in unreliable sources that can’t deliver (ourselves, money, business, leaders, policies, another person, etc)… and our sour attitude reveals how much UNBELIEF we have in our Heavenly Father.
In light of the threats from the established powers it would be understandable for them to pray for protection. But they didn’t, as they quoted and held fast to “David’s Spirit-filled” words in Psalm 2. They knew that the effects of evil had an expiration date. More than that, they knew that all those who opposed the good news were not a threat because their God, their loving Abba Father was always in control, faithful and held their lives in His hands.
The Spirit did as Jesus told them in John 16:13, He “pointed them to the truth,” as they broke out in a chorus of praise, rather than a chorus of distrust. “Sovereign Lord, who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them.” The Spirit was faithfully bringing to the forefront of their minds everything Jesus had told them about His Father… that “He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all the things that I said to you.”
Their belief in who God was, fueled their Spirit filled prayers. Their prayers no longer reflected their desires, their will, and their unbelief in who God was; rather their PRAYER & PRAISE reveals a heartfelt desire to know Him, find Him, worship Him and praise Him together in the midst of their circumstances. Their prayers told God…. WE TRUST YOU….
These believers were looking for the same thing we are right now…hope, peace and genuine life. But they knew it wouldn’t come after an angry whine session about the struggles they were facing… it wouldn’t come by immersing themselves in the horrific “daily Roman news”… it would come by immersing themselves in the truth of Jesus’ word that brought their anxious souls “Spirit and life” and a boldness to bring that truth to the onlooking world.
So together, LETS PRAY…Sovereign Lord, who made heaven and the earth, and the sea and everything in them including me, help my unbelieving heart. When I am tempted to murmur about the state of affairs in my life, in this country and in this world redirect my heart by the power of your Holy Spirit to pray. Redirect my heart, to meet your Spirit in your word where I might truly find my life. Thank you, that in the midst of my unbelief you love me just the same. Thank you for the power of your Spirit in me that gently but relentlessly keeps pointing me back to you.
DAY 22: TUESDAY MAY 12, 2020
IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN
No doubt, one of the greatest desires for those walking with Jesus is to see others walking with Him as well. There is no greater delight than to see someone publicly proclaiming their faith through baptism, or hear a story from a friend of how Jesus has taken their heart from unbelief to belief in some area of their lives. The work and the ways of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life is beautiful and mysterious all at the same time.
Jesus spoke of this mystery to Nicodemous, the curious religious ruler, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” Think about His imagery. When a gust of wind hits, you don’t know exactly where it came from, where it’s headed, or when it will come again. Experiencing the movement of the Spirit is, according to Jesus, something like that.
The man Peter healed that day by the gate “was more than 40 years old.” After all this time, did he ever feel as if there was hope for him? What about those who knew him, did any of them hold out hope for him?…… Maybe you’ve lost hope for someone close to you, a friend or loved one. Maybe you doubt they’ll ever come to believe in Jesus, as you make an assessment of their lives and their behavior. Maybe you’ve tried to speak to them but they haven’t listened, so you fall into discouragement.
To this Jesus would speak “Ye of little faith…. Faith in my love for them, faith in my grace towards them and faith in my timing and my ways with them….you know not how my Spirit will blow into their lives, capture their hearts and take up residence in them!” (paraphrase)
Peter walked in this expectant kind of faith, faith in who Jesus was and faith in what the power of His Holy Spirit could mysteriously and unexpectedly do. There was no rhyme or reason or logic to it, just steadfast belief…
So together, LET’S PRAY…..Jesus help us to live with expectant faith, especially when it comes to our heartfelt desire to see those we love walking in relationship with you. Forgive us in our moments of discouragement, as we know it’s our unbelief in who you are and what you alone can do. Empower us by your Spirit to pray and not doubt, to love and not preach, knowing you hold their hearts in your mighty capable hands.
DAY 21: MONDAY MAY 11, 2020
IN BEING WITH HIM, WE BECOME LIKE HIM
“When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord.” Moses’ face shone with the reflected glory of God, having heard Him and seen Him, BEING WITH HIM…….HE WAS BECOMING LIKE HIM.
Moses’ face didn’t always shine with the glory of God, years prior it may have shone with pride, being brought up in Pharaoh’s household having all the best the culture had to offer. It may have shone with regret and fear as He impulsively “struck down an Egyptian guard and hid him in the sand.” It may have shone with guilt and shame as he fled the palace and began his new life tending sheep. It may have reflected deep insecurity when God appointed him to lead his people as “he was not eloquent ….but slow of speech and tongue.”
But is he anything unlike Peter? ….The regret and insecurity his face must have reflected time after time as he spoke without thinking…or as he impulsively “drew his sword to cut off the high priest servant’s ear.” Or the unbearable guilt and shame he reflected 3 times after denying that he even knew his friend, his Lord, his Messiah Jesus ….not to mention how he abandoned Him at the cross.
But here was Peter, now standing in the midst of the Jewish leaders and his face shone with courage, boldness, uncommon assuredness, confidence, clarity…..”the leaders were astonished, and they recognized that they had been with Jesus.” In BEING WITH HIM, Peter WAS BECOMING LIKE HIM……and in becoming like Him, Peter no longer lost himself to himself…
To his shame, guilt, insecurity, regret.
To what he thought about himself….his weaknesses or his strengths.
To what others thought of him….their judgements or opinions of him.
To what he thought might happen to him…lose respect, be deemed insane or lose his very life.
The good news is living life with Jesus isn’t one of perfection, it’s about seeking Him and finding Him in His word, in the midst of our imperfection. It’s a journey, where overtime…. a lifetime…., we experience the powerful ministry of the Holy Spirit who enables us to take the focus off our failures and behold the face of Jesus. It’s there we’re able to lose ourselves and find Him….His glory, All of who is, as He pours His grace and love and patience into our hearts…its in BEING WITH HIM, WE BECOME LIKE HIM.
So together, LET’S PRAY……Jesus it was your atoning work on the cross for us that “tore the veil”, the veil Moses had to wear as his face shone with your glory. The veil that separated us from you because of the many faces of our unbelief. We admit that there are dark times when we want to place the veil back over our faces to hide our guilt, shame, pride, regret and insecurity. But know, that your unrelenting Spirit in us, will never allow us to stay there too long as we abide in you and become like you.
DAY 20: SATURDAY MAY 9, 2020
EXPERIENCING RESCUE OVER… AND OVER… AND OVER… AND OVER… AND OVER… AND OVER… AND OVER… AND OVER… AND OVER… (you get the point?)
Do you remember the moment your heart was gripped by what Jesus had done for you? Maybe there was an elation, a joy or an exuberance that kept you wondering for days, maybe weeks what had just happened to you. The realization that the God of the universe would go to such lengths to rescue, redeem and save you. Save you from your sin that would keep you from experiencing all of Him……His goodness, mercy, love, forgiveness, patience, kindness, faithfulness and grace in your life….. and the opportunity to know that such perfect love existed, even though you’d done nothing to deserve it.
That was the Spirit empowered exuberance that Peter possessed as he stood courageously before the Jewish leaders…the boldness within him that enabled him to assuredly proclaim “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we MUST BE saved.”
Up to this point in his journey Peter had faced some opposition from those who chose not to believe in Jesus, but he was “fresh out of the gate” so to speak. Did it ever cross Peter’s mind that the opposition would intensify? As time went on, would Peter allow his life circumstances to begin to cloud his vision and mission? Peter had possessed this zeal before and failed. Did he ever think about whether or not that might happen again? Would he become so worn down that he’d begin to look to other “saviors” to fulfill and satisfy him or was that all behind him now?
We don’t know exactly what temptations lurked in the deep recesses of Peter’s mind and heart, but if we’re honest we do know our own. Whether you were saved as a kid or just new to experiencing your life as a follower of Christ we know that we were saved and set apart by Him to experience eternal life beyond this fallen world with Him. But, do we embrace the reality that salvation through Christ is not one and done? The here and now reality of the gospel is that each and every day we have the opportunity to let Jesus, through the power of His Holy Spirit, save us all over again….
Save us from what comes out of our mouths…our words, our anger, irritation, frustration, complaining and impatience….as His grace changes the condition of our hearts.
Save us from the need to be needed…realizing our worth is already revealed in the lengths God has gone to show His love to us..
Save us from NEEDING to be loved, accepted, and respected by others….because in Jesus, we already are.
Save us from looking at our jobs to provide our needs…discovering You are our complete provider.
Save us from LONGING to have perfect health….as in Him we are whole and strong because of our weakness.
Save us from looking to our kids to deliver us significance and contentment…. realizing those can only be found and sustained in Christ, who is perfect.
Save us from feeling lonely and abandoned….as Jesus has raised us from isolated orphans to deeply loved heirs of His kingdom and the reassurance of that with His presence in us, we are never alone.
Save us from NEEDING to be right, or needing to get our way…as Christ is our righteousness, and our Father’s will is always better than our way.
Save us from needing other things in our lives to satisfy us…drugs, alcohol, obsessive gaming, tv, food, sex, money, etc….as He wants us to ABIDE in Him to discover Jesus is all satisfying.
Save us from our obsession with “DOING…” of performing with the hope of receiving acceptance and approval…. and walk in the truth that the greatest acceptance and approval we’ll ever find is in Jesus.
So… What do you need Jesus to save you from? What do you need to BELIEVE about the Gospel, that will truly set you free to live in victory?
Peter needed to be saved from acting in his own power, rescued from a guilty conscience, delivered from the need to have control, by thinking he knew what was best… and elevation from more than those few…
The Peter we see and hear in the books of Acts is a changed man… a man familiar with a series of “salvations” because he allowed the Holy Spirit to change him in a very rapid and short amount of time. He was learning that no effort of his own could save him from himself, he knew that life would threaten to wear him down, he knew that life in a fallen world would tempt him to cave in, stop trying and abandon his mission. And he knew that it would all be a work of God’s Spirit in him to do what he was completely unable to do.
Through Peter’s story we see that there is hope for us! And that hope will come for us as it did for Peter….by calling on Jesus’ name, “the name under heaven by which we MUST be saved” again and again.
So together, LETS PRAY….Jesus we stand together as your children and confess that we let other things in life “grip our hearts” more than we do you and what you’ve done for us. Help us to grasp our need for minute by minute, hour by hour dependence on your Holy Spirit who promises and is faithful to remind us of the depth of your love and kindness towards us to save us again and again. Help us to proclaim in the words of the prophet Zephaniah 3:17, that you Jesus are “The Lord our God in the midst of us, a Mighty One, a Savior [Who saves]!
DAY 19: FRIDAY MAY 8, 2020
THE STONE THE BUILDERS REJECTED
If you’ve sat in Christian gatherings long enough you’ve perhaps heard the familiar verse from Psalm 118:22 “The stone the builders rejected was the cornerstone.”
Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Peter quoted this verse to the Jewish leaders as he knew it would give them a significant cultural context to understand the centrality of Jesus to all of Christianity. The image of the cornerstone comes from the ancient quarries where highly trained stonemasons carefully chose the stones used for construction. No stone was more important than the cornerstone because the integrity of the whole structure depended on the cornerstone containing exactly the right lines. If the cornerstone was not exactly right, the entire building would be out of line.
Jesus was the rejected stone who God made to be the cornerstone of salvation.The Jewish leaders may have rejected him, but God accepted Him and put him in a position of the highest honor as He “raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places..”
Maybe others have rejected you, maybe you’ve incurred a world of burdensome rejection from those you love and hold dear or from those who don’t even know you. Rejection is hard, it can be debilitating and crippling and threaten to whisper lies about who you are. But know this, Jesus took your rejection with Him to the cross, it was crucified with Him, He rose to overcome it… and He took you WITH HIM, RAISED YOU UP AND SEATED YOU RIGHT NEXT TO HIM IN THE HEAVENLY PLACES. In Him, and out of the richness of God’s mercy and love for you, you’ve been given no greater place of honor!
You can be confident of this, because just as Peter and all the other disciples of Jesus, you were sealed by the Holy Spirit who MARKS YOU OUT AS GOD’S TREASURED POSSESSION and gives you the eyes to see and the heart to know that rejection no longer has the power to to identify you!
Jesus’ willingness to BE rejected by man reveals the truth that you have been ACCEPTED by Him… That is WHO YOU ARE as a Christian! Live in that NEW identity!
So together, LET’S PRAY….Jesus THANK YOU for being “our high priest who can identify with our weaknesses.” We believe that you were able to endure heartbreaking rejection because you were rooted and grounded in your Father’s great love and acceptance of you…that you, were among all, His treasured possession. How can we thank you for sharing the honor of being seated right next to you… that we are in you and you are in us. Thank you for giving us the reassurance and the faith to believe that even through the most difficult times of rejection, you will always lift us up by the power of your Holy Spirit reminding us of all that is true. Jesus we love you.
DAY 18: THURSDAY MAY 7, 2020
CONTINUAL CONVERSATION vs. CONTINUAL DUTY
Picture this scene…Peter is thrown into prison for preaching the good news of the risen Messiah, then released…. only to find himself “in the midst” of a skeptical, closed minded, but inquisitive interrogation. It’s not the first time, and certainly not the last Peter would be asked to explain THE POWER by which he performed miracles or THE NAME by which he’d done them. Peter was an uneducated, common blue collar kind of guy. He didn’t have credentials, and now he stood center stage amongst the most learned members of the council. But the boldness Peter had displayed in his previous messages was no less present now.
You see the one thing Peter had, that they did not have, was a heartfelt desire to seek and understand his Father’s heart through the word. Jesus himself had even said to these men “You search the scriptures…BUT YOU DO NOT FIND ME.” (paraphrase). Peter literally walked with Jesus “The Living Word” for three years, and he spent time with the other disciples learning about it, talking about it, and living out . Together, what they found through the illumination of the Holy Spirit is Jesus, they found that the entirety of the Old Testament was pointing to Him. Jesus was literally the fulfillment of it….they had eyes to see that every word of it was inspired into the hearts of men through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. For them, “God’s word was alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrated their hearts and their lives…”
The word and the Spirit of God are inseparable. God’s word and his Spirit operate together in one powerful dynamic. Pursuing his word without pursuing him leads to joyless duty, but pursuing, seeking and finding Him in it leads to power and genuine life…..
This is INCREDIBLY good news!
If you find your experience with God’s word “feels” more like duty, something you just check off your list of things to do, rendering impossible commands that you cannot possibly carry out or do, then seek help from the Holy Spirit. Take time to talk with Him before you dive into the word and ask him to do what He desires to do, to take God’s revealed word and make it real to you. In that moment before you engage with God’s Word, confess your DESIRE that you don’t want reading the Bible to feel like a duty or a chore, but you WANT TO HEAR from the God of the Universe speaking to YOU! Ask Him to help you to find Jesus in it, to know Him, understand His heart, and his incredible love for you.
So together, LETS PRAY…God we confess that oftentimes we find it hard to read the word because we don’t understand it, we can’t obey it, and at ur worst we have abandoned it. We see your compassion and grace towards us in giving us the continuing story of Peter, an ordinary guy like us who grew in boldness and courage as he learned to live his life in Spirit led dependence on you. Create in us this dependence, create in us a greater hunger and desire to seek you and find you in your word and grant us the boldness “in the midst” of the skeptical crowd to allow your Spirit to speak your words that will bring them life.
DAY 17: WEDNESDAY MAY 6, 2020
AN UNYIELDED SPIRIT
Chapter 4 marks the first persecution of the early followers of Jesus, a theme that will continue over the next few chapters and reach its culmination in chapter 7 when a specific follower of Jesus named Stephen boldly preaches the gospel message to a vehemently opposed crowd who tries to CONTROL and CONTAIN the movement of Christianity by brutally stoning him to death…
….After Peter and John heal the lame man and preach the risen Jesus to the crowds it doesn’t take long for the ruling powers to be, the Sadducees and Pharisees to catch wind of the disturbing news. It was not “good news” to their ears, “it greatly annoyed them,” it was outlandish, false, preposterous, and this foolishness had to stop. Dead men don’t come back to life! These Christians, walking in the same authority of this imposter named Jesus, who opposed all they believed and stood for, had to be CONTROLLED, CONTAINED, AND SHUT DOWN…..so they threw Peter and John in prison.
What the “powers to be” didn’t understand is that they were inadvertently trying to stop an unstoppable initiative by God Almighty set into motion before time began…. THE INITIATIVE.. by which all men had been given the gracious opportunity to be a part of His grand redemptive story… made new, cleansed of their sin, convicted of their unbelief and set free from falsehoods that kept them in bondage to their ignorance and self righteousness. Little did they know that their efforts to CONTAIN and CONTROL this movement would be like trying to stop a high speed locomotive without breaks. When the Holy Spirit is on the move He cannot be contained or controlled, but will never ever force His way into an unyielded heart.
What do you do when you can’t understand something that challenges an ingrained, long standing belief that you swear by, reason by, act out of and live by? Do you aim to CONTROL AND CONTAIN IT? Have you ever heard yourself say, or done any of these things?….
….”I’ve always been this way, it’s just the way I am”
….”I’m ok, it’s other people that need to change”
….Do you have an argumentative spirit, even when someone you love dares to challenge you or attempt to lead you closer to Jesus.
….Do you walk away or avoid people who don’t agree with you?
….Like the religious rulers, do you get annoyed or angry with those who challenge your beliefs.
….Do you believe, in most things, that you are right and everyone else is wrong?
….Do you have an unteachable spirit?
….Are you closed to a Godly friend even helping you discern honest answers to these questions?
Maybe we’re more like the religious rulers than we dare believe, living lives of pride and righteousness that only serve to mask our FEAR and INSECURITY, because all we’ve known of God is built on religion and not true relationship. Like them, maybe we don’t yet see that Jesus died and rose to make us right before His Father. Maybe our hearts have not yet grasped the understanding that we don’t have TO DO ANYTHING to earn our Father’s love. No ritual, no amount of self imposed law, no amount of bible reading, praying, or church going makes us right with God. We don’t have to be right before men and even ourselves, we no longer have to pretend, or perform to be acceptable to our Dad. Jesus is our righteousness… we don’t have to be afraid to submit our fears and insecurities that often mask themselves as pride and righteousness to the Holy Spirit’s work in us whose unshakeable desire is to break down the walls of self imposed CONTROL and CONTAINMENT and open us to a loving relationship with Jesus.
What are you afraid of? Why are you insecure?….what’s stopping you from allowing a powerful move of the Holy Spirit in your life?
So together, LETS PRAY…..Father we know we’re resistant to change. We know we stubbornly fail to yield our lives to you. And as much as we don’t like to admit or perhaps see, we are all STILL embracing that our right relationship with you has nothing to do with us and what we do, it’s ALL ABOUT JESUS AND WHAT HE’S DONE FOR US. We “get” that, but it is such a great gift, that we are STILL embracing the reality of it.
We trust that you know the areas in our lives where we try to CONTAIN AND CONTROL the move of your Spirit. We trust you with our fears and our insecurities and we trust that our submission to your Spirit’s lead will move us into a deeper, humbling and loving relationship with you.
DAY 16: TUESDAY MAY 5, 2020
THE GOOD NEWS IS GOOD-ER WHEN REMEMBERING THE BAD NEWS
There is a beautiful but very difficult, if not sobering reality we have to face whenever we TRULY HEAR and take to heart the good news of the gospel story. We love to hear about God’s love for us and the lengths He’s gone to rescue us by giving up the life of His one and only son. The undeserved implications of what this one pivotal act has done to change all of human history and the radical transformation it’s brought into the lives of those who HEAR can only be understood as an immeasurable act of mercy and grace by a perfect, holy and loving Father. A Dad whose relentless desire is to NEVER be estranged from His dearly loved children. This incomprehensible good news grows as we deeply embrace and look at it through the lense of the bad news.
We don’t typically like to hear bad news, especially right now as our world and our lives seem to be filled with it. But our lives in a lot of ways were not any different from those the apostles were called to minister to. They had relational, physical and emotional struggles just as we do. The last thing they really needed when Peter and the others came on the scene was to hear more bad news….and this news for many was most likely hard to bear.
“You killed Jesus”-”You crucified Him”-You delivered Him over and denied Him in the presence of Pilate”-You killed the Author of Life”-You acted in ignorance”-You need to turn from your wickedness.”
How easy is it for us to look at their lives disdainfully….until the Spirit convicts us of this truth in our own lives….this sobering reality of what we’ve all done and who we were? How easy is it for us to rationalize “that we’re not that bad”, that “we might do some bad things, but wicked, no not us!” The sobering truth is that before Christ gave His life for us, we were lost in our sin, unable to save ourselves, a slave to our wicked ways and consumed with unbelief in God. When we ALLOW the Holy Spirit to draw our hearts back to what is true of WHO WE WERE without a Savior, (remembering the unbearable hardship our Father had to endure to adopt us) the good news becomes SO MUCH MORE GOOD-ER… (I know, that is bad grammar, but it is GREAT THEOLOGY!!
The illuminative power of the Holy Spirit within us, bringing the reality of WHO we are NOW, is Glorious!.
Everyone of us has fallen far short of God’s glory and standard of perfection….everyone of us…there was only one who didn’t, and that was JESUS.
Here is where the good news gets even better, as if it wasn’t already…”God having raised up His servant SENT HIM TO YOU FIRST TO BLESS YOU”, not scold you, not guilt you, not scare you or shame you into behaving.
GOD RESPONDED FIRST….
HE CHOOSE YOU FIRST….
HE SET HIS LOVE ON YOU FIRST…
AND HE EXCHANGED YOUR LIFE FOR THE LIFE OF HIS FIRST BORN SON….
The BAD news about out condition in the flesh HEIGHTENS the Good news… and you never know how good, the good news is, until you have discovered the depth of the bad news. In light of the bad news, the Goos News (Gospel) is absolutely beautiful! It is HIS KINDNESS that leads us back to His love, it’s HIS KINDNESS THAT LEADS US TO REPENTANCE, and THE BLESSING that is Jesus Christ is what increasingly draws us away from our wickedness and towards Him.
This is why the present daily challenge is focused on “ABIDING” in Jesus. Not in reading your Bible, not in prayer, not in attending a worship service, not in serving, not in giving money… HOWEVER, the most effective ways to “ABIDE” in Christ… to REMAIN in His love, and REMAIN in obedience is through reading His Word daily, praying, attending worship, serving, and giving… but to ABIDE in Christ is the goal, not to do those things.
So together, LETS PRAY… We praise you Abba Father for your crazy amazing love for us! Who but you would rescue us, from us? Who but you would choose to continue to love us when you knew the wickedness that lies in our hearts? Who but you would pay a price so high that it would crush and break your heart? Who but you would wash over a multitude of our sins with your love? We are in awe of your love, and pray that your Holy Spirit would “strengthen our inner being with power through the Holy Spirit to know your love for us which far surpasses our understanding.”
DAY 15: MONDAY MAY 4, 2020
THE SOURCE OF POWER THAT NEVER DISSIPATES
Just like the crowd that day who’d witnessed Peter heal the lame man by the gate, we too can get caught up in desiring to see the physical manifestations of Jesus’ healing power in our lives and the lives of those we love. We might even doubt or wonder why we don’t see more of this kind of healing today?
Like the crowd, we fail to see or forget that the greater work and healing Jesus came to do wasn’t of a physical nature but a spiritual one. Peter knew as He boldly addressed the crowd, upholding Jesus as the “Holy and Righteous one, the Author of Life, whom God raised from the dead” that what they needed was far greater than physical healing, because Peter had witnessed this greater healing in his own life, a healing only Christ’s resurrection power could do, and that was to bring his dead heart back to life.
In his weakness and failure Peter EXPERIENCED and RECEIVED the miraculous ongoing healing brought about by the magnificence of God’s grace towards him. He recognized himself as that “lame” man, and everyone in the crowd that day apart from Jesus. In his weakness he was made strong as he learned to lean into the Holy Spirits resurrection power within him. Peter knew what the crowd did not yet know “that truth in His name would make them strong and that through Jesus they too could experience His transformative presence in them.” (paraphrase)
The lame man lived in his weakness….but Jesus made him strong.
Peter lived in his weakness….but Jesus made him strong.
Do you live in your weaknesses? Do you “live by faith in His name to make you strong”? Peter and all the disciples were learning that their weaknesses were not a handicap to being filled with the presence of the Holy Spirit, rather weakness is always an opportunity for the grace of God and Glory of what God can accomplish in and through us.
So together, LETS PRAY…God we confess that we’d rather talk about our strengths with others rather than our weaknesses because we’re afraid of being that open and vulnerable with ourselves and others. We “know” in our heads that “your power is made perfect in our weakness”, but living out of our weakness is hard. Holy Spirit, our divine Holy Helper…HELP US to embrace, if not take joy in our weakness as we know that Jesus name will be known more powerfully through us.
DAY 14: SUNDAY MAY 3, 2020
WE ARE ALL THAT LAME MAN
Up to the point in the book of Acts we witness Peter filled with the Holy Spirit given many opportunities by God to speak boldly about Jesus to the curious crowds. His response to all their inquiries is always the same because He knows, just as he did, they needed to HEAR the truth of the risen Jesus AGAIN AND AGAIN. He knows their deeply ingrained beliefs about God, everything that defined them…their traditions, ways of thinking, speaking, acting and reacting to the world around them and one another will die hard! Peter implores them once again “REPENT….TURN BACK so your sins may be blotted out to experience times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord…”
Can you imagine, each time Peter proclaimed the good news of Jesus it not only benefited others, but himself. Think about the last time you experienced something worth celebrating, something that brought you great joy….the birth of a baby, the first time the baby walks, the first time in a long time your husband or wife tells you how much they love and appreciate you, a blessing you receive unexpectedly, a helping hand from someone with a daunting house project! We love to retell and broadcast this good news, as we do our hearts swell again with joy.
When was the last time you told the story of what Jesus has done for you? Do you find this awkward, challenging or scary? There was a time when Peter did as well. He doubted who Jesus was, he denied even knowing Him, he wanted to make Jesus “in his own image”….a Messiah who would rescue him from Roman oppression and rise to power. Peter had to do, perhaps hundreds of times, what He was imploring the crowd to do “REPENT”. Change his mind about who Jesus really was. Allow God’s Spirit to move his heart from unbelief to belief.
Each time Peter REPENTED his love for Jesus grew as he knew his friend, His Savior, Jesus had ALREADY paid for his unbelief and loved Him just the same. Peter had experienced marvelous grace again and again of Jesus unburdening him from his sin as the Holy Spirit CONVICTED him of it, REMINDED him of what was true about his Savior and then EMPOWERED him to live in the reality of it and preach it….HE COULDN’T HELP IT! And as he did, “the presence of the Lord refreshed his soul!
So together, LETS PRAY…Father, we know that you have so much more of you to experience in this life! We can’t thank you enough for the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit to convict us of the ways we’ve turned away from you, remind us of a more glorious reality of living life WITH YOU, and the power to live it out as we yield ourselves to you. Help us to embrace the life giving gift of repentance. That we would see our entire Christian lives as an opportunity to experience your forgiveness and grace again and again through this radical gift that draws us deeper into understanding your love for us. Give us boldness, courage and humility as your Spirit leads to tell others the story of what experiencing life with Jesus has done to refresh our souls!
DAY 13: SATURDAY MAY 2, 2020
WHO GETS THE GLORY?
After the lame man was healed at the “Beautiful Gate” “he clung to Peter and John and all the people were utterly astounded”! Can you hear the onlookers?…… ”How could this be? If we didn’t see this with our own eyes we’d never believe it! This is the lame man who begged for alms at the gate everyday, now walking…these men must be healers, miracle workers!”
But as soon as Peter heard the crowd he immediately renounced their praise and redirected their gaze to Jesus. How was this possible, don’t you think Peter would have had some temptation to at least take some of the glory for himself?…. A pat on the back, a complement, an approving word on how great and amazing he was?
How about you? When you serve someone, or do something you deem “to be great” in building His kingdom or even when you go through a day without getting angry at your kids or your spouse? Do you look to gain approval from “the onlookers”? Do you make it a point to tell everyone who will hear what you’ve done and how awesome you are?
You see that day, Peter gave the glory to God but it wasn’t through his own power that he was able to do that. The Holy Spirit empowered him to point to Jesus, who Jesus was and what he had done for them. Even the Spirit points to Jesus, He takes no glory for Himself….IT’S ALL ABOUT JESUS. Peter knew he didn’t need the approval of the crowd that day, he already had Jesus’ approval, which for him, would always be MORE THAN ENOUGH.
So together, LETS PRAY….Jesus we choose to believe that your approval of us is more than enough. You died to ensure that. When we’re tempted to look to this world for approval, pats on the back, accolades for who we are and what we’ve done, Holy Spirit empower us as you did Peter, to give all the honor and praise and glory in humility to JESUS, WHO IS WORTHY OF ALL PRAISE!
DAY 12: FRIDAY MAY 1, 2020
THE POWER OF GOD’S SPIRIT IN US
In the first chapter of Acts we see the disciples WAITING for the promised Holy Spirit, chapter two marks the COMING of the Holy Spirit, and now chapter 3 shows the apostles being empowered or “FILLED” by the Spirit. Which begs the question: What does it mean to be filled by the Holy Spirit? (Eph 5:17-21) And, is there a difference between the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and being filled with the Holy Spirit?
After Peter’s rousing message of salvation in the last chapter, 3,000 souls were saved. As they repented and were baptized in the name of Jesus it was promised that they, like the disciples, would receive the precious gift of Jesus dwelling in them by the power of the Holy Spirit. However, would all of these newly professed believers spread the good news of Jesus? Would they begin to live the life modeled by Jesus, marked by less selfishness and more generosity? Would they move forward focused on living their lives to please God? Would they see the world and people much differently, responding and interacting with people differently than before?
Truly, we don’t know. Some do, some don’t, some will, some won’t… and all at a different pace. What we are sure of though is all who confess, believe, and are MADE NEW in Christ are filled with HIM… (the Holy Spirit is not a what, He is a WHO), but even though the Spirit dwells in us, we are not always allowing Him to CONTROL US. It has even been said this way… that “all believers have all of the Holy Spirit, but the Holy Spirit does not have all of them.”
As we begin chapter 3 of Acts, the Apostle Peter is submitted to the authority, lead, and control of the Holy Spirit when he SEES a broken down man sitting at the temple gate. Everyday the man was physically carried to this place to beg for enough money to get him through the day. This life is all he knew. Since his birth, as a result of his limitations, all he knows about WHO HE IS, is a “lame beggar”…
LAME… (emphasis on what I CANNOT do)
BEGGAR… (emphasis on WHO I am)
This is who he was, this is how everyone else saw him, how they referred to him… that is, UNTIL Peter and John came along. Through the power of the Holy Spirit they were able to SEE him as Jesus saw others like him… SOMEONE WHO THE GLORY OF GOD COULD BE ON DISPLAY THROUGH!!
Peter & John, allowing their “normal everyday lives” to be interrupted, reveal to this lost soul that what he needed most wasn’t money, but Jesus .
When we submit our lives to the control of the Holy Spirit HE MOVES through us to show the world who Jesus is. THROUGH us, the GLORY OF GOD can be revealed… BECAUSE of the Holy Spirit at work.
That day all who saw the lame beggar “walking and leaping and praising God” were “filled with wonder and amazement of what had happened to him”.
Maybe you’ve seen the impact the Holy Spirit has made in the life of another as you simply submitted your day in obedience to Him. Maybe you haven’t. If not, such joy awaits you as you intentionally give your day to Him and watch as He works through you in the most beautiful and unexpected ways.
So together, LETS PRAY….God we just praise you for the incredible gift of the Holy Spirit in us to do in this world and in the life of others as you would do. We submit ourselves today to the lead of your Spirit to allow Him to control our comings and goings. We allow Him to interrupt our day and our schedules as there may be someone you want us to SEE as you see and heal as you healed…maybe with kind words, an unexpected blessing, an opportunity to hear from you as we pray for them, or an opportunity to share our story that points them to you.
DAY 11: THURSDAY APRIL 30, 2020
I FEEL LIKE I SHOULD BE DOING MORE… BUT…
As we read about the early church we see a selfless group of Jesus followers that were “selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds, as any had need.” They prayed together, ate together, rallied around the word together, accepted kindness from one, and had hearts that OVERFLOWED with generosity towards one another. Through it all, they praised God for His favor in their lives.
When we read this passage we can “feel guilty” that we’re not more like the early followers. We can stare at our efforts and feel grossly short of the life Jesus calls us to. But comparison is always a trap. Have you ever compared “what you do” as a Christian to the lives of those around you? Have you ever felt that “what you do” is never enough?
As long as we live on this earth there will ALWAYS be tension discerning what God IS and IS NOT calling us to do. But know this, the early believers weren’t “heros”, they weren’t drinking some type of special “koolaid” that gave them the ability to live God and “other-centered” lives. What they recognized is their need to commune with their newfound companion, the Holy Spirit. The Spirit in them is what brought forth their devotion to one another. When we are aware of the Spirit’s presence in us the natural OVERFLOW is one of unity and mutual care. The early believers were inundated as we are with multiple ways to help those around them BUT they weren’t called to meet every need.
Jesus left us the Holy Spirit to lead, guide and direct our activity. HE CALLS EACH AND EVERYONE OF US TO SOMETHING SPECIAL that doesn’t look like what He may call anyone else to do. As we learn to talk with Him and listen to Him He is faithful to show us what it is we are to do… He is faithful to give us the POWER WE NEED TO LIVE THAT LIFE… and along the way, we discover a freedom to not compare our lives and our walk with anyone else. We simply GET TO experience the OVERFLOW of His Spirit through us, into the lives of those He has called us to serve, love, build relationships with, and eventually, share the Gospel with.
So together, LETS PRAY….God help us to live Spirit dependent lives. We admit that oftentimes we feel as though “what we do” isn’t enough as needs surround us. We desire and have a hunger to hear from you and you alone to direct our steps and show us who we’re to love on for your namesake. When we feel as though “we’re not enough or not doing enough” convict us of our unbelief because you, working in us is enough.
DAY 10:WEDNESDAY APRIL 29, 2020
THE HOLY SPIRIT IS JUST AS VISIBLE AS JESUS… IF YOU KNOW WHAT TO LOOK FOR?
Talk about the church growing! In one day, it grows from 120 to 3,120… Thousands of salvations and baptisms. What an experience to see that day, in the very city where Jesus was crucified just a few weeks earlier. And there was the tangible presence of the Holy Spirit making it all happen.
Sometimes we can feel confused, and lose sight of what the Holy Spirit is up to. Where He is at work. Why He isn’t answering the prayers we are praying, when we pray them. At times, I think every Christ follower has to battle through the season of frustration with God’s Spirit, and the questions or doubts that flood our minds at times. Most often, times when circumstances we are facing seem beyond our ability to control.
When Jesus was with the Disciples, they could SEE Him serving, teaching, loving, generous, healing, courageous, humble, etc. Once Jesus was gone, the Spirit of God was much harder to see, right? Maybe not. Remember, Jesus said that the Father, Son, and Spirit are ONE… and now, we are IN Him, and He is in us. When you really think about it, Jesus’ behaviors, which turned the world upside down could “start to be” listed out in the following ways:
- Fellowship with others not like Him
- Devotion to Scripture
- Eating Together
- Worshipping together
- Sharing all He had with others
- Miracles revealing Power
- Praising God for Who He is
We can read the Scripture and think that once Jesus was gone, these actions were lost too, but that is NOT true. In fact, the SAME Holy Spirit that fueled Jesus’ actions, was now divided out into 3,120 Disciples of Jesus multiplying throughout the city, and very quickly, the Roman Empire. These same behaviors were IMMEDIATELY evident in the people of the Early Church. What a beautiful VISIBLE sign of God’s Presence on Earth!
What we often forget is that the easiest, and most obvious places to SEE the Holy Spirit working is when we yield to God’s will, and let HIM ACT THROUGH US! In the list above, you may not have noticed when you first read it… but every other line is connected to certain Scriptures.
THE PINK ARE actions found in Jesus, AND in Acts 2:42-47 describing His church.
THE PURPLE ARE actions of the Holy Spirit THROUGH believers found in Galatians 5:22-23.
Next time you are struggling to see where the Holy Spirit is… Just look at those closest to you in the family of God (my unspoken assumption here is that you have people you are close with in your local church.) Look at those believers closest to you and identify some of the “fruits” listed above in their life. Where you see the FRUIT of God’s Spirit, you see God’s Spirit… the SAME SPIRIT that was in Jesus, is still in us today. And allow that visible discovery to bring warmth, hope, and courage to your heart, as your FAITH increases to remember God is with you, and all around you.
So, TOGETHER LET’S PRAY… God, thank you for being so amazing! Beyond what we deserve. And forgive me when I neglect to see your presence IN my brothers and sisters in Christ. I want to SEE You more through them, please help me. And help me learn to grow in obedience to Your Word, so I can bear the fruit of Your Spirit more, as a visible identification of my Savior, Jesus. I want to SEE YOU working more, and I want others around me to SEE YOU working too!
DAY 9: TUESDAY APRIL 28, 2020
THE HOLY SPIRIT IS RE-PARENTING ALL OF US
Discipleship, or growing in our BELIEF & OBEDIENCE to Jesus is truly like being re-parented… and all of us need re-parented no matter how old we are or how mature we think we are. The reason is because we all have an inclination back towards SELF and our old nature. None of us have had “perfect” parents. They were all flawed… they all had weaknesses… and they all messed up in some way. So do those of us that are parents now. Discipleship is the way that the Holy Spirit RE-PARENTS us through one another to lead us “into all truth” and into greater obedience… He uses each of us FOR each of us, but ULTIMATELY this happens THROUGH HIM.
If you’re a parent perhaps you’ve lamented the MANY MOMENTS you feel as if you’ve failed with your children, wondering why God would give you such a monumentally challenging task! How many times have you thought you’ve “damaged your kids for life” because of the things you’ve said or done or didn’t do, feeling fully responsible for who they are or who they’ll become. Take comfort in the fact that every parent feels that way at one time or another because we all have moments of clarity around our own limitations.
But what if, for a moment, we took a radical but BIBLICAL view of parenting (discipleship). What if in reading John 15:5, we literally applied Jesus words… (stay joined to me and you can produce much fruit… apart from me you can do nothing)… What if you applied that principle to your parenting because it’s true? No matter your experience, education, or the quality of how you were parented, nothing can take the place of the Holy Spirit’s lead in your life as to how to parent your children, or how to help someone grow.
Think about your Heavenly Father… how He parents you, demonstrates He loves you, promises to provide your needs, disciplines you but never punishes you, has unbelievable patience with you, and generously forgives you. As we discover WHO HE IS, and WHAT HE HAS DONE as our Dad or Mentor, we realize that we can do NOTHING of lasting impact apart from Him… abiding in His Spirit for our benefit, and our kids’ development, growth, and faith.
In Acts 2:39, after Peter proclaimed the good news of Jesus to all who were listening he said that they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit…and that PROMISE WASN’T JUST FOR THEM, BUT FOR THEIR CHILDREN! This is Good News that EMPOWERS our children’s whole lives! The Holy Spirit is the discipler, the teacher, the one who guides us… and as we follow HIM, He will then disciple, teach, and guide our children THROUGH us into all truth.
Whenever you’re “freaked out” about your children growing up… Whenever you feel overwhelmed… Whenever you don’t know what to do, or what to say…. remember, you are not alone… as a Jesus follower, saved by the Blood of the Lamb, the Holy Spirit of God is WITH you and you don’t have to figure it out.
Just show them what you are learning about following Jesus, because when they choose Jesus, they will be armed with God’s Holy Spirit too… they will have HIS POWER, HIS WISDOM, The ULTIMATE TEACHER with them, a COMFORTER, a COUNSELOR, a STRENGTH within them to have uncommon courage & hope.
So together, LETS PRAY….Dear God as parents we admit that we feel grossly short of the task of training up our children in the way they should go. Remind us that like our children, we are your children and we need help. The kind of help we won’t necessarily find in a book, but the kind of help that will impart your supernatural power and ability through the empowering presence of your Spirit in us. Your word brings life and your voice speaks PROMISES. Thank you for the promise that assures us that our children will carry your Spirit with them, and never be alone.
DAY 8: MONDAY APRIL 27, 2020
A WHOLE NEW NORMAL
In Acts 2:42-47 we read about this beautiful unity that all Christ’s followers had as they devoted themselves TOGETHER to him. It was the Holy Spirit that prompted their sense of community and the desire to stay close to one another. Their hearts were awakened to the Holy Spirit’s work in them both individually and collectively.
But, as we reflect on this passage it begs the question: “Is this how God wants us to live now? We might feel as if “this is not the same time and the same world they lived in, we have a more independent society where this isn’t really possible.”
Or is it?
Could we, spiritually be experiencing so much more? The passage tells us that “Awe and wonder came upon every soul”. When was the last time you felt the awe and wonder in your soul that the Holy Spirit poured into these believers? Realistically, maybe not as often as you’d like. But why?
Maybe as “His church”, now all hunkered down for a while, we need to invite the Holy Spirit into the privacy of our lives and allow Him to speak to us about what “a new normal” might look like as restrictions are lifted. Maybe God has surrounded you with a community of people… a combination of both believers in Christ AND those yet not in His family, to include in the normal rhythms of your family… to eat with you… or celebrate with you.
Here are a couple safe ways to bridge those relationships now so that God could open incredible doors later:
- Unexpectedly drop a meal off to a neighbor (maybe even take out from a local restaurant), for those in close proximity spearhead an “end of the driveway” bbq, if you’re going to the store see who might need groceries, take a walk with the kids and drop off homemade cookies on a nice day when the neighbors are outside….
- Find out who’s having a birthday and celebrate via an online connection, or drive by the person’s house to wish birthday greetings at a safe distance. (birthday celebrations are not just for kids EVERYONE right now needs to be made felt special in this age of isolation). Maybe it doesn’t even need to be a birthday celebration but a “just because” for those who aren’t surrounded by family.
Opportunities to help our neighbors are there if we look for them. The Spirit guides, leads and directs us to others if we allow Him to rip open the comfortable independent lifestyles we’ve allowed ourselves to live in… in this, we find with other believers, the awe and wonder that comes from following Jesus.
So together, LET’S PRAY…..Holy Spirit we invite you into the privacy of our lives to break down the independent lifestyles we’ve been accustomed to that often venture into selfishness. Help us to see that our comfort is keeping us from experiencing the awe and wonder of who you are and what you can do. Help us become aware of those you’ve placed around us.
We admit that we drive by our neighbors but don’t really know them and have been too busy to bridge relationships with them. Guide and lead us in the ways you want us to engage with them so over time, we can watch YOU GROW a type of community we never thought possible….one of generosity, one of love, and one whereby in your divine might, we will see others become a part of our beautiful life giving family united in Christ.
DAY 7: SUNDAY APRIL 26, 2020
I BLEED WHAT’S IN ME!
As we grow in our relationship with the Holy Spirit we begin to experience what seems to be a miraculous transformation in our lives. Little by little we respond differently to people… love and not anger, grace rather than unrealistic expectations and demands, patience instead of impatience, gentle and kind tones rather than harsh or short ones… This is the work of the Holy Spirit for those who are surrendering, putting us in a posture that is OPEN to be changed, open to really wanting to live in light of Jesus love.
When you humble yourself and allow the Spirit to take hold of you, He comes out of you. This is what happened in the lives of the early believers, they believed as Jesus said in John 15:5, that “apart from Him they could do nothing.” They embraced the limitations of their flesh, they knew their weakness, their sinful tendencies and the vulnerabilities that would lead them into temptation so THEY STUCK TOGETHER. They recognized their need for one another. They recognized their need to encourage and help one another from straying down the path that would lead their souls to destruction.
As these believers grew in their dependence on God and learned to trust one another, onlookers couldn’t help but see how beautifully different their lives were. Lives characterized by forgiveness, love, grace and such joy….and as they did, the Holy Spirit used it as a witness in a way that brought many NEW believers into their family as disciples. (Acts 2:47)
Do you remember the life of someone who put on display a type of faith, a type of community, and a clear grasp of who God is, and who they are in God’s family? I assume that you were witness to someone who lived differently than others you experienced, and that eyewitness testimony in your life, CHANGED your life introducing you personally to Jesus!
So together, LETS PRAY… God how can we thank you for using the lives of others to BRING us into your family? How can we thank you for using our imperfect lives to bring others to you? You even use our failures as a witness of who you are in our Spirit given ability to forgive one another. Thank you that the “weight” of bringing others into your kingdom doesn’t rest on us, as it is all a work of the Holy Spirit. Thank you that WE GET TO play a part in your plan to redeem this world. Help us to own our part and remember that REMAINING in you is all we must do. Nurturing that intimate relationship we have been given with our Holy helper… submitting to Him… learning to listen to Him… wanting You to lead us into ALL truth… so that our obedience to you might reveal you, and shine your glory to everyone around us.
DAY 6: SATURDAY APRIL 25, 2020
After Peter stands and preaches the Gospel for the first time, to thousands listening in the public square, he does not hold back. Peter declares boldly that Jesus is “both Lord and Messiah.”
This day, when 3,000 say Yes to Jesus, and the Holy Spirit descends, is know as Pentecost. The day that the message of the crucified and risen Jesus begins to be communicated, and immediately, as Dr. Luke writes the book of Acts, he tells us those listening were “cut to the heart….”
I would assume that all of us have heard a hard story, or know of someone right now, during this unreal time in our lives that is suffering, and it “cuts us to the heart…” It is heartbreaking…
On Pentecost, most likely it wasn’t a pleasant feeling when the Holy Spirit was at work in them convicting them of their self centered, evil, oppressive, judgmental ways and their long standing false beliefs about who they were, who God was and what Jesus had come to do for them. In that great outpouring of the Spirit their hearts were gripped by the greatness of Jesus, His generosity and sacrifice, and the piercing reality of their sin in the eyes of God that would require such an unbelievable gift…
The people were so moved by the gift of the Gospel available to all that the crowds cried out with a desire to respond… “What shall we do”?!
One of the roles the Holy Spirit plays in our lives is to convict us of sin, which in all honesty is the one we’d rather not have Him play. Nor the one we really want to talk about much.
We love when God comes alongside us to help us, comfort us, remind of of all that is true of Jesus and ourselves when our minds go astray, and to give us what we do not have….uncommon love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness and self control. (the fruits of His Spirit in us)
But to echo the crowd at Pentecost… “what shall we do”? How do we respond appropriately? What do we do when the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin in our lives that might, for a time “feel right and good”, but ultimately is only hurting ourselves and the lives around us? What would Jesus have us do?
James 5:16 clearly tells us that if we “ confess our sins to one another and pray for one another we may be healed.” Maybe the thought of this is frightening to you. Maybe you can’t imagine the humiliation and the shame you’d feel if anyone knew the depth of your sin. This is where the gift of Godly relationships and the work of the Holy Spirit becomes real in your life….Allowing yourself, as he leads you, to be KNOWN and TO KNOW OTHERS….to disclose the truth, have it received, and be shown His love to set your Spirit free!
So together, LETS PRAY…. Father, I’d admit that telling others about the deep darkness in my heart, the things I do that I don’t want to do, is hard. Help me to trust you with my heart as well as others that you’ve already lined up to come alongside me to just love me where I am. I’m going to choose to trust that you didn’t give me a Spirit that makes me afraid. Help me to pray about who those people are, knowing that they as well as I, aren’t perfect…so together we can learn to hang onto the only perfect one that is you.
DAY 5: FRIDAY APRIL 24, 2020
STANDING IN FAITH, NOT FEAR
“This is what our glorious God has been doing for us along…. this is what Jesus came to do…. this is what He has done…and now this is what we need to do….”Repent and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and RECEIVE THE GIFT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.” After this Spirit inspired dissertation three thousand souls were saved.
The question is, what must Peter have been thinking after his first rousing sermon? We can only imagine…. “Who just did that? I don’t even know that person! What just came over me? I don’t even have it in me to speak that boldly…where did that courage come from? Look at what my God’s Spirit just did through me!”
If there was hope for Peter then there is hope for us! We are “that guy.” Maybe you don’t feel equipped to speak to others about Jesus, or maybe you’re like Peter was and fumble over your words or speak before you think. Maybe you feel as if you don’t know enough to talk about your faith, or feel as if no one will even listen. The truth is what you think you can or cannot do is nothing compared to what God’s Holy Spirit can empower you to do. You need to get over you and believe that God will equip you and give you everything you need to carry out the incredible plans He has for you to share your story and spread His glory. Your part? Believe, and ask the Holy Spirit TO CONTROL YOU….your words, your thoughts, your actions. Call on Him often in everything and for everything, your divine Holy helper, and watch as Peter did what He can and will do through you!
So together, LETS PRAY…Father we confess that we often don’t submit or know how to submit ourselves to the lead of the Holy Spirit. We express our thoughts and our opinions and not those which give life to others. Open our minds and our hearts before every encounter we have to call on our helper to give us words that speak truth, love and wisdom trusting that your Spirit in us will do in the hearts and minds of others only what He can do.
DAY 4: THURSDAY APRIL 23, 2020
WHO IS THIS LOUDMOUTH?
The Spirit of God had set the stage in every imaginable way. They were together, they were confused. Thousands of people gathered to celebrate Pentecost hearing all of the disciples speaking in their own native language. How could this be? It was time for somebody to come in who wasn’t confused to eliminate the confusion. And that someone was Peter. Yes, Peter…the one who denied knowing his friend Jesus….the coward, the one who was notorious for expressing his thoughts before really thinking.
Yes, it was Peter, but this time was different because he was UNDER THE CONTROL of God’s Holy Spirit. God’s Spirit was in him, speaking through Him, giving him what he did not have. God’s Spirit empowered Peter with a newfound boldness and courage. Peter was no longer expressing “his opinion” but grounded his message in the truth of God’s word, speaking clearly and concisely under the authority Jesus had given him. Standing with the eleven he lifted his voice and preached a fiery gospel!
When your confidence comes from your past, then some days go better than others, because your confidence in yourself can be fleeting. But when your confidence is found in the presence of God’s Spirit in you… then… things that “were” impossible… (like standing publicly in front of thousands and telling them the Gospel message)… become reality.
So together, LETS PRAY…Father you never change. You are my Dad, and you are powerful! Help me to grow more today to realize your power IS at work in me, because YOUR Spirit resides within me!
DAY 3:WEDNESDAY April 22, 2020
WHO IS HE?
In the beginning of Chapter 2, Jesus sets the Christian movement into motion by sending his Spirit like a mighty rushing wind into His disciples, “And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting”(Acts 2:2). The place they were gathered actually shook with God’s power and what followed, to us, almost seems unbelievable! It was a mighty movement of the Spirit through ordinary men and women, just like you and me spreading Jesus’ name….telling those He placed in their path who He was, what He had done in their lives and what He could do in theirs and the eternal consequences of it all!
Maybe you’ve read these accounts and feel as if “things like this don’t happen today” or “I don’t feel much of a rushing wind coursing through me” or maybe you live from experience to experience waiting for” the big sensational moments” God will unfold before you. Whatever the case, it’s important to know that it’s not about what we see, what we feel, what we think or what we experience. These things are subjective, the steadfast truth is regardless these things God is with us, ever present, always working, always constant, always steady. He simply asks us to walk by faith, not sight. He asks us to stay close to Him (John 15:4), talk with Him, walk with HIm, listen to Him and watch Him work in and through us.
So together, LET’S PRAY…Father we confess that we often use how we feel, what we think, see or experience as a barometer of your goodness and work in our lives and in this world. Help our hearts to understand that your desire for us is to abide in you, BE OPEN to hear from you, and be led by your Spirit to guide and direct our steps everyday, moment by moment in all things. We choose TO TRUST YOUR WORK IN US and to WALK BY FAITH IN YOU and what you alone can do.
DAY 2:TUESDAY April 21, 2020
NEXT MAN UP
Our reading of Scripture tells us that the number twelve was significant to God’s plan of salvation. The Old Testament tells the story of the twelve tribes of Israel, while the gospels recount the twelve disciples of Jesus. They have gathered in obedience to Jesus’ command to stay in the city until they are “armed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). And interestingly, this is obedience to Jesus’ first command to the church after the resurrection Easter… “wait.”
In the waiting though, we see a lot that shows us who this church of Jesus is for. The original disciples, minus Judas Iscariot, have been joined by 120 other believers at the Mount of Olives, a place of divine revelation.
Women play a pivotal role among the 120, not only as an anonymous part of the group but specifically at the cross, and the resurrection of Christ. The presence of women in the core group is significant in this cultural context, and even their prominent role as an eyewitness at the empty tomb reveals that this new movement ushered in by Jesus called “The Church” has a place for everyone. Being together in “mind and spirit” is the key.
Simon Peter assumes a leadership role in the early chapters of Acts, a role that he will later share with many others who rise in influence, like Paul to the Gentiles, and James in the Jerusalem church. Still, he is a central figure in the book of Acts, especially on the Day of Pentecost and the arrival of the Holy Spirit.
Right in the first chapter of Acts though, Peter’s speech deals with the necessity of replacing Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus, so that prophetic texts might be fulfilled. The one requirement is that the person chosen to take Judas’ place must have been with the group of believers “the whole time.”
The group calls out two men, Joseph Barsabbas and Matthias, but they seem reluctant to make the final decision themselves. Instead, with trust in the power and authority of God and the way of providence they cast lots, or basically roll dice, to select who will be the newest of the 12. Up until now, that was an acceptable way of decision making, but it will diminish quickly with the arrival of the Holy Spirit.
When Matthias is selected, an “everyman’s disciple,” It sort of signifies that everyone is welcome to follow Jesus. All of us have a part to play and a role to fill in the great collaborative mission of our Savior. Matthias is an average, ordinary guy now empowered to be a vocal witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection, a prominent voice as a leader for the church, and a trusted man who will discern and follow the voice of God in the future.
Matthias is chosen by God just like you and just like me. He is any of us. No matter what you think you are good at, or bad at, you are a child of God, and you have a story to tell of what Jesus has done to set you free! You have gifts and abilities God can use, and you have a heart that Jesus WILL change over time reflecting Him more and more.
IS THIS YOU?
Have you ever felt deeply frustrated with your faith? Like, you feel as if you know a lot of truths about God, but sense very little relationship with Him? When you read through the book of ACTS do you feel as though you don’t have the dynamic kind of relationship with God the disciples had in the early church? Well, take comfort you’re not alone. Many professing Christians understand what God has done for them in Christ, want to follow Him, “do” for Him, serve Him, love Him, serve and love others, but have become disenchanted and burned out. It’s as if “that God”of long ago who interacted with the disciples, spoke with them, comforted them, lovingly corrected them, walked with them is now not available as they strive in their own effort to follow in Jesus’ footsteps.
In all this….Jesus would tell you to “take heart”, he understands. The disciples physically walked with Jesus for three years, listened to Him teach and explain kingdom truths to them, yet they did not understand…especially when it came to their understanding that His very physical presence would reside in them through the Holy Spirit. Jesus told his disciples in all things…JUST BELIEVE (Mark 5:36), but it’s hard. We want to lean on our own understanding, our own strength and our own effort. When we do, we miss out on the empowering real presence of a person, the Holy Spirit, to do in and through us what we were never meant to do on our own.
JESUS CHOSE YOU to receive this miraculous gift. He wants you to open it and discover as He did, that with WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT YOU ARE NEVER ALONE. As you talk with the Holy Spirit He will guide you in all truth, grant you wisdom beyond your understanding, direct your steps, speak to your heart as you listen, teach you and empower you as he did the disciples with humble honesty and courage to give all those around you the reason why you have hope today.
So together, LETS PRAY and just start talking to the Holy Spirit as HE DESIRES a relationship with you. Talk to Him about your desire to get to know Him, your desire to listen to His voice, your desire to unburden yourself from doing in your own strength what you were never meant to do without Him….and thank Him, as He is faithful and ready to help you and reveal himself to you.
DAY 1: Monday April 20, 2020
The book of Acts is unlike anything else we have in the New Testament, isn’t it? It’s not quite like a gospel, and it’s definitely not written in the style of Paul’s letters to churches. The book combines a recording of the history of the early church with speeches, accounts of miraculous events, and action-packed scenes of persecution and triumph.
The full title of the book of Acts is actually “The Acts of the Apostles,” which is appropriate because, in some ways, Acts gives us the history of the early church through the faithful witness of several significant apostles. For instance, in the book of Acts, we meet the first Christian martyr, Stephen, and the former persecutor of the church turned apostle, Paul, whose writings make up much of the New Testament.
The book of Acts actually began as a letter, written by the gospel writer Luke, to Theophilus. (Luke had also written the gospel of Luke to Theophilus.) It’s likely that the letter was written in the 60s, possibly in 62 AD. And Luke didn’t write as a third-party observer; many scholars believe that the references to “we” in the second half of Acts are references to Luke and that he was one of Paul’s companions at some point on his journeys.
But Acts isn’t just about the acts of these apostles. Ultimately, Acts tells us the story of the Holy Spirit, poured out on the apostles on the day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, labored through the Lord’s human instruments, and we see the gospel proclaimed despite intense opposition.
Acts is the story of the early church, which, by the power of God, overcame persecution and danger. And in Acts, we see the gospel go forth—to the Jews, to the Gentiles, and ultimately, to the ends of the earth.
As we walk through this Adventure in the church’s earliest days, be encouraged by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, knowing that He is just as real and powerful today as He was in the stories we reflect on.
JESUS DEPENDED ON THE HOLY SPIRIT
In Luke 4:18 Jesus said of himself “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me….”
We often think of Jesus as fully God, and he was, but He was also fully human. Jesus was a real human being, which means he grew spiritually BY LEARNING TO BE OPEN to the Holy Spirit. He needed to be empowered from day one with and by the Spirit as He, like us, had no human ability to live a life pleasing to His Father…..NO ability to resist the temptation of sin, NO ability to NOT live a self-centered life, NO ability to live joyfully and peacefully through dire circumstances, NO ability to live a life characterized by humble, selfless sacrificial love.
It’s important to understand that NOTHING Jesus did in His earthly ministry was done by His own power. Everything was accomplished by the anointing of the Holy Spirit that was on Him…..And so it is with us, those who have professed our faith in Jesus. We sing on Sunday about “the same Spirit that rose Jesus from the dead that lives in us”….but do we believe that? Do we understand that just as Jesus had a relationship with His Father, he had a vibrant, dependent relationship with the Holy Spirit to empower Him to do what humanly He could never do?
The Holy Spirit empowers us to speak to others about our faith, but also empowers us to love, extend grace, be patient, be full of joy, to forgive and so much more FAR BEYOND OUR HUMAN CAPABILITY…
So together….LETS PRAY and LEARN TO BE OPEN, as Jesus was open to growing in our understanding and intimacy with the Holy Spirit, our divine Holy helper… to help us do what humanly we cannot do. If your life “feels” like drudgery…if your Christian walk “feels” less than joyless….the Spirit is waiting to help you and walk with you…it’s a choice to believe….be open.