Goals 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 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 29: WEDNESDAY MAY 20, 2020
IT ISN’T ABOUT HOW MUCH WE LOVE JESUS!
“If Jesus is precious to you, as He is the Spirit, you will not be able to keep the good news to yourself; you will be whispering it into your child’s ear; you will be telling it to your husband; you will be earnestly imparting it to your friend; without the charms of eloquence you will be far more eloquent; because YOUR HEART WILL SPEAK and your love for the welfare of others will cry out Jesus love for you….It cannot be that there is a high appreciation of Jesus and a totally silent tongue about him….
If you really KNOW Christ, you are like one that has found honey or peanut butter and jelly; you will call others to taste of its sweetness; you are like the beggar who has discovered an endless supply of food: or the only one in town who knows where the best pizza, burgers and wings are: you just can’t stop yourself from telling the hungry crowd what you’ve found……except, it’s not “WHAT you found” it’s “WHO you’ve found”….it’s JESUS, and His sacrificial love for you…” (paraphrase- Charles Spurgeon)
To KNOW JESUS, to be on mission for Him… it is never fueled or accomplished solely based on HOW MUCH WE LOVE HIM, rather fueled by HOW MUCH HE LOVES US. It was this awe and adoration of Jesus’ love for them that drew the early followers of Jesus together. They couldn’t help but shower that love and blessing on one another, and they couldn’t be silent about it.
Under hardship and difficulty, our love for Jesus wanes…..but “His love for us never fails.” One of the most beautiful roles of the Holy Spirit is to fuel our love for Jesus…. Don’t you want more of that?….. We can’t intellectualize it or manufacture it, it is all the work of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 5:5 – “For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”
2 Thessalonians 3:5 – “ He directs our hearts into the love of God.”
Ephesians 3: 16 – “He strengthens our inner being to know His love…”
Do you have the burning desire to share more of your faith? Then never stop praying and asking the Holy Spirit to show you the depth of your Father’s love for you.
So together, LETS PRAY….Father, we know that our love is fraile, fickle and fleeting at best. We want to love you, but don’t always feel it burning in our hearts. Thank you that your love for us is not predicated on how much we love you, but rather how much you love us. Holy Spirit, pour the revelation of our Father’s love into the deep recesses of our hearts, direct our hearts into His incredible love for us, and strengthen our inner being to know His love that surpasses our understanding….SO THAT, we can’t help but share this incredible news of your love for us with others.
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.