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Friday, March 1, 2024

Today’s Reading - Luke 11:1-28

 

Verse

 

8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man’s boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs. 9 “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. 11 “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” - Luke 11:9-13

 

Meditation

 

The disciples often witnessed the prayer life of Jesus. One day after He had finished praying, they asked Him to teach them to pray. He taught them with the model we call the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus then illustrates and concludes with the statement about receiving because of boldly asking. Then he gives practical application to make sure the disciples understand. Parents of small children receive hundreds of requests each and most every day from children who have perceived needs in their life. Some of them are truly something they need, some of them are marginal, and some of them are purely wants. Parents will run the request through some sense of evaluation and determine an answer. Legit need, yes. Legit need but a better solution than requested, yes with modification. So on and so forth. Because of the specifics of the illustration and application Luke used, it appears our prayers will be answered when we pray boldly and specifically. And very well they can be. It’s not guaranteed but is often the case. And often the case it is not. Every time, regardless of the request, the Holy Spirit will be given to those who ask. The answer may not be in the specifics as we have envisioned, but in the impartation of the Holy Spirit to better meet the need than we have the capacity to envision. Ask boldly, and prayer will be answered specifically according to God’s will. A case can be made for the uncertainty of what one receives or finds or the result of a door being opened, but there is absolute certainty related to the giving of the Holy Spirit. Our assurance of the right answer comes in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, we pray boldly for the perfect answer each and every time we ask, seek, and knock. We believe you have the perfect answer because of your perfection. And we believe you want the best for your children and have us at the center of your heart. Grant us grace and mercy and understanding when we pray and impart in us a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Thursday, February 29, 2024

Today’s Reading - Luke 10:25-42

 

Verse

 

41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” - Luke 10:41-42

 

Meditation

 

This is leap year and today we get an extra day. It’s the once in every four years that people born today get to celebrate their birthday on the actual date. There are times when we look around, pause and evaluate, and find ourselves needful of so many things in order to be satisfied and we need an extra day. Martha had invited a house guest and probably told her sister Mary that Jesus was on his way. Martha envisioned many things needing to be done like dusting the furniture, making sure the pillows were straight on the couch, washing the dishes, preparing a meal and cleaning the bathrooms. Mary envisioned one thing being needful. Sitting at the feet of Jesus. We would all welcome situations where only one thing was needed to navigate to the next situation, especially in the hectic nature of our lives. Mary found herself in that place and was not going to let anything get in her way of the one thing she needed. Not even her sister’s persistence that she should help prepare for this very special house guest would stop her from sitting and listening. That’s what she needed and most likely we all could stand to learn from Mary and find time to simply sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to Him speak into our heart. Time when we can set aside all things that need to be done to do the one thing that needs to be done. Multitasking is a common buzz word these days. So is time management. Applying those two concepts spiritually will teach us to manage our time wisely in order to include time avoiding the multitasking urge and sitting at the feet of Jesus. In these moments, sitting and listening should capture all our attention and focus. While there, Jesus just might tell you exactly what you need to hear today.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, we invite an opportunity to sit at your feet today. If given that opportunity, give us wise discernment to know it and simply sit and listen. Don’t let anything distract us from our alone time with you. Help us see the importance of what you will say to us. For the moment, let us be Mary. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Today’s Reading - Luke 10:1-24

 

Verse

 

1 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. 2 And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 3 Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. 4 Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. 5 Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ 6 And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. 7 And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house.” - Luke 10:1-7

 

Meditation

 

Some will welcome you. Some will not. Some will be wolves that are hungry and will attack. Others will let you peaceably remain among them. Joining Jesus in kingdom work is building relationships with people who will accept you with open arms or reject you as a wolf attacking a lamb. We will encounter both situations and both are part of being a laborer in the world for the sake of the kingdom. Ours is not to judge the house but to enter the house with the transforming power and good news of Jesus Christ. We will know if there is a welcoming spirit or a spirit of rejection. (vs. 5-6) Please know that you are not being rejected but the message you bring is being rejected. This section of scripture is often troubling because it says there will be times when we leave business unfinished. Paul had to leave things unfinished and at times forbidden to even go to an area. When peace is not ultimately extended in the relationship building process then your labor becomes more about the greater good for the kingdom of God than one person. This principle tends to make me and most people uncomfortable but it is the tenor of the text. We all want to be the person who leaves the ninety-nine to pursue the one. But the text does say we give each ‘house’ an opportunity to extend the hand of peace before moving on. Our role is to be a laborer. God is in charge of the harvest. The very seed you plant may be harvested at a later time and never known by those involved in the early planting process.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, we yield to you to become faithful laborers in the fields of this world so there might be a bountiful harvest for the kingdom. Give us wisdom as you use us to serve. Help us to discern the son of peace. Give clarity as to when to move on but do not let us leave until you are finished. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Today’s Reading - Luke 9:37-62

 

Verse

 

57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” . . . 62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” - Luke 9:57, 62

 

Meditation

 

In between these verses there is discussion about places to lie down, funerals, and good-byes. They seem like harsh words but Jesus was driving home the point about cost. Not the cost of a hotel room, a vault, or living on your own, but the cost of following him. If we are joining this man on the road and declaring we will follow Jesus wherever he goes we must be willing to fully understand the cost of walking alongside him. The in-between illustrations are not to make us feel guilty or disrespect anyone, but to make sure our alignment with Christ is where it should be and our heart is being transformed into something resembling his. In other words, Christ must be first in our lives. To dig deep into that thought is difficult but I invite you to do it. We are in a season of journeying to the cross with Jesus. Along the way He checked his alignment with His Father. And so should we. The cost of following Jesus is high, most days beyond our reach unless we are fully engaged with the presence of God’s spirit in our life. But worth it all.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, we want to be fit for the kingdom so we ask that you show us whatever in our life is standing between you and us. If there is anything taking priority in our life ahead of you, please reveal it to us. Forgive us for allowing you to be number two or number three in our life. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Monday, February 26, 2024

Today’s Reading - Luke 9:1-36

 

Verse

 

18 Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?” 19 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.” 20 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “God’s Messiah.” . . . 23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. - Luke 9:18-20, 23-24

 

Meditation

 

The question Jesus asked the disciples about his identity is found in three of the gospels and the most quoted is Matthew’s version. It contains the emphatic response I love to preach about and most love to quote. “You are Christ, the Son of the living God!” However, Luke is the only one who recorded the next verses, a portion of which I included for us to consider. There is a connection between Peter’s declaration and Jesus’ response that we don’t need to ignore because it gives definition to what it means to make the declaration and live out the declaration. Bold statements are only bold statements unless our life backs up the statement. The two verses about denying ourselves and taking up our cross and saving and losing our life are easily skipped over because they point to the sacrificial aspect of following Jesus. If we truly want Jesus to transform our life into something better and continue that process throughout our life, we must always be willing to grapple with the idea of what must be denied in our life, how we are taking up our cross, and what we must lose to gain life. If we ignore the process, then we are only making a bold declaration that will ultimately be meaningless. Think of it this way. Consider your spiritual life full, not mature, but full to your capacity of understanding. In order for something to enter a full space, something has to be removed. We talk about salvation in terms of removing sin and death and replacing it with life in Christ. The subtraction to allow addition principle is applicable all through the process of maturing in Christ. Denying and losing is about what we set aside in order to take on more of Christ and live for him. It’s hard at times, no one will argue that fact. We must walk through the difficulty of denying ourselves or losing part of our life in order to fully take up our cross and live out the bold declaration we all want to make about our relationship with Christ, “God’s Messiah.” “You are Christ, the Son of the living God!”

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, we pause to give you thanks for sending your Son to be our Messiah, our Savior, our Redeemer. Now guide and strengthen us to live in the truth of the bold declaration of who He is. Help us see clearly the places of denial and what we must set aside in order to gain more of Christ in our life. Forgive us for only making the declaration. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Saturday, February 24, 2024

Today’s Reading - Luke 8:26-56, Luke 23:44-46 (last words of Jesus)

 

Verse

 

38 The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39 “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him. - Luke 8:38-39

 

Meditation

 

Your story is the best story ever! It is the story you can tell the best. We all have a story, a story of what God has done for us. Just like this demon-possessed man who was set free, we have a story of a miracle God worked within us to set us free. Our miracle will not involve a demon that possessed our soul and caused us to speak and act violently, but it does involve a demon that was destroying our soul or our life in some way or another. For most people, the grace of Jesus Christ which we received to deliver us from the demon of sin and death and redeem our relationship with God, is the miracle we speak of. It is first and foremost the miracle we should talk about and the story which points clearly to how much God has done for us. For many other people, there are particular sins or habits which may or may not be included in our salvation story but they have been rescued from and are absolutely things that God has done for you. To use the language of this story, if you are reading this and as I write this, I’m confident there will be a demon in the future we will need deliverance from. It might not fall into the major category, but it will be tearing away at your soul and when you experience the miracle working power of God, you will include it when you tell your story. In this early stage of Jesus’ ministry, this is one of the few times Jesus told a person who was healed to go tell everybody. Jesus does the opposite later in this chapter. It would be a long discussion to explain why he told this man to tell his story and told others not to, but we can learn from this one. Our story of what God has done for us is the best story available to us to spread the good news of what Jesus Christ can do in each of our lives. Tell your story. It’s good. And it has the potential to lead to a changed life forever and someone spends eternity in heaven because you told your story!

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, give us courage and open the doors so that we might “walk the town and tell people what Jesus has done for us.” We confess that we will want to see results, but we leave the results in your hands and trust that telling our story will have an impact on your kingdom movement. Use our story to help bring redemption to a person, or persons, who need a miracle to set them free. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Friday, February 23, 2024

Today’s Reading - Luke 8:1-25

 

Verse

 

16 “No one lights a lamp and hides it in a clay jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, they put it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light. 17 For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open. 18 Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they think they have will be taken from them.” - Luke 8:16-18

 

Meditation

 

When considering light and its spiritual meaning, the three most common meanings which come to mind are the light of Christ which gives life to us, we are to reflect the light of Christ so others might experience the light of Christ, and light exposes all the things related to darkness. There are others but those are the most common in my mind. The above three verses start off as if Jesus was referring to shining light so everyone can see the light of Christ, and he may be, but quickly turns inward to exposing the darkness within us. The first verse we are somewhat comfortable with because the focus appears is outward for the benefit of others. The last two verses can become a little hard to swallow. The last two verses are important and should not be ignored. As children we loved a good game of hide and seek. There was a tremendous amount of excitement if you were “it” and you found someone hiding. Adults play hide and seek with God. There is very little excitement when we realize God knows what is hidden in our hearts and we want to try and continue the game and hide again. The verse says nothing can be hidden or concealed. We might think we have a good hiding place but soon we realize God knows. Wouldn’t it be much easier if we came to grips with the fact that God knows already and what we think is hidden from Him will one day be disclosed to our understanding? I think so. We experience more peace in our heart when we are honest and transparent in spirit and don’t have difficult days of revelation of what we have been trying to hide. We can be deceived into believing that hiding from God is the right thing to do and we will deal with an issue in our own time. What’s hidden will always gnaw at your spirit when it is intentionally trying to be hidden. One day all things will be known. Honesty and transparency with God is the best way.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, we reveal all things in our heart today so that nothing is hidden. Show us the things that are hidden we don’t know about so we can lay them at your feet. Do not let us be deceived into believing that which is not true and right. We thank you for loving us so much and assuring us that we are your children that we can be open in every way to you. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Today’s Reading - Luke 7:24-50

 

Verse

 

47 “Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” 48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” 50 Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” - Luke 7:47-50

 

Meditation

 

This story. One of the most powerful stories from the three year ministry of Jesus. It’s almost unimaginable because a Pharisee invites Jesus to dinner. A woman who is clearly uninvited walks into the house. She is a sinner! Then Jesus answered the thought, not words spoken out loud, of the Pharisee. It’s a script you cannot make up. Both Luke and the Pharisee declare she is a woman who lived a life of sin and the Pharisee is a bit taken back that Jesus would even associate with her. This story. Tears and expensive perfume poured out by a sinful woman upon a sin-forgiving Savior. A forgiven woman with many sins who expressed great love. Her faith saved her and her love abounded. The other guests questioned the validity of Jesus and his ability to forgive sins. The illustration Jesus told the Pharisees and others pulls us into the story. I doubt any of us would be bold enough to claim to be a fifty denarii sinner. We fall into the five hundred category. We have been forgiven much, therefore we are to love much. We should show great love for the depth of forgiveness each of us has experienced. Yes, the reality is, humbly considered, we are people of many sins just like this woman. And yes, our faith through the goodness of God’s grace saves us as well. Therefore, let us love with the greatness of a person who has been forgiven much. Go in peace.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, we pour out tears and expensive perfume in recognition of your great love for us. We pray for forgiveness of our many sins and pray we will love much because of the recognition of our forgiveness. We confess. We repent. We desire to live in love. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024>

Today’s Reading - Luke 6:27-49

 

Verse

 

46 “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” - Luke 6:46

 

Meditation

 

Jesus asks a very penetrating question to his disciples. Go back to verse 20. You might say there were many other people in the crowd that heard this rather lengthy teaching, but he looked at his disciples and began to speak. After some very difficult teaching Jesus asks the question in verse 46. To his disciples. Oh, other people heard him because they were listening in to what was being said, but he was directing the question to the inner circle, to those 12 chosen to follow him and do as he was doing. I’m convicted this morning the question applies to me and frankly to all of us if it applied to the group of 12, the disciples. It is forcing me to examine my own life and see if I can find anything which is disobedient to what the Lord is telling me to do. I have to continue reading about building a solid foundation and need to examine my own heart to see I am truly building a solid foundation for this moment in my life or am I assuming the foundation I have is good enough. We want the foundation that can withstand the storm not the one the storm totally washes away. Consider your foundation this morning and be honest enough to hear the question Jesus asks his disciples. Don’t default into claiming you are not part of the target audience of the question because you aren’t in the inner circle. At this point in the redemption story we are living in, if you claim to be following Christ, if you call him Lord, Lord, the question applies to your life just like it does mine. The question is relevant to all of us and warrants being asked frequently. Live into the question Jesus asked his disciples as you seek to live as a disciple of his throughout the day.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, we hear you as you plant the question in our heart. Let us be fully honest and transparent and we seek the ways we do not do what you ask us to do. Mold us, fill us, use us to do the obedient things to be a disciple. May our witness lead someone to a better place of relationship with you. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Monday, February 19, 2024

Today’s Reading - Luke 6:1-26

 

Verse

 

12 One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. 13 When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: 14 Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, 15 Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, 16 Judas son of James (Thaddeus), and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. - Luke 6:12-16

 

Meditation

 

It is that time of the year when there is a lot of choosing going on, lists being made, especially in the school system and families making final vacation plans. Pre-registration is happening in many places to secure places determining who gets in and who looks elsewhere in the Fall. Yes, that far ahead. Teams and groups are being sorted out from many potential candidates. Jesus went away to pray and one thing on his prayer list was choosing twelve. These would be the people who would walk alongside him, be a support system and do what he was doing. Ultimately Jesus wanted them to become like him. Choosing twelve and eventually replacing one happened initially to begin a movement. We now live in something like a self-nominating system. When the dawn of salvation awakens in our life, we become followers, disciples, as such. We are not beginning a movement, we are continuing a movement and our roles are not much different. We walk alongside Christ, we are a support system for the movement, and we do what Christ did and still does. The specifics may not be the same, but the principles remain. We are to be disciples, fully devoted followers of Christ. Unfortunately, we find ourselves in a time when followers want to follow some of the time and don’t want to follow at other times and have convinced themselves it’s ok to be that way. They are trying to create a convenient relationship with Christ. When we choose to follow Christ, we are choosing a full-time commitment. Living any other way is defined as hypocrisy and that is not advancing the kingdom movement at all. We need unbelievers to see followers of Christ following in every single instance of their life. We are all called to be a disciple. You may not experience Christ choosing you on a mountainside, but he chose you to be a follower and in following we are to live out becoming like him.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, we once again receive our calling today and seek to be fully devoted as we become like you. Help us to understand our calling as not just walking alongside you but doing what you do. We are incapable of living this way without your presence and we ask you to join us in the journey. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Saturday, February 17, 2024

A little longer today but with a purpose.

 

Today’s Reading - Luke 5:17-39, (23:32-34 - last words from the cross)

 

Verse

 

33 They said to him, “John’s disciples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours go on eating and drinking.” 34 Jesus answered, “Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? 35 But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast.” - Luke 5:33-35

 

Meditation

 

Fasting and praying together as a spiritual discipline goes deep into the Old Testament. The Pharisees complained because it was being done differently within the followers of Jesus. His answer and the parable following perfectly illustrate Jesus carry forth a principle of the Law but in a new way. We are on day four of Lent, a popular season to include fasting during part or all of it. I often get questions asked about fasting and for years have encouraged fasting during Lent and included short explanations in the Devotion Guide. Today I want to simply share today what I printed in the Devotion Guide as a way of instruction and to encourage you to consider fasting as a part of your spiritual disciplines. You might ask, “Is it ok to start now?” Sure it is. Jesus opened the door for new ways and there are several lengths of fasting in the Bible, from 40 days to one day. For some, this will be a refresher course. For those of you that are brand new to the idea, consider it as a way to take you to a deeper place in your relationship with God. Whatever you choose to do as a result of prayer and discernment is the right choice. Few things in life will I guarantee but fasting and praying together will help you experience a difference in your depth of intimacy with God. This will make for a long devotion today, but it’s Saturday, I’m trusting you will pause and read this today or tomorrow.

 

Guide to Biblical Fasting

 

1. Fasting is denying the natural to focus on the Supernatural.

 

2. In the Bible, fasting always involved food, still the most common type of fast today. Why? Eating is the most natural thing we do and requires the most discipline to deny our bodies nutrition. It also requires supernatural intervention to keep in its proper perspective. Many other types of fasts have become popular including social media, TV, etc. Fast whichever requires more discipline.

 

3. First things first. Seek God’s guidance on whether you should fast. Get clarity there.

 

4. If God says yes, ask Him to guide you in a specific type and purpose or purposes for fasting. Not generic, not just to be specific, but to be more spiritual, like overcoming a habit. Write them down. Pray about those purposes every day. Some other examples of the purpose of fasting would include direction in decision making, healing of a prolonged illness, repair of a broken relationship, a desired outcome, or spiritual awakening.

 

5. Whenever you would be actively engaged in whatever you are fasting, spend that time with God. It does no good just to fast without focusing that time on spiritual matters. Example, fast a meal. Spend the meal time or equivalent at some point in study and prayer.

 

6. Fasting should not be easy. It wasn’t in the biblical days and shouldn’t be now. The point is focusing on the supernatural to help with natural desires. Fasting linked with prayer will often increase the power and effect of the fast.

 

7. The ultimate purpose of fasting is to become closer to God and deeper in faith.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, burden our heart about fasting if that is your desire for our life. Give us clarity of purpose so that your will is done in our life. Make us mindful of all the biblical teaching on fasting and prayer and give us a humble heart as we fast. Guide, strengthen and supernaturally attend our fasting and prayer in this season. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Friday, February 16, 2024

Today’s Verse - Luke 5:1-16

 

Verse

 

3 He (Jesus) got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat. 4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” - Luke 4:3-4

 

Meditation

 

Every single person of faith has their faith tested. Mine as well. There are times when we feel like the test is extremely hard and we begin to question. Simon, soon to be commonly known as Peter, had an extreme test of faith in his very first encounter with Jesus. It was part of his calling to become one of the apostles, the first twelve chose to follow Jesus. For Simon, this test of faith had to have been in the category of extremely hard. He was a fisherman by trade and had been at his craft all night. It was a bad night of fishing as his basket was empty, or as it would have been in my case growing up, his stringer had no fish on it. And Jesus comes along, gets in his boat, taught the crowd for a while, and then the bombshell directed at Simon when he told him to go right back out into the water where he came from, the deep, and let down his nets. Simon hesitated, a moment of questioning his faith, but then did what Jesus asked him to do. And you know the results. He caught so many fish he had to call his friends in the other boat to come help. At that he was called to follow Jesus. In our times of greatest testing, Jesus asks us to go out into the deep waters of faith and trust that Jesus will lead us correctly. We do not usually have the same clarity of direction that Simon did, but we must trust in the murkiness of the moment that all the promises of Jesus are true and the presence of the Holy Spirit will guide us through the test of faith we find ourselves in. I believe the deep waters for us means going out into the depth of our relationship with Jesus and going a little further, trusting a little greater, becoming more intimate with him. Simon hesitated, then obediently followed the command of Jesus which led to the ups and downs of his kingdom impact. Go deeper when you are being surrounded by temptation or circumstances stretching your faith to the breaking point. Trust that Jesus will not let you break.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, we want to hear from you in whatever circumstance we are currently dealing with or whatever temptation lies before us. Lead us to the deep waters of relationship when we cast our nets. May our faith grow deeper and deeper every single day in our walk with you. We believe you will not let us drown in the waters of life. You are our rescuer and redeemer in all of life and we claim that over our life today. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Today’s Reading - Luke 4:30-44

 

Verse

 

31 Then he went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and on the Sabbath he taught the people. 32 They were amazed at his teaching, because his words and message had authority. . . . 36 All the people were amazed and said to each other, “What words these are! With authority and power he gives orders to impure spirits and they come out!” 37 And the news about him spread throughout the surrounding area. . . . 42 At daybreak, Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them. - Luke 4:31-32, 36-37, 42

 

Meditation

 

I’ve provided a verse or two from several places in our reading today because they help capture several principles. Driving out evil spirits and healing many people demonstrate one piece of the many pieces of Jesus’ ministry. Those who witnessed these miracles in Capernaum used two words to describe what they had heard and seen. Authority and power. Luke used the term amazed to describe their reaction. When people are amazed because authority and power are demonstrated it is impactful to say the least. Then we read the people did not want Jesus to leave their city. When lives are changed people take notice! The reading today are stories told by a physician of Jesus doing something a physician couldn’t do. But one who speaks with authority and power can. Jesus operates in our lives today with the same power and authority. Our need might not be an evil spirit or a fever, but it is something that Jesus cares about just as much and has authority and power over it in the very same way. From those things we might think are insignificant to the most heart wrenching pain we have ever experienced, Jesus cares and can be the healer and deliverer. We have to invite and allow Jesus to do what only he can do. And when he does you will be like the people of Capernaum, amazed. And similarly, you will never want him to leave. The good news is he never leaves. Because of the presence of the Holy Spirit, he never leaves. And if he never leaves and often we experience his authority and power, the news will spread throughout the area. Allow Jesus to exercise his authority and power at the very point of your greatest need today.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, we lay at your feet the things in our life that need the touch of your power and authority. Take hold of us and do what only you can do. From big to small, do what only you can do. We invite you and yield to your desire for us. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Today’s Reading - Luke 4:1-30

 

Verse

 

28 All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. 29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. 30 But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way. - Luke 4:28-30

 

Verse

 

Today is a rare occurrence of days. The first day of Lent, Ash Wednesday, falling on Valentine’s Day. At first glance it seems like two themes which are polar opposite. But not really. On the same day many people will focus on their humanity, we are mere ashes which will return to the dust of the earth, we also focus on love on a variety of levels, mainly on love within our human relationships. Ash Wednesday reminds us of our need for God’s love in all the ways He manifests His love into our lives. We need his mercy, his grace, and his love. If we do not remain aware of our need, it becomes easy to lose sight from the realization of our need. Things can turn quickly. Ask Jesus. The context of our passage today is Nazareth, the hometown of Jesus, and he is teaching in the temple. Maybe one minute of time had passed between the attitude of the people found in verse 22, “All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that come from his lips,” to him being totally rejected in the passage above. Earlier Jesus had read from the scroll of Isaiah stating the Spirit of the Lord had anointed him to preach, proclaim freedom, heal, set the captives free and proclaim the year of the Lord. The hearers were ecstatic and overjoyed when they heard these words and their eyes were fastened on him. Jesus had their attention and they were amazed at what they were hearing. Then things turned quickly when he continued his prophetic words and said, “no prophet will be accepted in his hometown.” The people didn’t understand what just happened. They thought they had responded in the right way with the right words. Jesus prophesied the truth and the people turned away and rejected him in a matter of minutes. On the quirky day of calendaring, be reminded we are always in need of God’s love for us and remain steadfast in that knowledge lest things quickly change in your life. It can happen in the blink of an eye.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, keep us mindful as we think on the dust and ashes of our humanity and our need for the divine. Pause us on the business of the day to let it ring clear in our ears in the right spirit, “we are dust and to dust we will return.” Help us realize this helps us stay focused on our constant need for your love. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Today’s Reading - Mark 10

 

Verse

 

51 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” 52 “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road. - Mark 10:51-52

 

Meditation

 

We conclude our reading in Mark, our practical look at participating in the kingdom of God, with chapter 10. The next chapter begins with Jesus’ last week. Tomorrow we will start our Lenten reading in Luke as we begin our journey of Lent making our way to Easter. We conclude with a question we should ask ourselves as we find ourselves on the doorstep of another Lenten season. Some reading this will wonder about the emphasis on Lent in so many churches but the question applies whether Lent has significant meaning or not. The red letters are always important and at times penetrating and breathtaking. What do you want me to do for you? To contextualize the question around the season of Lent, I’ll ask it this way. What do you want and need Jesus to do for you during these forty days of Lent? This is a time of natural focus on our humanity and our need for our life to intersect with a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit. What do we want Jesus to do for us? Study and pray and meditate on the answer to this question. Jesus asked the question of a blind man and the answer was obvious but Jesus asked it anyway. By speaking the answer, the blind man exercised great faith and Jesus heard him and answered. By speaking the blind man believed. Do we have the faith enough to be honest enough and speak the answer to the deepest need in our life before our holy and loving Father? This story is a great lead into these days of preparation for the glorious finale of Easter so that we don’t experience the resurrection without its power. What we need might require great power, like healing a blind man. There would be nothing better than each of us being able to hear the words that Jesus spoke to the blind man, “Go, your faith has healed you.” The red letter question is for us just the same as it was in Jericho.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, hear our response to the red letter question you are asking us. May we have the faith to speak it so we hear your response and might be healed. Give us faith and courage this day to be humble and honest to you as we approach the journey of the season before us. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Monday, February 12, 2024

Today’s Reading - Mark 9

 

Verse

 

38 “Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.” 39 “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, 40 for whoever is not against us is for us. 41 Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward. - Mark 9:38-41

 

Meditation

 

The disciples were in need of being taught a difficult and valuable lesson and Jesus did not hesitate to teach it. He didn’t hesitate in the same way he didn’t hesitate to deal with the disciple’s arrogance of thinking there was one among them who was the greatest. After answering the question about greatness by telling them they must be last and serve everyone, Jesus essentially told the disciples they do not own exclusive rights to do the work of the kingdom of God. As his chosen twelve, they apparently wanted to be an elite clique nobody else could join. Their description of this man outside their group being used by God to bring wholeness to people is frightening. “...he was not one of us.” It is almost as bad as “we’ve never done it that way.” We don’t need to create cliques in the kingdom of God in any shape, form or fashion and especially when lives are being made whole in the name of Jesus. The key to embracing this truth is understanding there are a variety of expressions of faith in each of us and how each of us lives out faith in Jesus’ name can be quite different. Our focus should be on honoring “in my name” and celebrating with others who are offering life in his name. False prophets, teachers and miracle workers will expose themselves in time. The kingdom of God desperately needs people who are living life boldly in the name of Jesus and offering hope and help in His name. It will be very clear who is for Christ and those that are against Him. Those against Him will focus the light on themselves and the light will expose their heart. You have the privilege of doing great work in the name of Jesus and helping people discover newness of life. Be a life giver. Be on Jesus’ side and do great work on His behalf. Embrace others who are doing the same great work. You’ll know who those people are. They may not be in your circle but they are in the kingdom circle. You have people in your circle of relationships who symbolically need a demon driven out. Be a life giver and in the name of Jesus drive that demon out because you are on the team with Jesus.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, we praise your name for including us in your circle and giving us the privilege of being kingdom workers in your name. Humble us to always shine the light on you and give glory where glory is due. We want to be included among the last doing the greatest work and nobody knows. Forgive us when we take credit. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Friday, February 9, 2024

Today’s Reading - Mark 7

 

Verse

 

13 “Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.” 14 Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. 15 Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them. 16 If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” - Mark 7:13-16

 

Meditation

 

Guard your hearts. Guard your minds. A repeated warning in scripture. In the midst of Jesus being challenged by the Pharisees that his disciples were unclean while eating, he once again exposes their hypocrisy. Jesus used it as an opportunity to teach about the evil nature of our flesh, and the need for the spirit within us to continually overcome our nature. Jesus said all this in the context of whether the disciples were unclean by eating food before they had properly washed their hands and to illustrate the new covenant fulfilling the law and thus declaring all food clean. Jesus concluded his teaching with a long list of evil found within our human nature. We are born with a sinful nature. We at birth have a great need for salvation and continual growth in grace. When we allow the Holy Spirit to flourish in our life, the evil we are born with will be overcome by the work of the Spirit and this evil will not manifest itself in our life. Read the list again in verses 21-22. We can all agree we can absolutely do without any part of that list whether it is a behavior or an attitude. And I trust you want nothing to do with anything in that list. If we don’t guard our hearts and minds then we get trapped into adding to that list and there is plenty in the world which is detrimental to our spiritual well-being. Living in the Spirit moment by moment will eventually eliminate the evil in our hearts and will stymie anything detrimental being added. We are clean and we need to live that way.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, we seek for the Holy Spirit to have full control of our hearts and minds and we ask you to honor our desire. Guard us in every way. Lead us away from temptation and deliver us from the evil all around us. Help us to walk in step with you. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Thursday, February 8, 2024

Today’s Reading - Mark 6

 

Verse

 

4 Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” 5 He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. 6 He was amazed at their lack of faith. Then Jesus left and went around teaching from village to village. - Mark 6:4-6

 

Meditation

 

From walking into the room and raising the dead to life to being scoffed and walking out of the city, his hometown. This describes in a nutshell the life Jesus is now living. Dishonor toward the one who came to save the world denied a city the best Jesus had to offer. And this short sentence will not leave my mind this morning.

 

He (Jesus) was amazed at their lack of faith.

 

It’s haunting, isn’t it? The people who took offense at what Jesus was doing in his hometown wanted him to be just ordinary Jesus. A son and a brother like all the rest of them in the city. They took offense at his wisdom to teach and his power to transform lives, both for the absolute betterment to the hearer of his teaching and the recipient of his power. And people were offended because they wanted the ordinary. I think for this morning, I’ll just leave that haunting sentence right there and let us all reflect on our own life because I don’t want Jesus to walk away from me amazed by my lack of faith. Don’t leave without being honest about your faith.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, forgive me if I have lived my life in any way, shape, form or fashion, which would give you a reason to be amazed at my lack of faith. Humble me to change what needs to be changed so that I might live with deep, abiding faith in you. May the power of the Holy Spirit within me be unleashed with great faith and belief in what you want to do in my life and the lives of others. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Today’s Reading - Mark 5

 

Verse

 

35 While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?” 36 Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” - Mark 5:35-36

 

Meditation

 

It happens to all of us. It can be subtle or instant. Fear getting in the way of living out our beliefs. The words Jesus spoke to Jairus seem simple and easy to accomplish but in reality, those words are a mountain which can be too hard to climb. The difficulty in believing when the circumstances which warrant being afraid is so immense it makes the climb almost unsurmountable. This story is about a synagogue leader being told his daughter is dead. Our story looks like facing a serious illness, a relationship crisis, financial stress and strain, or job loss. These and many more can lead to being afraid. When Jesus spoke these words to Jairus, he wanted Jairus to believe his daughter would live. When Jesus speaks words of health and hope into us, He wants us to believe. It might take a walk home. There might be laughing and scorning at what Jesus can do as he walks up to your house about to enter the room of your heart. It took Jesus walking into the room and speaking life over Jairus’ daughter. And she got up. We have to believe when Jesus walks into the room everything changes. Our believing might be an invitation for Jesus to walk into the room. Not just knowing what Jesus can do, but inviting him into the room of your life. Jairus was told not to bother Jesus any more but he persisted and got closer and closer so that Jesus could hear the conversation. Notice in the story we don’t hear one word from Jairus. He just followed when Jesus summoned three disciples to go with him. We do know he was among those who were astonished when his daughter got up and walked around the room. Don’t let words get in your way of believing. Follow Jesus faithfully and believe when you invite him into the room. We will not necessarily understand the journey but we can believe in the work of Jesus to change things when He walks into the room.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, right now we invite Jesus into the room of our heart where we need him the most in this moment. We cry out or we say nothing but we want Jesus to raise us to new life and health and hope. Do not let our fear get in the way of Jesus walking into the room. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Today’s Reading - Mark 4

 

Verse

 

2 He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: 3 “Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.” - Mark 4:2-8

 

Meditation

 

Be a farmer. You might have thought your entire life that farming is the last thing you ever wanted to do. It doesn’t fall under any category of your skill set or you just don’t like getting dirty. Farming never crossed your radar screen. Some of you probably love it. You are invigorated by the idea of planting and harvesting. It might not be an occupation or lifestyle, but the concept played out in a small garden is time well spent. Whichever category you fall into, or somewhere in between, Jesus is telling us to be a farmer. As far as practical application, the majority of our time spent reading and studying this parable is spent focusing on the soil. That’s not a bad thing. Our heart and mind need to be good soil, receptive to the word when planted in us. But, for the sake of the kingdom, living in and growing a vibrant, healthy movement of God, we need farmers who will plant seeds. The number of farms and farmers in our country is on a declining path, almost 20% less over a forty-year span. Unfortunately, the same is true for the kingdom of God. I do not know what the exact percentage is, depends on the source, but there are dramatically fewer people professing to be followers of Christ than at any time in our history. Farms come in all sizes and shapes, from the small family farm to the large conglomerate farm. The kingdom of God needs farmers from small to large, sowing seeds in a variety of ways, places and situations. Every spiritual farmer doesn’t look the same but we can all be a farmer. The parable teachers there will be a wide range of results from our adventures into farming. The results we leave in the hands of God. We follow the Lord’s leading and plant and He gathers the harvest. Be a farmer!

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, show us the ground to plow, the seeds to sow, and fertilizer to apply as we seek to live fully into your movement among us. Make our own hearts good soil so that we can heartily sow for the kingdom. Prepare the soil you lead us to and give us vision to see the farms you put in our life. Forgive us for often being bad soil. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen. 

 

Monday, February 5, 2024

Today’s Reading - Mark 3

 

Verse

 

7 Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed. 8 When they heard about all he was doing, many people came to him from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, and the regions across the Jordan and around Tyre and Sidon. 9 Because of the crowd he told his disciples to have a small boat ready for him, to keep the people from crowding him. - Mark 3:7-9

 

Meditation

 

Movements draw attention because they make a difference and will quickly gain momentum. Look at a map or just imagine to get a mental picture of where all the people were coming from who wanted to be in the presence of Jesus so that he could make a difference in their life. Sense their urgency to be with Jesus. The mode of transportation was limited to walking with a small number having a donkey to ride. There was no mass communication, just word of mouth and the story of transformation was spreading rapidly. You get the feeling they dropped everything and rushed to the lake. Jesus very quickly had a movement with great momentum. It was unstructured and without a governing body, but it was changing lives, it was a story of redemption playing out in the hearts and lives of many, many people. If we want our redemption story to be an ongoing story of transformation into the likeness of Christ, we must eagerly desire to be with Jesus. So much so, we will lay aside some things to make our way to Him. Jesus is constantly with us through the presence of the Holy Spirit. A biblical principle I’m not denying. But what I am referring to is our intentionality to move beyond knowing he is with us to the point of active engagement with him. There are many ways to actively engage Jesus, but not all ways have equal value. Sadly, many people have created equality of value in strange ways. Listening to your favorite Christian music in the car while driving is not equal to spending time with Jesus in your personal place of study and prayer. Feel free to think of your own illustration related to study, prayer and worshiping with the Body of Christ. The value is not the same in many instances. Substitutes created in our mind to replace eagerly desiring to be in the presence of Jesus always come up short. We can articulate elaborate excuses to substitute or neglect all together. Instead, run to be in his presence.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, create in us an overwhelming desire to be in your presence with an open heart and open mind to transform our life. Don’t let us be tempted to substitute presence for convenience. Convict us of our laziness to want to be sitting in your presence. Help us understand the cost of separation or the cost of dumbing down engaging Jesus. Give us the desire of the people of the Judean region to be with you. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Saturday, February 3, 2024

Today’s Reading - Mark 2

 

Verse

 

13 Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. 14 As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him. - Mark 2:13-14

 

Meditation

 

The twelve disciples that Jesus specifically called, the first disciples, were an interesting mix of men. Most were fishermen and there is only an educated guess about several. Then there is Matthew. He was a tax collector for the hated Roman government. This grouped him among those called “sinners” as we will later learn as the Jewish leaders were questioning why Jesus was eating dinner with “sinners” and tax collectors. We can be fairly certain of one part of the answer because tax collectors were known to cheat people when they paid their taxes, always charging extra for personal gain. In the minds of the Jews if you cheat people, and you were disliked to begin with, you were a sinner. But there is the next part of the answer which is most important. Why would Jesus eat dinner with these people? We are not just fairly certain of the answer, we are 100% certain of the answer. Ready. All people are welcome at the table with Jesus! Saints and sinners alike. Pull up a seat. One of the seats is for me and you. From the very first moment of Jesus’ ministry, he practiced the principle of the good news he is bringing is for Jew and Gentile alike, including sinners. Jesus did not have to say a word at this point, he only practiced the basic principle that he came to save each and every person in the world in which he came to die for. The final part of the answer involves eating the meal. Jesus established a relationship with the people who needed to hear the good news before he taught about the good news. In the short five verses of this story, notice he ate, built relationships, and finally came the teaching that he came to call, save, the sinners, not the righteous. As we live in the midst of a fresh and vibrant movement of God, we need to heed the principle of eating with sinners. We build relationships then we will have the opportunity to share and explain the good news of the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, as we follow you, open our eyes to follow your example as well and find ways to eat with those who need your grace. Move us away from the comfort of our comfortable circle of people to include those who are seeking and searching. Do not let us be afraid to eat with “sinners.” Give us the grace to eat before we speak. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Friday, February 2, 2024

Today’s Reading - Mark 1

 

Verse

 

9 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” - Mark 1:9-11

 

Meditation

 

We turn the corner today and shift from reading the story of the early days of the kingdom movement, to now focus on practical ways to live in the movement. We will read and learn from the first gospel written with its uniqueness describing the three year ministry of Jesus, beginning in Galilee and concluding in Jerusalem. All three synoptic gospels record our verses today, verses ten and eleven almost verbatim, verse 11 in particular. John tells us he was present at the baptism. As I read today, it reminded me of something that has always intrigued me. It prompts a question. Did everyone in the crowd hear the voice from heaven, or just Jesus? John tells us he saw the dove remaining on Jesus but makes no mention of hearing the voice from heaven. As Jesus begins his ministry, the very first thing we read in the first gospel accounts about Jesus is his baptism and hearing from heaven to affirm who he is. The voice spoke to Jesus in particular about being the Son of God, being loved, and that his Father was well pleased. Not just pleased, but well pleased. This passage causes me to pause and be reminded of the importance of hearing the voice of God and desiring to hear the same words spoken over us. There are many instances we will encounter as we live in the kingdom where the voice from heaven is affirming, encouraging, helpful and needed. The voice from heaven spoke to our Father’s literal Son, a piece of who He is, a piece of the one in three. He will not speak to us in the same context, but he can speak to us in this way. A verse might read something like this as it applies to each of us. “And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my child, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’” That would be a glorious day when we heard that voice and that message. We should desire to hear and yet receive it in humility. Our heart should be filled with anticipation to hear from God and to live a life pleasing to our heavenly Father.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, we open our ears with anticipation of hearing your voice. We seek to hear it with humility and yet to live our life in a manner pleasing to you. We want to hear your voice with a spirit of surrender and obedience for it is in doing your will for our life that we will please you. Guide us in this journey with you. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Thursday, February 1, 2024

Today’s Reading - Acts 28

 

Verse

 

28 “Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!” 29 After he said this, the Jews left, arguing vigorously among themselves. 30 For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. 31 He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance! - Acts 28:28-31

 

Meditation

 

As we have calendared days and years, this movement that began in a room of people when the Holy Spirit came like wind and fire, is now approaching two thousand years of birthing and building. We conclude this book which best describes the beginning years of God’s work among his people. It has no conclusion. We come to the final verse of the final chapter and we find Paul continuing to proclaim, continuing to teach, continuing to build the kingdom of God, continuing to help people find the Savior and instruct them in the ways of a maturing relationship with him and living vibrantly in the kingdom, this movement of God. The process will never end until one day Jesus will appear to the kingdom. Acts concludes with the implication that you and I are responsible for the growth and vitality of the kingdom of God in the here and now. Paul and Peter have recognizable names and there is much documentation of their role in the movement. Our names are not as recognizable and our story not written, but we are no less important. In fact, the God of this kingdom movement is depending on us to be the mouthpiece of heaven. The story of rapid growth of the movement in Acts seemed to pause with Paul’s trials and tribulations. It concludes with Paul continuing what he does best with an eager audience. Our story in the kingdom will seem to pause as we face all sorts of diversions, but God will move us to continue what we can do best and that is to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ and help people find a way forward through the hope that is found only in Jesus Christ. I don’t know what chapter of Acts we are presently writing, but we are helping write one for sure. One day the book of Acts will be finished. Not today. Let’s keep writing.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, we offer ourselves to you to be used in the kingdom movement to continue writing the story. Help us understand our pauses and look for the restart. Let us see the next sentence to write and chapter to finish. May the kingdom flourish as we all live mightily into the vibrancy of your kingdom. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Today’s Reading - Acts 27

 

Verse

 

21 After they had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up before them and said: “Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss. 22 But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. 23 Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me 24 and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ 25 So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. - Acts 27:21-25

 

Meditation

 

Paul and the prisoners and crew have been in a storm, a literal weather-related storm. One of the statements being made about today, this last day of January, is that the 70 days (pick your number) of January are finally over. Obviously not true, but in many ways it feels like we have been in one storm or another forever. In the midst of Paul’s fourteen-day storm, the Lord spoke to him through an angel and told him to not be afraid because he and all the men on the ship would be saved. Every single one of them would make it to Rome where Paul would have a trial before Caesar. Not one person would die. Many days feel like we are walking through a physical, emotional, or spiritual storm. The storm lasts not just for days, but weeks, even months. We live through a season of stormy life. It might appear that life is on the brink of disaster. If you are facing a storm today of one degree or another, listen for the voice of God as you seek the presence of God to walk you through the storm. Join in singing and praying a line from a beloved hymn, “When the storms of life are raging, stand by me.” Paul might have sung this part and it might apply to you today. “When the world is tossing me, like a ship upon the sea, thou who rulest wind and water, stand by me.” We will all at some point face a storm. When we do, let’s keep up our courage and believe God will not abandon us in the storm. Paul told the men on the boat to remain courageous because he believed every one of them would be saved just as the angel told him. God has promised us he will never leave us nor forsake us, even in the storm. I believe it will happen just as He has promised. So, keep up your courage. Trust in the Lord.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, as we walk through the storms of life, we need your presence and assurance that you will walk with us through the storm. We declare that no storm will shipwreck our life and defeat us. We declare that evil cannot win. We declare that we will give you glory through the storm. Give us peace in our life no matter what we are walking through today. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Today’s Reading - Acts 26

 

Verse

 

5 They have known me for a long time and can testify, if they are willing, that I conformed to the strictest sect of our religion, living as a Pharisee. 6 And now it is because of my hope in what God has promised our ancestors that I am on trial today. 7 This is the promise our twelve tribes are hoping to see fulfilled as they earnestly serve God day and night. King Agrippa, it is because of this hope that these Jews are accusing me. - Acts 26:5-7

 

Meditation

 

Tenacity. Perseverance. Choose whatever word you want to pick but Paul had it. He just kept on keeping on testifying to the goodness of Jesus Christ. And now hope becomes the focus of his testimony. Hope drives our spirit and soul. Maybe you have previously been in a place of losing all hope. It is not a pleasant place to be and soon many side effects begin to manifest themselves. Worse than losing hope is having hope at our finger tips and not seizing it. The Jewish nation looked daily for the hope found in the coming Messiah and they were held closely to this hope by leaders of the likes of Moses and David and the prophets. And Hope comes and they refuse to believe and accept. Paul testified he was no different than all the people choosing not to believe as he played out the role of a strict Pharisee and persecuted and jailed the believers. But he found hope in transformation and knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Hope had come. We’ve seen hope kindled through transformed lives many, many times, yet so many people still try to discover hope and contentment while Jesus patiently waits within easy grasp. Hope came for Paul when he fully embraced Christ and his way and the new life. Are we waiting on a Damascus Road experience to become fully devoted followers of Christ or can we just take a leap of faith and grasp hope without delay? Paul testified to immeasurable freedom in Christ yet he spent many days in jail. Christ is the hope we are looking for. There is no time like the present to start living in the glory of God’s hope in Christ Jesus.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, we sing with the songwriter there is hope in the name of the Lord and we claim a position in Christ to receive hope beyond all hope. We pray for understanding to quit looking for hope in the temporary and seek hope in the eternal. Forgive us for not receiving the hope you have provided. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Monday, January 29, 2024

Today’s Reading - Acts 25

 

Verse

 

6 After spending eight or ten days with them, Festus went down to Caesarea. The next day he convened the court and ordered that Paul be brought before him. 7 When Paul came in, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him. They brought many serious charges against him, but they could not prove them. 8 Then Paul made his defense: “I have done nothing wrong against the Jewish law or against the temple or against Caesar.” - Acts 25:6-8

 

Meditation

 

The Sanhedrin – Felix – Festus – King Agrippa. These are the trials Paul faced. Each time he had no choice but to defend himself and his character. In the next chapter we will get a ruling from King Agrippa and off to Rome Paul will go. Reputation is everything. Honesty and truth can rarely be refuted. I know, today’s verses inspire you to a deeper walk with Christ. Well, not really. But it does teach us an important lesson. Paul was on trial, multiple trials in fact, and the Jews were trying their best to get him off the street, out of the spotlight with his preaching and teaching of the good news. And at every point his defense was he had done nothing wrong against their law or the temple. For many people they would have brushed that off as an opinion which carried no weight. They knew Paul who used to be Saul and whose reputation preceded him as one of the most brilliant leaders among the Pharisees in his day. If he knew anything, he knew the law and the temple requirements. He had established a reputation of being brilliant in regards to the law and that could not be argued against. Admittedly some parts of his reputation were bad and he fought against it every day, but in this case, it saved his life. Our reputation is established before Christ’s transformation of our life and after. We all know that more often than is comfortable or fair we are judged by the bad and the good is hidden. When Paul was honest and told the truth it could not be refuted. Carefully consider the reputation you are building. God does wonderful works of transformation in each of us and we are eternally grateful. However, the less, like Paul, that we have to fight against the more effective our witness will be. Guard your character and build a godly reputation. The kingdom movement and its witness to a desperate world needs people of high character and reputation.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, build and protect our reputation with your love, mercy, and grace. Help us to be conscious of the things we are doing that will affect us the rest of our life. Guard us against decision making detrimental to your will. Transform us into your likeness and let truth and honesty go before us. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Today’s Reading - Acts 24

 

Verse

 

24 Several days later Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish. He sent for Paul and listened to him as he spoke about faith in Christ Jesus. 25 As Paul talked about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, “That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.” 26 At the same time he was hoping that Paul would offer him a bribe, so he sent for him frequently and talked with him. 27 When two years had passed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus, but because Felix wanted to grant a favor to the Jews, he left Paul in prison. - Acts 24:24-27

 

Meditation

 

Nobody knew what to do with Paul or could rightly have him put to death. The Sanhedrin’s hands were tied, they plotted to innocently murder him, and then the commander handed him over to the government in Caesarea before the Jews could carry out their plot. He finds himself being tried before a Roman governor, Felix. Paul’s defense was flawless before him. He had committed no crime other than threatening the power of the Jews. The Governor knew Paul was innocent to the point of trying to coax Paul into bribing him but it did not work. A bride compromises Paul’s character and gives Felix something legitimate to charge him with. Paul was given some amount of freedom but remained under prison guard through the final two years of Felix’s reign because Felix was living under the weight of returning favors. Three things to learn from this slice of Paul’s story. The truth of the good news brings people under conviction for sin. Felix became afraid, made Paul stop, and spent two years running from the convicting power of the Spirit. Next, be on guard for others attempts to lure you into compromising your character. This may happen for several reasons, none of which are good. It is usually to gain leverage against someone or to try to get similar behavior out of someone to justify wrong behavior. Finally, don’t live under the weight of conditional favors. There is nothing wrong with granting a favor or asking for a favor, if it does not take advantage of another person or is conditional in nature. Grant favors because you are in position to help someone be better or live better. Don’t do anything unethical or illegal and don’t expect anything in return. Felix would have freed Paul had he not felt the pressure to please the Jews. An unconditional favor is also called helping someone in time of need. No compromise. Favors with no strings attached. Both biblical principles.

 

Prayer

 

Father in heaven, give us a shield of protection against all attempts to compromise our character by falling prey to unbiblical actions. Give us a sense of awareness when the temptation is before us. Give us a spirit of help and not conditional favoritism. Let us love all people and help those we can help. Don’t let us be bound by greed. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Friday, January 26, 2024

Today’s Reading - Acts 23

 

Verse

 

11 The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.”

 

Meditation

 

From a human standpoint, Paul had every reason to believe he was one of the unluckiest persons imaginable and he was probably running out of luck. Paul might have thought he was living through something like an unlucky Friday the 13th as he was brought to trial again before people who wanted to go away permanently. He might have thought he needed a huge amount of luck to escape the situation. What he got was the Lord standing next to him and telling him to take courage with an exclamation point. Jesus told him this emphatically so there would be strength behind what he was saying. Paul knew the strength was not in himself but comes from the presence of the Lord in his life. When we are standing for Christ and seeking to live our life to glorify him, there will be times when we will be on trial before all sorts of enemies. Enemies who won’t necessarily agree among themselves but want to see us persecuted for our faith. And there will be times when all we have is an emphatic voice in our ear saying “Take courage!” It is powerful and reassuring when we find ourselves in a place of faith where we can hear and understand the depth of power in the Lord telling us to be courageous as we live for him. Serving in God’s kingdom movement will include facing trials. From Joshua to Paul, people before and after, we all have a need to hear these two words. Take courage! Listen for them as you live powerfully in the world today and all the days to come and then testify in the next place the Lord leads you to.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, give us great courage as we face the days when we, like Paul, are on trial for our faith. Do not let us waiver in tenacity for speaking the truth about Jesus and the benefits of believing and living for him. Strengthen us in every way. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Today’s Reading - Acts 21

 

Verse

 

37 As the soldiers were about to take Paul into the barracks, he asked the commander, “May I say something to you?” “Do you speak Greek?” he replied. 38 “Aren’t you the Egyptian who started a revolt and led four thousand terrorists out into the wilderness some time ago?” 39 Paul answered, “I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no ordinary city. Please let me speak to the people.” 40 After receiving the commander’s permission, Paul stood on the steps and motioned to the crowd. When they were all silent, he said to them in Aramaic: 1 “Brothers and fathers, listen now to my defense.” - Acts 21:37-22:1

 

Meditation

 

It had been a long trip from Ephesus to Jerusalem. Paul was determined to get there but the Lord and his companions had urged him to wait along the way. After arriving and hearing of the situation, it was almost immediately that he stirred the emotions of the Jews and rioting followed to the point of causing chaos in the entire city. This is the place of greatest resistance to the kingdom God is building because it was the center of Jewish faith and people who wanted so desperately to hold on to the way of the Law. This led to Paul and others being captured, beaten and arrested. Just before being taken into the jail, Paul stands before them and asks to speak his defense of his actions and they fall silent. He tells his story. There is never a wrong time to tell your story. It is never too late to tell your story. God’s work in you is powerful and unique. Telling and living your story will quiet the crowd as they fall silent to listen. To hear the story of God’s life-changing transformation in someone broken by sin creates silence and draws attention. Your story is the very story someone needs to hear. You see, Paul’s story captured the attention of even the Jews until he mentioned Gentiles. They needed to hear, but were not ready to hear. We know his story was embraced by many. Yours will too. Don’t ever give up. Even as you stare in the face of great adversity. Share your story.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, let us be strong and courageous as we find ourselves in places to tell our story. Whether we are beginning the journey early in life or in the depths of many years of journeying, walk alongside of us as we tell the good news of Jesus Christ and witness to its transforming power in our life. Do not let us be afraid. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Today’s Reading - Acts 20

 

Verse

 

22 “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem,” . . . 28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. - Acts 20:22, 28

 

Meditation

 

Paul was leaving Ephesus not because he wanted to but he was being compelled by the Spirit to go. When the Spirit moves us, we have to go. He went knowing he might face hardships but he knew he had to go. As he was leaving, he left final instructions to the people in Ephesus, in particular the elders in the church. Even though he spoke to the overseers, we all have the responsibility to watch over the church and be shepherds. Our roles are different, but we all are overseers and shepherds on some level. In your Sunday School class or small group or choir or serve team, each person bears responsibility to care for those in the group. Why? Because the movement matters. Notice how Paul concluded his instruction. The movement of God matters because it was bought by the blood of Jesus. The kingdom movement being built in Acts and continues today matters to the Father and he poured his own blood into it. Regardless of the hardships we face, we go where the Spirit leads, and we shepherd the movement and the Spirit leads. We all share responsibility in nurturing the health and vitality of the kingdom because it is in the movement we are taught, worship, have fellowship, share a common meal and pray as the Body of Christ. This will not happen unless people are watched over and shepherded in order that we continue to gather and build relationships. When every nail used in the building of this kingdom movement is covered in the blood of Christ, it is important to God and we should do everything possible to do our part in moving the kingdom forward. With the right understanding, we are all made overseers and shepherds by the Holy Spirit and we should see the ways to carry out our responsibility.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, may we be compelled by your Spirit to move and go and find the ways in which we become shepherds within this movement you continue to build. Forgive us for sitting back and waiting, waiting on others to do all the shepherding. Give us joy in doing. Give us fruit for our labor. Direct us to the place and position we can best be used by you. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Monday, January 22, 2024

Today’s Reading - Acts 19

 

Verse

 

17 When this became known to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor. 18 Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed what they had done. 19 A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. 20 In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power. - Acts 19:17-20

 

Meditation

 

There is no shortage of current examples of people trying to ride the coattails of another person or business in order to make a profit without doing the work. They are trying to take advantage of someone else’s success whether it be legal but unethical, or just straight up illegal. Ephesus was a very diverse city with great economic vibrancy and various religious expressions. The people were protective of their economic potential and their religious expression. We first see Jews trying to drive out evil spirits in the name of Jesus when they didn’t believe in him as the Messiah and therefore didn’t possess the power. They did this because they saw Paul great miracles as a result of Paul’s ministry and the great following he was gathering. The Jews became jealous and felt threatened. They tried to ride the coattails of Paul but it led to the Jews being severely beaten and embarrassed by those who possessed the spirit. Other Jews who were believers realized what had happened and there was a time of open confession and repentance. Jesus was held in high honor and the word of the Lord spread across the city and great power was being manifested. Even in the diversity of Ephesus the word of the Lord spread widely because of openness, honesty, confession, repentance and a time of doing all things to honor Jesus and his name. They realized the futile nature of trying to duplicate something that was not authentic to their faith and they had to give up their scrolls related to sorcery which was a sacrifice of great financial and earning potential. In the last half of this chapter the fear of losing income rather than “laying down scrolls” heightened to a time of rioting in the city. Pause and consider your life and see if there are any scrolls you need to lay down or any part of your faith where you are trying to ride the coattails of someone else. The faith of a spouse or a parent will not move us into a more intimate relationship with Christ and mature our faith. Our faith must be our faith, authentic and true.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, we come openly and honestly before you with a humble spirit of confession and repentance and lay down any scroll in our life that might keep us from having truly authentic faith. It might seem like a great sacrifice, but we believe you will honor our desire to be righteous in all things and have an authentic witness. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Saturday, January 20, 2024

Today’s Reading - Acts 18

 

Verse

 

7 Then Paul left the synagogue and went next door to the house of Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. 8 Crispus, the synagogue leader, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard Paul believed and were baptized. 9 One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. 10 For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” 11 So Paul stayed in Corinth for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God. - Acts 18:7-11

 

Meditation

 

Paul was experiencing great success traveling from city to city preaching the good news and teaching its principles in depth. We see the synagogue ruler, who would have been steeped in Jewish faith and loyal to his people, believe in Christ and his entire family believed as well. The success was not without a price to pay. He, like most others early in the movement, were abused, threatened and jailed. Even with the great success, the Lord knew he needed encouragement and he whispered words of assurance into his heart through a vision. Not only did the Lord assure Paul that he was with him and would protect him through his power, but he reminded him of the people who will surround him and support the preaching and teaching. We are not alone in our efforts to create health and vibrancy in the movement of God’s people in our cities and around the world. We can get blinded to this assurance when times are difficult and opposition is great. It is in those times we need to hear again the words the Lord spoke to Paul in the midst of great success. Keep on, I, the Lord, am with you. Additionally, I want to encourage you to be a person of encouragement to those you are walking alongside of in faith who are doing important work in the kingdom movement. God will whisper when necessary, it is never a bad thing for each of us to be a Barnabas, a partner in the faith who will encourage. Even in the midst of great success.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, thank you for whispering in our heart words of encouragement when we need it the most, whether we cannot see success or in the midst of great success. We will keep on speaking and doing your work without fear because of the assurance you are with us. Show us the people who need encouragement and give us the strength to be supporters in this faith movement. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Friday, January 19, 2024

Today’s Reading - Acts 17

 

Verse

 

22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you. - Acts 17:22-23

 

Meditation

 

A week ago, I was involved in two interviews in two different cities which took me north, then east and finally home. I felt like I circled the northern half of the state. Nothing compared to Paul though. Since emerging a few chapters back, he has traveled to a dozen cities or more and finds himself in Athens, the center of intellectual thought. What he encountered was a lot of people who were religious, but had no spiritual understanding or vitality. John Wesley, late in his life, speaking about Methodism made an often-quoted statement. “But I am afraid, lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power.” This is what Paul faced when he stood among the intellectually elite. Paul called them out very directly when he found the inscription on the altar. He essentially said they were going through the motions of worship, i.e. religion, but with no power. His accusation was harsh. Paul claimed they didn’t even know what they were worshiping or who they were worshiping. We do not want to be the object of such an accusation yet there are many people who claim to know Christ and follow Him who are doing exactly that. They are going through the motions of whatever they believe to be the religiously correct thing to do yet they do it without real knowledge of the fullness of God and his spirit. And some simply speak well of faith and belief yet they exhibit very little or no spiritual fruit in their life. The solution is to heed Paul’s passionate plea. Get to know God! Go deep in faith. Move from a form of religion to a vibrant spirituality which has meaning in the world to help transform lives and propel the kingdom movement forward.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, we fervently pray for the strength to avoid the temptation of being religious for the sake of looking good and seek a vibrant, growing relationship with you. May of the Spirit of Christ dwell deeply within us and guide our hearts and minds. Help us to live seeking you at all times so we might know you and avoid accusations like Paul made to these people. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Today’s Reading - Acts 16

 

Verse

 

29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. 34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household. - Acts 16:29-34

 

Meditation

 

Paul and Barnabas separated over a dispute over the makeup of the team. Paul and Silas then added Timothy to the team which turns out to be a strategically wise decision and a valuable addition. Think about Timothy’s lineage. His mother was Jewish and his father Greek. He brings a unique voice to the movement being able to relate to all listeners. As a result of a vision Paul had after being stopped by the Spirit from going where they planned, they find themselves in Philippi and quickly find themselves in jail for casting an evil spirit out of a slave girl. You are probably familiar with the story. Another jail break! They themselves were praying and worshiping and an earthquake of the Spirit set them free. The jailer responsible for keeping the prisoners secure saw what happened and threatened to kill himself but was stopped by Paul with words of assurance they had not left. The first question the jailer asked was about receiving salvation, the message of the good news of the movement Paul was now leading. The jailer and his entire family were saved and baptized. The power of God to perform signs and wonders is certainly a main takeaway from the story which is not to be minimized. There is much more. Paul, Silas and the rest of the disciples find themselves in the worst of situations and the best of outcomes among all the possibilities unfolds before their very eyes, the miracle of salvation. We also see the guard taking a great risk yielding to the power of God in his life. This guard had probably listened to Paul and others speak while in Philippi before the arrest and then watched and listened to them worship in the jail. Something pricked his heart and he was willing to risk persecution and even death to receive what he had heard about and most likely witness great transformation in people’s lives. As a result of Paul not being where he wanted to go, being obedient to God whispering in his ear, arrested and placed in a horrible jail, salvation comes to an entire family and likely many more as well. God can use the worst circumstances to accomplish the greatest kingdom results. Stay faithful.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, even in the midst of circumstances we don’t plan and result from doing exactly what you ask us to do, use us to bring glory and honor to your kingdom. We might not understand an unexpected move or a painful loss, but help us use any situation to be the voice of good news. Let us lean into your signs and wonders to lead us through difficulty and let our unwavering faith speak volumes to those listening. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

 

Today’s Reading - Acts 15

 

Verse

 

Peter: 11 “No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” . . . James: 19 “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.” Acts 15:11, 19

 

Meditation

 

Because I wasn’t able to write the past two days, let me catch you up in the timeline of the story. Essentially the story immediately picks up with Paul and Barnabas and they are going city to city proclaiming the good news. Many new disciples were becoming followers, entire cities were gathering to hear the word of the Lord, and the followers were full of joy and the Holy Spirit. Now on to chapter 15. Imagine a group of people making it difficult for other people to join the group and then making lots of rules and regulations for them once they join. Yeah, imagine that! Sounds pretty familiar. Unfortunately, it was happening in the early days of a new movement which was being founded upon the principles of grace and unconditional love. It doesn’t make good sense. Unfortunately, it still happens today. It happens today in every facet of society, church or otherwise. The conflict was around unauthorized Jews trying to convince Gentiles that circumcision was required before they could be part of the movement. As a result, they gathered the leaders of the movement to discuss the conflict and Peter’s words are profound, “just as they are.” They are profound because Jesus embraces you just as you were. And me. I’m grateful and I imagine you are too. Jesus has plans to change us but the beginning point is just where we are. Jesus has no desire for us to continue in sin and claim to follow him. The kingdom of grace says Jesus offers salvation to people just as they are. It’s hard for us because we would rather people change and conform and then come belong to our group. But that is not a kingdom principle. That’s placing the burden of change on the person and not on God’s transforming power. The kingdom principle says let grace save people from sin and darkness and let the ongoing mercy and grace and power of God transform them into the likeness of Christ. A letter was sent to the Gentiles saying it wouldn’t be burdensome to follow Christ and they were pleased with the encouraging message. We don’t want to make it difficult for people to connect to Christ. Hopefully your story is not one of having difficulty experiencing God’s grace. Let’s don’t make it anybody else’s.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, help us to be as accepting of people crying out for new life as you are accepting of us. Give us a “just as they are” attitude. Forgive us for imposing rules when none were needed. We want to be conduits of grace and let you do the transformation. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Saturday, January 13, 2024

Today’s Reading - Acts 12

 

Verse

 

5 So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him. . . . 11 Then Peter came to himself and said, “Now I know without a doubt that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from everything the Jewish people were hoping would happen.” 12 When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying. - Acts 12:5, 11-12

 

Meditation

 

We bring closure to Peter’s part of helping birth and build a new kingdom movement of people coming to faith in Jesus Christ with an eye-opening, important event. In the previous chapter, we find Peter explaining his interaction with Cornelius to Jewish converts because they did not yet understand the good news was for all people. Then we read of the good work of the scattered in Antioch where the name Christians was birthed and then we have transitional information about the ministry of Saul and Barnabas. Now back to Peter. Herod’s anxiety over the strength of the movement landed Peter in jail again. It might be easy to rush past verse five to get to Peter’s miraculous escape from prison, but we need to pause right there. The leader might have gone to jail with little hope of surviving and potentially putting out the fire of momentum, but the people kept praying. They kept praying because they already understood the power of God. In the infancy of the movement there was not time for lengthy teachings on faith and the power of the Holy Spirit but they had seen it enough to know and had witnessed the transformation of so many people that they knew. They kept on praying because they had come to a child-like understanding of the possibilities when God is involved. They kept on praying because it was the only thing they knew to do. They kept on praying because they knew it was their connection to His power. Then there is Peter’s response once he realized what had happened. He had another ‘aha’ moment. If Peter didn’t already know, he now knew there were some things only the power of God can accomplish. It is no coincidence Peter goes straight to his friend’s house which happens to be the house where people had been praying. I believe this clearly connects the event of Peter’s escape to the people praying and it gave the people who had been praying concrete evidence of the necessity and power of prayer. Just what was needed to add to the foundation of a vibrant kingdom movement. There are people you know whose situation looks like Peter in jail, possibly even your current situation. Keep on praying and invite others to pray alongside you. Prayer is the gateway to the heart of God who sends angels and unlocks prison doors.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, right now there are people in a season of imprisonment who need doors opened so they can walk free and we want to be counted among the people who will keep on praying for them and we place those needs before your throne. We call out our own needs to be set free. May the power of your Holy Spirit be manifested in the hearts and lives of people who need to have prison doors miraculously opened. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Thursday, January 11, 2024

Today’s Reading - Acts 10

 

Verse

 

34 Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts people from every nation who fear him and does what is right. 36 You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.” - Acts 10:34-36

 

Meditation

 

And just like that we are back into Peter’s story and it is a very important switch we have made. Peter had an “aha” moment. You’ve had those before and know how eye-opening they are. Apparently, Peter had not fully grasped the concept that the good news Jesus was offering was not just for the Jews, but for all people. Peter had listened to Jesus talk about the good news being for everyone and now, through this powerful experience with Cornelius, he knew without question the reality of those powerful words of Jesus. He may have considered it before, but now Peter knew Jesus was talking about every person, not just the Jews, who would believe in Him receives forgiveness through his name (vs. 43). Cornelius had no idea what his vision was about but he was faithfully obedient. Peter thought his vision was about food but learned it was about the good news–for everyone. I am writing this devotion and you are reading it because Jesus came as the Messiah for all people. He came that everyone might believe and be forgiven. Peter’s revelation was accompanied by an anointing of the Holy Spirit and a passion which became a benchmark moment in the story of the movement being formed. What an “aha” moment for Peter! Look around. The good news is for everyone. Look beyond your present circumstance as you read this and see people who need some good news. Life changing news. Jesus news. Let Peter’s moment be your moment and let God set a fire down in your soul for the everyones in your life. Peter’s moment changed the trajectory of Christianity. People today more than ever are searching for a change in the trajectory of their life. They are searching for hope they’ve never experienced before. Today we are in a crucial moment in history where we don’t need to miss the opportunity to share life and hope. People are looking for permanence and stability. Jesus the Messiah is in fact the only answer to hope. The revelation of the good news of Jesus that it is for all people has now been added to the story of His kingdom movement.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, we seek the anointing of the Holy Spirit to share good news with one of your precious children who desperately needs a life-changing relationship with your Son. May we see every person as a person you sent your Son to die for. Give us a passion to see people saved by your work through us. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Today’s Reading - Acts 9

 

Verse

 

15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. . . . 22 Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah. . . . 28 So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. . . . 31 Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers. - Acts 9:15, 22, 28, 31

 

Meditation

 

I have chosen four verses from the familiar story of Saul’s dramatic conversion to help us learn from the story. Most of us are familiar with his story. If we were reading Acts for the very first time, stopped at chapter eight, and asked which person encountered in these first chapters would be used in very significant ways by God, we probably would have said Peter, maybe Philip, but never Saul. Not the person with the authority to actively arrest, persecute, and kill believers and ultimately destroy what God was doing in the kingdom He was building. As we know, that is exactly who he chose! Through the eyes of humanity, Saul was at the bottom of the list. Those of us, like myself, who have a story with a definite call or choosing which directed our career path can identify with the position of being the last qualified to be chosen. We questioned like Moses. We ran like Jonah. But here I am. A great majority of believers have at one time or another struggled with a nudge from God to do something beyond our perceived capacity or way out of our comfort zone. You felt that call to start a ministry or participate in an existing one or tell your faith story to a group. It wouldn’t change your career, but that overwhelming feeling caused you to question and run. You took that leap of faith and here you are. Saul was God’s chosen instrument and obedience to being chosen will always produce kingdom impact. Ananias wanted to run from his calling but his obedience was honored. We learn that Saul grew more and more powerful and convincing as he spoke. He wasn’t instantly perfect, he grew into it. He grew to a place of boldness in his proclamation and through the work of the Holy Spirit, the movement grew in numbers and strength. When God chooses people to serve the kingdom, He chooses the exact people He needs. Each calling will be different and he will provide the resources to grow us into the fulfillment of our calling when we are obedient to hearing His voice. If Saul turns around and heads back to Jerusalem, he most likely remains blind the rest of his life and the story we read would have been much different. He was obedient on the road which led to fruitful days ahead. Obedience is the first step. When God whispers and chooses us, choose to obey.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, open our ears to hear when you whisper. Do not let us question and run away from obedience to your will for our life. Help us to overcome our doubt so we find our place in your kingdom work, whether small or large. Fill us with your Spirit and wisdom as you have done for so many. Do that afresh in our life today. Help us see the path you are leading us on and give us joy as we walk the journey. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Today’s Reading - Acts 8

 

Verse

 

4 Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. 5 Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there. - Acts 8:4-5

 

Meditation

 

The early church was planted with reckless abandon. They were scattered and they preached the word. Reckless abandon makes most of us nervous. We like order and a plan. Me! My closet is arranged in order. Shirts by style and color, etc. Philip was one of those scattered, chosen as one of the seven to help distribute food, and he encountered maybe the most interesting group recorded. Samaritans, a sorcerer, and an Ethiopian eunuch. Samaritans must have been eager to hear the word. They received and were joyous just like the story of the Samaritan woman in John. One Samaritan, Simon the sorcerer, is an interesting story. He believed, is baptized, then chastised, and we are left hanging. Philip convinces the eunuch, he is baptized, then Philip is taken away by the Spirit. Philip reappears in Azotus and continues his reckless abandon style of preaching. In every way we can imagine, Philip was up against all odds. Apparently, he was in the best place to make a huge impact on the kingdom of God. When you find yourself up against all odds you may be in the best place for God to use you. It may not be orderly but it will change people. We might be in our best place this very day. A life changing day for you, maybe for someone you love and treasure or a perfect stranger, definitely impactful for a movement of God. As the saying goes, just keep on keeping on. (Note: We met Saul at the end of chapter seven. Pay attention to him in the first few verses of this chapter.)

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, give us a heart of reckless abandon. We will let you arrange the details and do the follow up, we just want to be obedient to your leading. Give us a fearless attitude as we speak of the good news of Jesus Christ. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

 

Monday, January 8, 2024

Today’s Reading - Acts 7

 

Verse

 

54 When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” . . . 59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep. . . . 8:1 And Saul was there, giving approval to his death. - Acts 7:54-56, 59-60, 8:1

 

Meditation

 

He never wavered. Stephen that is. One of the seven chosen to help distribute food but in addition to that responsibility immediately began proclaiming the good news and eventually was falsely accused and brought before the Jewish leaders. As we know, this led to being stoned to death in front of a large group of onlookers, including Saul. He never wavered, even unto death. That is a strong statement to be made about anyone. Stephen was living fully into every principle we have learned in these first chapters of Acts. He was chosen among the seven because he was full of the Spirit and possessed great wisdom, now at his death we are reminded again he was full of the Spirit. He stood strong. He stood strong and boldly proclaimed the good news even under the threat of death. Reread verses 51-53 to get a sense of his conviction and the boldness in which he was proclaiming the truth. In the chronology of the story of this new kingdom movement, we are given an illustration of a person who embraced and embodied to its fullest what it meant to be a disciple of Christ and to “walk the talk” as we say. Again, I doubt we will be persecuted to the extent of Stephen, but we can learn from his story and how the fullness of God’s Spirit guided his path. We do not know much about Stephen but he was clearly a man of great faith, well versed in God’s word, and lived it out in great measure. His last words before dying speak volumes about his character and the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in our life. Like Jesus, he cried out for the forgiveness of those who falsely accused him and were now stoning him to death. To understand forgiveness at his level only comes from an intimate relationship with our Father. Stephen’s story helps us see discipleship at its best.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, fill us with your Spirit. Simply spoken, fill us with your Spirit. May we be one who fully embraces the principles of discipleship as Stephen did. We confess that at times we have tried in our own strength and failed. Don’t let us be deceived into thinking we can serve the kingdom apart from your Spirit. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Saturday, January 6, 2024

Today’s Reading - Acts 6

 

Verse

 

2 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3 Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.” . . . 6 They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.7 So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith. - Acts 6:2-4, 6-7

 

Meditation

 

In the previous chapter, Peter and John encountered opposition from those threatened by the good news resulting in jail time, a court date, and persecution. In this chapter, they encounter concerns or complaints arising from one group of new believers who felt they were being neglected in favor of another group of new believers, both groups converted Jews. I do not believe there was intent involved but a matter of oversight due to the needs arising from sudden and unexpected growth. There was a rapid increase in the number of believers which meant a rapid increase in needs among the new movement being handled by too few people. A legitimate concern that needed a solution. Peter and John gathered all the disciples and worked out a solution as we will learn in the chapters to come which sustained the movement apart from the Twelve. Our first impression of this story is that there was a need involving food distribution and a simple solution was agreed upon. Seven strong men with a particular task of making sure the food was being evenly distributed to all the widows. It was so much greater. They were seven men who were known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom who would be prayed over and anointed for work far greater than handing out boxes of food. They were being selected and set apart to be significant leaders in this kingdom movement being built. This is a foundational principle which remains true and necessary in the kingdom of God today, ordinary people living out their transformed life in ways the Spirit within them is known who are set apart for important work in the kingdom. Originally it might be handing out food or ushering during a worship service or building a ramp onto a house, but it is the stepping stone to the next thing God will lead you to do. Alongside the Spirit of God, ordinary people will be used for extraordinary kingdom work. Don’t determine in your mind that you are just ordinary and have no value to the kingdom. You might be the very person the kingdom needs to continue its growth. When ordinary people say yes to obedience, great things result. Like a great number of new believers and even priests became obedient to faith. The movement needs every believer to be known as a person full of the Spirit and wisdom. Make yourself known and available. Don’t hide.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, fill us up with your Spirit and let it flow from us in ways that cause others to naturally see the Spirit in us. Give us great wisdom to go along with the overflow of your Spirit. Use each one of us to your glory and honor. Show us the particular task you have whether it be the ministry of word or the distribution of food. Let that be the catalyst to great kingdom work we can be part of. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Friday, January 5, 2024

Today’s Reading - Acts 5

 

Verse

 

40 His speech persuaded them. They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. 42 Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah. - Acts 5:40-42

 

Meditation

 

Culture versus Christianity. This is not a new challenge for those who choose to follow Christ, it has been going on for more than two thousand years. The apostles left a period of persecution and a trial before the leaders with a choice to make. They were either going to obey those who represented the loudest voices, or follow their heart and continue proclaiming the good news. It is pretty clear from the text what they chose to do. Any movement which creates change, even if it is for the good of people, is going to meet opposition. Our challenge as participants in this kingdom movement is to wisely consider the circumstances and not deviate from the certainty of our calling and commission to make disciples. The apostle’s circumstance is quite different from ours. It is highly unlikely we will not be persecuted, tried, and flogged. It is hard for us to relate to being persecuted and flogged and depart rejoicing while in pain from the wounds. Consider their reasoning. They considered it an honor and privilege to be counted worthy of the persecution for preaching good news. Yes, when we stand boldly for the sake of the gospel there will be opposition and we have a decision to make. I’m praying that each of us will make the correct choice, seek the undergirding support of fellow believers, and keep on proclaiming the good news of salvation and hope we have experienced through Jesus the Messiah. To put it in modern vernacular, the kingdom movement being unfolded in Acts is dependent upon believers “keeping on keeping on.”

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, give us wisdom to make right choices in all things, consistent with your word, and especially when it involves proclamation of the good news. Give us strength and the power and presence of the Holy Spirit to not only know the right choice, but to act on the right choice. Guard us when opposition comes. Give us boldness when opposition comes. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Thursday, January 4, 2024

Today’s Reading - Acts 4

 

Verse

 

32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. - Acts 4:32-34

 

Meditation

 

It had been a rough two days. Many of you have said that recently as a result of having the flu or the intestinal virus. Rough days as a result of illness are difficult, but being questioned for giving a person new life, jailed overnight then to face the court of authorities the next morning is a difficulty none of us have faced. Peter and John faced the difficulty and they stood strong. There are times we have to stand. In those times we need people who have been alongside us who will stand with us. The people who stood with Peter and John were people of prayer and that was the first thing they did when they heard of their difficult days. They prayed for boldness and power. As a result, the Holy Spirit the place was shaken like the day of Pentecost and everyone was filled with the Spirit and note, everyone spoke the word of God boldly. In order to be part of a vibrant kingdom movement we need people alongside us who will pray. But that’s not all and it brings us to our text for today. The new believers had discovered a principle that brought them together and solidified their relationship. Not only did they pray together, but they set aside their own wants and needs to take care of others. The principle of kindness and generosity was embedded in the heart and soul of the movement early. We first read about it a couple of chapters earlier in a more familiar text just after Peter’s first sermon. We see it again. Gathering together with like-minded people, they studied, prayed, broke bread, became like-minded, and took care of everyone’s needs. A vibrant community of faith will take care of the needs of the community. It looks different today than it did then, but it is a vital part of what we do. We are bonded together through the commonality of Christ to study and pray and take care of the needs of one another. There will be difficult days and seasons of life which are too difficult for us to do alone. The people who walk alongside us in the kingdom will help us stand strong when we can’t stand. From boldly proclaiming the gospel to dealing with the difficulties of life, we need people who are standing with us.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, we thank you today for the people who are kingdom people and are walking this journey of faith with us. We thank you for those particularly called to pray and to be sensitive to needs around them. We thank you for the encouragers and those who get things done. We thank you for the teachers and leaders who have impacted our life. We thank you for the community of faith and pray you will strengthen us and bring us to one heart and mind. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Today’s Reading - Acts 3

 

Verse

 

1 One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. 2 Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. 3 When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. 4 Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” 5 So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them. 6 Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” . . . 16 By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see. - Acts 3:1-6, 16

 

Meditation

 

This story is loaded. Honestly, I almost instantly thought of four devotions I could have written from this one story and the first 16 verses. I’ll stick to one devotion and try to cover all my thoughts. Peter and John were going to the temple at the time of prayer to pray, not to encounter a man who needed a touch from the Lord. They knew the importance of prayer because they could not fulfill the mission of this new movement without the Lord leading every step. So they went to pray. It was important then and it is important now both personally and for the sake of the movement. It was on their way to do the necessary thing they were given the opportunity to offer life to this cripple man. It did not negate the necessity of prayer, it changed the timing of prayer. The man wanted money, Peter and John offered him life transformation because that’s what they had and that’s what the man needed. We have what Peter and John have to offer to those who might ask for money, but need the saving grace and power of Jesus in their life. Let’s offer what we have when given the opportunity. The healing power of Jesus entered the body of the beggar and he was able to stand and began to walk and jump and praise God. Look what happens next. Don’t miss it. When people in the temple saw this man, they instantly recognized him as the cripple beggar and they were filled with wonder and amazement. Others came running to Peter and John to hear the story. We read in the next chapter that hundreds, possibly thousands of people came to Christ because of this man’s encounter with the saving power of Jesus and the willingness of Peter and John to tell the story of Jesus. If we want to be part of a vibrant kingdom moment people need to see and experience what Jesus has done in transforming our life. What Jesus does for us is not something we should keep hidden in our heart. We are disciples who have a story to tell and a story worth telling. A story the world needs to hear and we need to bear witness of. Finally, don’t miss verse 16 and the importance and power of the name of Jesus. Be bold enough to speak the name of Jesus over every part of your life and everything you do. Speaking the name of Jesus over your life should become a natural part of how you live. Not that it should become routine and stale, but so that you are invoking the power in His name over all you say and do and desire. Live into the wealth of this story. You never know, we might see thousands come to faith as part of the kingdom movement God is directing.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, you have raised us up to walk and praise God and impact lives around us and we are thankful for what you have done. Help us to recognize the opportunities placed before us to witness to the life-changing power of Jesus in our life. Give us boldness and wisdom as we engage people with the good news. Help us to recognize when you are changing the timing of our schedule for the sake of the kingdom. May people see Jesus radiating from our life. It is in His name we pray. Amen.

Tuesday, January 2, 2024

Today’s Reading - Acts 2

 

Verse

 

1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. . . . 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit . . . 38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. . . . 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. . . . 47 And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. - Acts 2:1, 4, 38, 42-43, 47

 

Meditation

 

The twelve were together, having added Matthias to replace Judas, and they began to see the promises of God unfold. They were obedient and waited. The Holy Spirit came and they were all filled. The metaphors of wind and fire are used to describe the coming of the Holy Spirit. Wind fills every space while fire refines. Note that the wind and fire just didn’t appear, they came with power, the wind blowing violently and the fire separating. It had to have been evident to the apostles gathered in that room they were experiencing what Jesus promised. They wasted no time and off they went to be witnesses to all the world, especially Peter as he preached with conviction and obvious power. So much so that the listeners couldn’t wait to be told what to do next. Peter’s response was simple and included the very words told to him by Jesus. Receive and you will be empowered to be a witness as well. Yes, they were saved from their sins, but they joined the apostles as empowered witnesses in the world. This movement of God needed more than twelve and from the outset what was done in the hearts of the twelve was done in the hearts of the new believers. What was expected of the twelve was being passed on to all those who came to faith. It did not take long to see the fruit of the apostle’s obedience. The new believers gathered and we read there was a spirit of awe in the room as they considered what they had heard and seen and the power of this movement of the Spirit they were joining. So much power that Luke tells us that daily people’s lives were being transformed. Not on Sunday as a result of an invitation, but daily, as a result of the power of the testimonies new believers, sins were forgiven, the gift of the Spirit was received, and the movement was gaining momentum because what happened to the apostles was not kept to themselves but spread to all who would listen. The events and pattern established in these first two chapters have not changed. Obey. Receive. Unleashing power. Witness. We need to unbridle the power of the Spirit within us, become intentional witnesses of transformation, and we again will see people’s lives being transformed daily and this kingdom movement changing the world in which we live.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, use us as your obedient witnesses to unleash the power of your Spirit within us to be a powerful witness in the world. Not to just speak words, but to speak words of life and show evidence in our behavior of being transformed into your likeness. We ask for your Spirit to come upon us with fresh wind and refining fire to empower us to boldly be your witnesses. Do not let us miss one opportunity to fulfill the plan of the kingdom. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Monday, January 1, 2024

Today’s Reading - Acts 1

 

Verse

 

4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. . . . 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” - Acts 1:4, 8

 

Meditation

 

Happy New Year! We have ushered in and celebrated the birth of Jesus Christ. Now we shift and let’s usher in and celebrate the birth of the Church. For the sake of these devotions over the next six weeks and possibly forever, I want to refer to the Church as a movement, something that is not only birthed but is growing. Over the decades, church has become a static word to so many people. Cold and stuck. Jesus said He was the same yesterday, today and forever. The Church should not be that way. A healthy movement is fluid and vibrant and is ever-changing. I want to be part of something that is warm and inviting and this movement has that potential. I want to be part of this kingdom movement birthed by our Father. Spiritually speaking, a movement is something the Holy Spirit is part of, blowing like the wind. Two verses in chapter one, four and eight, are critically important to our understanding the birth and building of this movement. They shape everything that is to follow. We learn four things in these verses that we need to make sure frame our life and our role in continuing the movement. The first is obedience. The disciples were commanded to not leave Jerusalem, but wait. Obedience to that command set the stage. If they would have disobeyed, they would have missed it. The second is receiving the gift which was promised and Jesus spoke about. We know this gift is the Holy Spirit and without the Holy Spirit operating in and through our life and the life of this kingdom movement, it will grow stale and die. The third is receiving power. Without the power of the Holy Spirit this new movement would have failed miserably and would only be a story in history books. With the power of the Holy Spirit, it will be a life-giving movement changing lives and cultures. The fourth is becoming witnesses. The mouthpiece of disciples speaking about the transforming nature of salvation through Jesus Christ will fuel the movement which can change the world. This kingdom movement depends on obedience, the Holy Spirit and his power, and fulfilling our role as witnesses to his power to transform us and do great things through us. Join me as we seek a new sense of vibrancy in this movement of disciples of Christ in 2024. Welcome to the journey!

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, we want to follow your command to obey, to receive, to operate in power, and to be your witnesses to all the world. Set our hearts and minds on being a leader in the kingdom movement you birthed and built. We declare that in this year we will be part of your work which shows evidence of awakening and transformation like we have never experienced. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Saturday, December 30, 2023

Today’s Reading - Luke 2:36-38

 

Verse

 

36 There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. - Luke 2:36-38

 

Meditation

 

It’s New Year’s Eve Eve. I don’t know if it has any significance other than you have two days to fulfill all your resolutions or two days to give money to your church if you want it to be counted in 2023. I do know we are winding down the birth story of Jesus as told by Luke and we are introduced to Anna. She was a prophetess, one who proclaims the revelation of truth concerning the will of God. Married only seven years before she became a widow, now spending her entire life at the temple worshiping, fasting and praying. She never left the temple! For just a moment try to fill in the blank between the heartache of becoming a widow and spending night and day at the temple. Everything we know about Anna is contained in three verses. She did not let the emotional pain and hardship of becoming a widow hinder her desire to seek God and his plan for her life. She chose to live into the hope grounded in her Jewish faith that a Messiah would one day come and redeem her nation. She became a worshiper and an intercessor who knew about this Child, our Savior, and what he would mean to the world. As a prophetess, God had spoken things into her heart and mind about him beyond common knowledge. I believe it would be safe to say part of her worship and her prayer and fasting at the temple would have been prayers concerning the coming of the Messiah. She knew her nation needed redemption and we tend to pray for the things we need and the things we love the most. Something happened after the tragedy in her life that set her on a course of honoring God with her life beyond what most of us can fathom. She was not alone looking forward to Jerusalem and the nation of Israel being redeemed. Others were with her that day as she gave thanks for the arrival at the temple of the Messiah, connecting this child to the One who they were all looking forward to seeing. Imagine how wonderful it was for her to take Jesus into her arms and cradle him against her chest. Maybe like she would have done for the child she never had. She spoke encouragement and hope to all those gathered around this powerful moment in the Christmas story. A prophet who had now experienced firsthand all that she had been told would come to pass. Like Simeon, righteous and devout. A prophet who allowed God to turn tragedy into a triumphant fulfillment of all she had hoped and prayed for. Most of all, Anna did not miss the opportunity to speak hope into the life of those who experienced this moment with her. A powerful story contained in just three verses of Luke’s account of our Savior being born.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, help us to see beyond a moment in time and look to what you might do in our life to honor you and see kingdom hope fulfilled. Strengthen us to patiently wait on your will to come to fruition in our life. May we have a spirit of worship and fasting and prayer as we seek you in all things. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

 

 

Pray the Lord’s Prayer today. And every day.

Friday, December 29, 2023

Today’s Reading - Luke 2:25-35

 

Verse

 

25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. - Luke 2:25-26a

(If you have time, read through verse 35. I will refer to its content.)

 

Meditation

 

Mary and Joseph took Jesus to Jerusalem to complete their time of purification and for the rite of circumcision. Arriving at the Temple, they are greeted by two people who would bless and speak about Jesus and his family. The two are Simeon and Anna. We are told Simeon was devout and righteous and the Holy Spirit was upon him. Without going any further, the description of Simeon is worth noting and we would all do well to be described in a similar fashion. I’m confident he did not just wake up one day and he was all of that. It takes desire, time and maturity to reach that place in our relationship with God. It was not just Simeon’s lucky day he was at the Temple when Jesus arrived, he was moved by the Holy Spirit to be there. Attentiveness to the Holy Spirit with purpose in mind is important. Simeon had been told he would see Jesus and I imagine he was attentive daily to the move of the Spirit to fulfill the promise. This moment had to be ordained of God as Mary and Joseph felt confident enough to hand the baby over to him. Simeon’s blessing and prophetic words upon the life of Jesus are powerful and they are found in verses twenty-nine to thirty-two. This is not one of our favorite parts of the Christmas story but it is very insightful. Simeon declares Jesus has come as light for the Gentiles and glory to the people of Israel. Eight days into the life of Jesus and this man Simeon articulates the purpose and mission of Jesus being born. He would be the Savior to all people. Then he speaks truth many people don’t want to hear. First, Jesus and his message would cause the rise and fall of people, in other words separation because of the message. Second, there will be opposition to the message that will cause difficulty among the followers of Jesus. When difficulty comes in your life because you are obedient to Christ, know it was spoken about on the eighth day of Jesus’ life. Third, the message will reveal the true hearts of people. This part of the Christmas story reveals so much about who Jesus is and what his purpose is. It was a fulfillment of a word the Holy Spirit spoke into Simeon’s heart. But it is profound in understanding the story. Great things happen in our life when we seek to be righteous, devout and full of the Holy Spirit.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, we thank you for allowing us to experience Simeon. May we learn from him and seek to be attentive and obedient. Walk with us as we live out the message we learn from this encounter with him. Help us to desire the character of Simeon. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

 

 

Pray the Lord’s Prayer today. And every day.

Thursday, December 28, 2023

Today’s Reading - Luke 2:21-24

 

Verse

 

21 On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived. 22 When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), 24 and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.” - Luke 2:21-24

 

Meditation

 

Mary and Joseph did all they knew to do, be obedient to the Law. They had no knowledge that Jesus came to fulfill the law and one day everybody would understand the concept of grace and be obedient in different ways. They did what they knew to do and that was to honor the Lord by presenting him for consecration and offer the required sacrifice. In their minds they could not consider anything different for fear of dishonoring Yahweh. Obedience such as displayed by Mary and Joseph would be considered a superpower today, along with initiative and common sense to name a couple. But they knew no other way and to them it was not a matter of legalism to be obedient, it was a matter of their life honoring God. I have often said in the last few years that when we honor God with our life, God will honor our life and pour out blessing and favor. Mary and Joseph understood that concept long ago. Three things I want to lift up out of this short snippet of scripture. Obedience is important if we desire to walk in the way of the Lord. Our way if opposed to God’s way is never a better way no matter how eloquently we can articulate our position. Obedience to scriptural thought and action is a necessary part of being a disciple of Christ. Obedience is important and it should never be viewed as a legalistic requirement. As with Mary and Joseph, our obedience should be born out of a desire to honor God with our life. There are so many scriptural metaphors to illustrate the truth that we are representing Christ with our life and we need to be mindful of this truth. Obedience is important, is not legalistic in nature, and finally, there will be times when we can only do what we know to do to be obedient. It might seem awkward or wrong, but we can only do what we know to do. By faith we believe God will repair any mistakes we make. Seek the Lord, do what you know to do, and honor God with a life of obedience.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, we come before you today seeking a heart of obedience, not to follow a set of rules, but to honor you with our life. May every thought and action be pleasing to you. Forgive us when we try to follow you haphazardly and are not mindful of your holiness. Guide every step of this day. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen. 

 

 

Pray the Lord’s Prayer today. And every day.

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Today’s Reading - Luke 2:15-20

 

Verse

 

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. - Luke 2:16-18

 

Meditation

 

As we approach the end of this year, only four more days, let’s go back into the story of Jesus’ birth and join the shepherds and look forward with anticipation of a fruitful year ahead. One of the dominant occurrences of the story is how God took the most unlikely people and the most unexpected situations and wove them into such an important role in the story. The shepherds are a prime example. Although it’s been said many times, many ways (you’ll be singing that the rest of the day), the shepherds would have been last in line to receive an invitation to go see Jesus. Just as astounding is the fact that people listened to what they were saying and were amazed by what they heard. The shepherd’s voices and message rang out with believability because they had experienced the living Christ. The miracle of the Christmas story is the Son of God being born of flesh and blood to save the world. The many miracles related to the story include the lowly shepherds becoming main characters. Their life and their story made a huge kingdom impact. We will see this occur again and again throughout the New Testament. No one believed a Samaritan woman could help transform an entire village but she did. As we look forward to the coming year, I invite you to live with the anticipation of being a main character in the kingdom story. Live with the anticipation you are going to profoundly encounter Jesus and in telling your story people will be amazed. When people are amazed by what Jesus has done, their lives are changed. When they are amazed at Jesus, not you, their life will be transformed into something beautiful in the kingdom of God. Expect the casting call. God just may be casting you as one of the main characters of His story in the coming year!

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, we give thanks for the call to shepherds and look forward to hearing our call. Use us to tell a story which will change lives and make a difference in the kingdom. Remove our hesitations and reservations and give us boldness to proclaim your amazing truth found in our story. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

 

 

Pray the Lord’s Prayer today. And every day.

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Today’s Reading - Luke 1:39-56

 

Verse

 

39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. - Luke 1:39-41

 

Meditation

 

There is a song “When You Walk into the Room” in which I’m going to borrow some random lyrics I thought of when I read our text. Imagine for a moment Jesus still in the womb, Mary walks into the room with Elizabeth, her baby leaps in the womb with joy and Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit. Let that sink in a minute. When Jesus walked into Elizabeth’s room. Everything changes. Darkness starts to tremble. Every heart starts burning. Nothing matters more than just to sit at Your feet and worship You. Sickness starts to vanish. Hopeless situations cease to exist. The dead begin to rise. We love you and we’ll never stop. Indeed, when Jesus walks into the room everything changes. As Jesus walks into your room today begin to let him change everything that is not healthy in some way. That does not necessarily mean remove it, it means change. And it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s all bad. Some things will be removed and other things improved. Change can mean removed or improved. Yes, when Jesus walks into the room our hearts should leap with joy and our spirit filled with the Holy Spirit. When Jesus walks into the room of your life everything changes. When Jesus walked into the world’s room as Emmanuel everything changed. That moment has not changed. Everything changes when Jesus walks into the room.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, prepare our hearts and walk into our room. Let us open the door gladly and with open arms receive the change that comes when Jesus walks into our room. Remove and improve is our prayer. Do not let us resist your work. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

 

 

Pray the Lord’s Prayer today. And every day. 

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Today’s Reading - Luke 1:26-38

 

Verse

 

27 . . . The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. - Luke 1:27b-30

 

Meditation

                                                                                                                      

Because of human nature we tend to default into thinking the worst in most situations especially when caught unaware. Mary was no different and was afraid. I’m sure she thought she was in trouble as this was a very unusual situation. Angels didn’t come and speak very often. But when they did, it was good news! We learn three important things in this angel encountering the virgin story. I’ll share them briefly lest you think it’s about to be a three point sermon and three pages long. One, Mary found favor with God. Two, the Lord was with her and would be with her throughout the impending journey. Therefore, three, there was no need to be afraid. As we close in on Christmas, you may encounter a God moment, an angel, somewhere along the way and most likely you are being nudged to be used by God in a very special way. Don’t be afraid. You’re being chosen because you are the right person in the right moment. You have been favored for the very moment you find yourself in. And the Lord will be with you and provide every word and every resource you need. He did for Mary. I can say that because I know the rest of the story. Keep your eyes open and your ears in tune for an angel calling your name and the Lord preparing to use you mightily to show forth Christ in all his glory!

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, show us favor so we might hear from an angel and be the hands and feet of Christ for somebody seeking to find a glimmer of light in their life. Or let us hear a word to affirm your presence in our life. May the Spirit speak mightily in our lives today for the sake of the kingdom. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

 

 

Pray the Lord’s Prayer today. And every day.

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Today’s Reading - Luke 1:5-25

 

Verse

 

23 When his time of service was completed, he returned home. 24 After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. 25 “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.” - Luke 1:23-25

 

Meditation

 

Many people have, but I would say most of us have never experienced public disgrace. Elizabeth had. We might not have experienced public disgrace but we have all experienced private disgrace, or disgrace among a few. Elizabeth’s disgrace was about as deep as any female could experience in her day and time. She was barren, she could not conceive and give birth to a child. She would never experience the joy of motherhood and always face the disdain of the general public because childbirth was the expectation of every female. Or at least she thought. She and Zechariah were old, way beyond child bearing age when God intervened and they became part of the Christmas story. Just when they thought all hope was lost of Elizabeth ever fulfilling one of the expectations of every woman, God shows up in their life and she becomes pregnant. It’s the story of a miracle of epic proportions in a couple’s life who had given up hope of ever turning around this disgrace. But it happened! And she gave birth to John who would play a prominent role in Jesus being ushered into the world and then announcing him and his ministry. Don’t give up on whatever you might be calling disgraceful in your life. You might be on the verge of God showing great favor in your life and taking it away. We will never understand God’s timing but we’ve experienced his favor. And you may soon be able to sing the same song as Elizabeth and testify to the goodness of God who has taken away your disgrace. Remember, Zechariah and Elizabeth were both upright before the Lord and obedient to his commands and beyond child-bearing age. A godly couple shown favor when it was least expected. Don’t give up on God’s favor.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, we lay before your altar whatever in our life we might label as disgraceful and hindering us in our relationship with you. Show favor into our lives and fill our lives with grace which removes the disgrace. Whether public or private, show favor and restore us to experience the joy of our salvation. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

 

Pray the Lord’s Prayer today. And every day.

Monday, December 18, 2023

Today’s Reading - Matthew 1:1-17

 

Verse

 

1 This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham: . . . 17 Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah. - Matthew 1:1, 17

 

Meditation

 

When genealogy is recorded in scripture it is instantly registered in our mind that we will skip over it to make the reading go faster. The first seventeen verses of Matthew are the recorded genealogy of Jesus but I invite you to peruse through it and check out the people who appear in the family of Jesus the Messiah. You will find some interesting, important, and maybe surprising names. Abraham. Tamar. Boaz. Rahab. Ruth. David. Josiah. There are some mighty big names in the list but there are mostly people just like me and you. Very ordinary. There are probably a few we don’t want to be like. Some were leaders and kings while others we know very little about. Some we know more than we want to know. When David asked the question in Psalm 24 “Who is this King of glory?”, one answer is surely the king of all people. People with an assortment of history to their credit. Jesus came to be everyone’s king and it is portrayed in this simple list of names we often overlook. He comes to save the world, not just part of the world. He comes to save people from every race and creed. He comes to save the kings and the slaves. The free and the oppressed. The saints and the sinners. Arms open wide to welcome you and me because we will blend into his family just fine. Welcome to His family, the family of the Messiah.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, we rejoice today to be included in the family of King Jesus. We rejoice because we are included even though our family tree may not look too good. We are thankful it’s good enough for your grace and mercy. We bow in humility at the honor of being part of the family of God. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

 

Pray the Lord’s Prayer today. And every day.

Friday, December 15, 2023

Today’s Reading - John 1:29-34

 

Verse

 

29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! - John 1:29

 

Meditation

                                                                                              

Many of you know the joy of a child running to meet a parent and jumping in outstretched arms after they haven’t seen each other for a long period of time. Others of you know the escalated joy when the separation is an extended period of time like military deployment. The words, “Look, there’s Mom” or “There’s Dad” are sometimes the best words a child can hear. Imagine the joy and sense of fulfillment within John’s audience when he proclaimed, “Look, the Lamb of God.” We know they didn’t fully understand, but they had waited a long time with the greatest of anticipation. The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world resonated with every ear. To the Jew and Gentile alike there was a need for deliverance and restoration. It was the Messiah who had been promised. Now he was here. It was more real because Jesus was now an adult. There would be great joy in the land because it was a new day and a new way. Be a child again and live in the spiritual moment and hear the words again, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Don’t fast forward in the story and focus on all the questions and misconceptions. To truly experience Advent and Christmas you need to live in this moment like a child. See that baby in a manger as if you’ve never seen him before. With giddish anticipation and great expectation welcome him into your life. He comes today like he did the day John announced it to the crowd. He comes today like that morning in a manger. Let’s receive him as if it is the first time to hear the words, “A baby is born. The Lamb of God.”

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, we run to the Messiah with open arms to welcome him. We desire to live our life forever with this fresh, new welcome. Every day. Do not let our relationship grow old and our faith grow weak. May we always run to him and receive restoration and the spirit of the living God within us. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

 

Pray the Lord’s Prayer today. And every day. 

Thursday, December 14, 2023

Today’s Reading - John 1:19-28

 

Verse

 

22 Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’” - John 1:22-23

 

Meditation

 

In preparation for Jesus beginning his public ministry, John spent time explaining who he was not. We’ve done that before after being accused of doing something or being somebody we are not. John had to be clear that he was not Christ. He also made it very clear using the words of Isaiah that he was preparing the way for the Lord to come. He concluded by saying prepare the way for him to come. John described the preparation in a way that resonates with our spirit during this season of Christmas. He said make straight the way for the Lord. In other words, make it the shortest and easiest pathway for him to come which implies, remove the obstacles, get rid of all the hindrances. Now John is speaking to us. We must be honest about our pathway for Christ to daily come into our life, to come with newness of meaning in just a few days when we celebrate his birth. John’s call for making the path straight for Christ to come was thirty years after he was born but it applies to us right now if we want to truly claim the meaning of Christ’s birth. Anything of value takes time and effort. If we walk through this Christmas season with any intent of the message adding value to our life, we have to take time and make the effort. One thing we need to do is pause and consider how straight our pathway is for Christ to be born into our life in a new and exciting way. The other option is we let the season pass and it’s just the same ole same ole. What a shame that would be! Clear the path. Remove the obstacles. Make time in your schedule and make the effort to prepare your heart for Christ. Make it easy for Him to come in his fullness.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, search our hearts to its very depth. Cause us to pause our life for the sake of the coming of the newborn King. Reveal to us the obstacles or hindrances that will make it difficult for us to fully embrace Christ who came for us. May our paths be made straight in the desert places of our life. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

 

 

 

Pray the Lord’s Prayer today. And every day.

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Today’s Reading - John 1:101-18

 

Verse

 

16 From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. - John 1:16-17

 

Meditation

 

Every time I read the word fullness in the context of describing the measure in which I can experience some part of God in my relationship with him, I get excited and pay close attention. Fullness. All of it. Whether it be the love of God, the mercy and forgiveness of God, just the fullness of God himself, or the fullness of his grace that comes through Jesus Christ, we need to be keenly aware of what is being said. There is nothing more fundamental to the understanding of our faith than grace, those gifts from God which are given out of the goodness of his heart. To know we are under the umbrella of the fullness of grace is almost impossible to comprehend. Wrapped up in the Christmas story is that grace was born in a manger and we experience the fullness of grace. Walking alongside grace is truth. It was born in the manger as well. It is truth which puts boundaries on our mind and heart to give guidance to our life. It is truth which prevents us from cheapening grace to the point we have no boundaries. We will experience the fullness of God, whether it be his forgiveness, his love, or his grace, to greater measure when we live within the boundaries of truth. A right understanding of grace and truth will open the floodgates of one blessing after another after another being poured into our life. Our tendency is to hold onto grace with all our strength and occasionally hold truth like walking on eggshells. Both were born that first Christmas morning and receiving the fullness of grace is directly related to living within the boundaries of truth. Don’t miss out on the fullness of grace, one blessing after another, because you don’t like the truth.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, we rejoice that you loved us to the point of sending Jesus Christ to give great grace and show us the truth. Forgive us for embracing grace and ignoring truth. Let us live joyfully knowing that we are receiving one blessing after another because of the fullness of your grace and we give you thanks. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

 

 

Pray the Lord’s Prayer today. And every day.

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Today’s Reading - John 1:1-9

 

Verse

 

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. - John 1:1-2

 

Meditation

 

We turn the corner from prophecy to gospel and we begin with John’s account of the birth narrative which in itself is prophetic in nature. John does not give us the details of the birth like other writers but chose a theological explanation. With verse one and two he began with a profound understanding of who Jesus is. A concept that would rock the religious world. Jesus is God. Not just now but from the beginning. It is one of the most discussed theological principles and one of the hardest to grasp. Central to our understanding of the power and presence of Jesus Christ is the Trinity. Father. Son. Holy Spirit. All one. What is incredibly unique about Jesus, the Son, is that he is both divine and human at the same time. Exhibiting both character traits together. He was fully human, without sin, and fully divine, bearing the character of the Most High. It’s incomprehensible to the human mind but part of the uniqueness that makes him who he is. It is the mystery that makes Jesus the Messiah. It is the miracle that God performed for each of us. Jesus is fully God with us, fully understands us, and can fully reconcile us to the King of Kings. He is bringing us to himself. Glory to the King!  

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, we welcome Jesus the Messiah, holy one from above, come to us in the glory of your divinity and the simpleness of your humanity. Be with us, do a work in us, show forth your glory through us. May your kingdom come and your will be done. In the precious and powerful name of Jesus’ we pray. Amen.

  

 

Pray the Lord’s Prayer today. And every day.

Monday, December 11, 2023

Today’s Reading - Micah 5:1-5

 

Verse

 

2 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” . . . 4 He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth. - Micah 5:2, 4

 

Meditation

 

We have taken a brief tour of the prophecies about the birth of Jesus and we conclude with Micah who drives home some very important points. He spoke of the humble birth by framing the birthplace to be among the smallest of the clans of Judah. Then Micah speaks of the strength and greatness and majesty of the one to come and yet the humble role of a shepherd Jesus will embrace. If the people listening to Micah’s prophetic voice in real time paid close attention to the last words of verse four, they would have been stunned. The ends of the earth would have included people that had zero relationship with or connection to Abraham in their minds. It would include me and you for which we are grateful. Micah makes a very pointed statement about Jesus coming for all people and this would have taken the breath away from the hearer. It causes us to rejoice and be glad in it. Remember it took Peter until the events found in Acts 10 to truly understand that Jesus came for Jews and Gentiles alike. And for Jews and Gentiles alike Jesus came in the humblest of circumstances to rule with strength and majestic wonder and to be great among all people. Yet, he will do it like a shepherd tending his flock, as our caregiver, as a loving father, and as the giver of peace and love and joy. We are acquainted with the image of Jesus being the lion and the lamb and the opposite nature of those two animals. The same applies here. For Jesus to come in majesty with strength and greatness and rule like a shepherd is a role that can truly reach the ends of the earth. And include me and you.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, thank you for sending your Son who embraces an image of strength and humility at the same time. We need both. We need love and comfort and we need discipline. We need to be fed and we need to rest in peace. We need to be brought back to the flock on occasion. We rejoice in the Son you sent us. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

  

 

Pray the Lord’s Prayer today. And every day.

Saturday, December 9, 2023

Today’s Reading - Isaiah 40:1-11

 

Verse

 

1 Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. . . . 11 He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young. - Isaiah 40:1, 11

 

Meditation

 

Of all the themes and metaphors that surface related to the birth of Jesus, one that we all certainly resonate with is that He came to be a shepherd. Then one day he announced he was the Good Shepherd. Out of that image comes the theme of comfort. No one is immune from needing comfort, whether on a daily basis because of a raw heartache or when an unexpected situation or crisis arises. There are many images that can be used to describe comfort, but maybe none better than that of a shepherd. This particular prophecy begins with a cry for comfort then speaks to the entire life of Jesus all the way to the cross and ends with this metaphor of a shepherd who provides all things for his sheep, including comfort. A powerful and effective expression of comfort is being held which we most identify with as a parent holds a child in their arms. Jesus came as the great comforter and it began when God called a shepherd out of the field to be king and then announced the King would come to comfort like a shepherd. Jesus announced at the end of his life that he would be with us forever by sending us a Comforter. Very few things could be as comforting as knowing Jesus holds us close to his heart and leads us through the perils of life. Of all the needs we have as children of God, comfort might be at the top of the list. Jesus is coming for many reasons, one being quite important, to comfort those who need comforting. Allow the Good Shepherd to hold you in his arms close to his heart when your heart aches and seems to be crushing your soul.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, yes indeed, we need you to hold us close to your heart and comfort us with the words and strength that only you have. When life spirals, you comfort and bring calm in the midst of chaos and crisis. Help us to feel and experience the embrace of your arms and comfort around our life. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

 

Pray the Lord’s Prayer today. And every day.

Friday, December 8, 2023

Today’s Reading - Isaiah 11

 

Verse

 

10 In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious. 11 In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the surviving remnant of his people . . . Isaiah 11:10-11

 

Meditation

 

One of the themes occasionally addressed during the Advent season is the second coming of Christ. The obvious theme is to dwell on his first coming and how Christ might be born into our present reality. But there are verses like this one and others that at the same time we are focusing on his first coming we must acknowledge the reality of his second coming. Honestly, most people would prefer not mentioning the second coming because of its finality and Christmas is all about the beginning. And honestly, I rarely do. But on this sixth day of Advent, let us spend a moment or two thinking forward, thinking on that day when Christ will come a second time and gather his remnant. Because in fact it will be a beginning as well, the beginning of the new heaven and the new earth. There are so many questions about it that cannot be answered and it leaves us wondering about the details. But here is one thing I know for certain. I want to be included among the remnant and if I do, I will prepare for that day with the same passion I prepare for his first coming, that day we call Christmas. Much effort is put forth by preachers and Sunday School teachers to encourage people not to miss Christmas and its message. I want to encourage you this day not to miss Christ’s second coming. May our hearts be found right with the Lord today.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, grant us grace as we not only prepare for the celebration of your first coming but also as we seek to be ready for your second coming. Forgive us for not seeking you with our whole heart. Give us passion to seek and to live and to serve. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

 

 

Pray the Lord’s Prayer today. And every day.

Thursday, December 7, 2023

Today’s Reading - Isaiah 9:1-7

 

Verse

 

6 . . . And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. - Isaiah 9:6

 

Meditation

 

You might be singing a song in your mind right now. This verse is so familiar and so much has been written and sung about this verse. Of all the prophecies about the birth of Jesus, we remember this one. These four descriptive terms speak volumes about the nature of who Jesus will be to his people. You know that in the Hebrew culture when a name is given to a baby it is more than just a name, it reflects who that child is and the character of the child. When God spoke through Isaiah these words and the names came forth, people listened because they knew who the Messiah would be. Take the names without the adjectives and they are powerful in themselves. Counselor. God. Father. Peace. Add the adjectives and you have an understanding of the Christ child, the Savior, the Messiah, which is elevated above all human comprehension. An understanding which should leave us in awe. Just consider the many times in one day alone where you needed God to relate to you as a counselor, or as a God with great might, or just your father, or the one who brings peace in the midst of chaos. Yep, your list is probably as inclusive as mine. All four intersect my life most every day. The beauty of the Child is found in many ways, including His name. Live today in the power and authority and assurance of his name. If it is prophesied, it is promised, and God faithfully fills every promise. Wonderful Counselor. Mighty God. Everlasting Father. Prince of Peace.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, we call on all of who Christ is as you prophesied through Isaiah to join with us today in the various directions our day will take. May we recognize your presence in our heart as we deal with what lies ahead. Forgive us for handling things on our own when you are right by our side. We celebrate the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace. Be all these in us today. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

 

Pray the Lord’s Prayer today. And every day.

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Today’s Reading - Isaiah 7:1-17

 

Verse

 

10 Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, 11 “Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.” 12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test.” 13 Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. - Isaiah 7:10-14

 

Meditation

 

They needed a sign. We need signs. We get lost without signs. GPS on our phones is the new road signs. We need signs when making decisions. We need confirmation we are making the right decision. We need spiritual signs as well. Ahaz, the King of Judah, needed a sign on behalf of his people and the people of Israel. The two nations had joined forces and fought unsuccessfully to try and regain Jerusalem. Then Ahaz got word that there was a plan to destroy Judah. The Lord told him it wasn’t going to happen and to stand firm. The Lord told Ahaz to ask for a sign, Ahaz refused to ask, too fearful to test God, and yet God gave him a sign. A son. A child born to a virgin would be born and his name will be Immanuel. The very meaning of the name and the brief description of Immanuel choosing right and wrong describes a prophet sign Judah was not looking for. It was not the sign they wanted but it was the one they got. I doubt there is one person reading this that hasn’t cried out to God for a sign. When in a crisis we have cried out for a sign that things will get better. When we are making decisions when there is not a clear answer, we have cried out for help in choosing. When we have been faced with choosing between good and good, we have asked for a sign to lead us to the best decision. Steps of faith to deepen our relationship with Jesus often requires hard choices and we need a sign. As we celebrate the birth of Christ this year, let’s seek the deep meaning that Ahaz heard and was probably stunned when he heard it. Maybe as you seek the deep meaning you need a sign. Don’t see it as testing God, see it as invoking the heart of God to show you what he wants to show you that will lead to that deeper relationship. I believe God loves us so much he will joyfully point us to a sign that will give new direction to our life.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, we ask you not to test you but to seek your guidance this Christmas so that we might see the meaning of Christ’s birth new and afresh. Show us the way to a deeper relationship with you, a deeper walk of faith in all areas of our life, or maybe a sign to give assurance in a crisis. We ask for whatever we need. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

 

Pray the Lord’s Prayer today. And every day. 

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Today’s Reading - Jeremiah 23:1-18

 

Verse

 

5 “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. 6 In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The Lord Our Righteous Savior.” - Jeremiah 23:5-6

 

Meditation

 

In a world with the inability to communicate other than verbally, Jeremiah and Isaiah must have talked, or word spread incredibly fast, or God spoke the same word about a Branch into each prophet’s heart because it is so important. I chose this prophecy first because it helped them and helps us understand the nature of the Messiah. The focus is on righteousness and not military might! The King who is coming will be righteous and it is by that name he will be called. The Hebrew for “The Lord Our Righteous Savior” is Yahweh Tsidkenu. The name includes the most holy of all the names, Yahweh, and then a word which means justified, holy, and straight. What that meant for Jesus, the King who is coming, is found right there in the text. He will be wise and relate to us as a just king doing what is right. We often want a prejudiced king or a fair king or a Santa Claus king. But Jesus is a king who ruled and reigned with wisdom, favoring justice and doing what was right regardless of other opinions. This is what we should really want because He would be too much like us if he showed favoritism or gave us everything we wanted. Jesus was not only that King but he wants us to be that follower. He imparts righteousness into us in order for us to be righteousness in the world. We are made righteous to be the fragrance of Christ in the world.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, as you are born anew into us today may we come face to face with the opportunity to be true righteousness in the world. May we follow in your footsteps of wisdom and justice and righteousness. Guide us in each of these moments. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

 

Pray the Lord’s Prayer today. And every day.

Monday, December 4, 2023

Today’s Reading - Psalm 24

 

Verse

 

7 Lift up your heads, you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. 8 Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. 9 Lift up your heads, you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. 10 Who is he, this King of glory? The Lord Almighty—he is the King of glory. - Psalm 24:7-10

 

Meditation

 

When David wrote this, he knew. His people didn’t, but he knew. David knew that the Messiah would come to conquer the greatest spiritual battle we will face. His people thought they knew the Messiah would come to restore Israel to its rightful place of glory. David knew, but it would take his people many years to fully understand, even after the Messiah came. We have begun the season of Advent. Yesterday was the first Sunday of Advent, focusing on the hope and expectation found in the birth of Christ. What a wonderful time of the year in so many ways, especially as we capture the relevant meaning of Christ’s birth in our life right now. David is reminding us that in this season of Advent, we must make a way for Christ to come into our life, the King of Glory, who comes again, mighty and strong to fight for us. It is easy to get distracted and busy and not lift the gates of our heart and let Christ in. David deemed it important enough to emphasize how necessary it is as he repeated it in just a short few verses. We each come to this season of Advent and Christmas with a unique need for Christ to be born into our life. Most likely we have a sturdy gate surrounding that need which needs to be lifted in order to let Christ in. But we are hesitant to open the door to our heart because we don’t have time or we don’t know what might happen if we do. The King of Glory cannot be strong and mighty for you unless we let him and open the gate for him to walk through. The gates people would have thought of when reading this psalm were the gates which fortified a city. They were huge and took many men to open them. Your heart only needs one person to open it and let Christ in. It is a wonderful time of year to allow Christ to be strong and mighty on your behalf and your unique need for a Savior. Open the gate.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, in the midst of our resistance we open the heavy gate of our heart and let the Lord Almighty, the King of Glory, come in. We give you our battles we face and pray that through your might and strength those battles will be defeated. We declare no weapon formed against us will prosper because you are the King of Glory who came and comes again. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

 

 

Pray the Lord’s Prayer today. And every day.

Friday, December 1, 2023

Today’s Reading - Psalm 107

 

Verse

 

8 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love

   and his wonderful deeds for mankind,

9 for he satisfies the thirsty

   and fills the hungry with good things. - Psalm 107:8-9

 

Meditation

 

As they say, short and sweet and to the point. There are several things in these two short verses to be thankful for. The Lord’s unfailing love, his wonderful deeds, and he satisfies and fills. I want to focus on his unfailing love as we close out this month of focus on giving thanks. Because we daily live in the reality of our humanity, we give people reasons not to love us. It is painful and often hard to reconcile. In our understanding of human nature, we are not perfect and sin creeps into our life. When that happens, we realize that sin breaks the heart of God and in our mind, gives Him reason not to love us. The good news this morning, without much ado, is we cannot break the heart of God to the point He does not love us. I lift up this passage from Psalm 107 where the Psalmist specifically calls on people to give thanks for God’s unfailing love, but this truth is found throughout scripture. The very basis for the concept of grace is his unfailing love. Regardless of what we think in our minds, God will always love us and extend his arms of compassion to us. I leave you with the powerful thought this morning. God’s love for each and every person never fails!

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, all we can say is thank you for always loving us, even when it appears we have given you a perfect reason not to. Thank you that your love never fails when our love does. May we live this day and every day to come with the assurance that you love us. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

 

 

Pray the Lord’s Prayer today. And every day.

Thursday, November 30, 2023

Today’s Reading - Hebrews 13

 

Verse

 

15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. 16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. - Hebrews 13:15-16

 

Meditation

 

In this final chapter, the author randomly exhorts the readers on several subjects. As you read all the different exhortations these two might seem the least daunting of them all until we notice the word sacrifice is used in both. Remember, this book was written to a predominantly Jewish audience helping them remain faithful to following Christ. To the target audience, the use of the word sacrifice elevates the importance beyond a cursory thanks and doing good to the core of what it meant to faithfully worship Yahweh and being submissive and obedient. Offering thanks and praise, doing good and sharing with others now becomes a very serious spiritual matter, not something we do in passing or because it makes us feel better. For those who had an understanding that pleasing God meant obedience to the law and properly offering sacrifices, these verses struck at their heart and would never be taken lightly. The author also exhorts us to continually do these things. We say that often during this season that the idea of giving thanks should not be a day or season of the year, but an integral part of our character. So yes, let us continually give thanks and praise by openly professing the name of Jesus. Let us continually do good and share with others. And let’s do these things as a sacrificial act, as if we are offering something to God himself. Rewind back to the opening words of these verses. The exhortation is not to be a legalistic practice we are most likely to do poorly over time, it is to be an act of Jesus Christ leading and guiding and becoming the centerpiece of praise and good works. When we offer praise and do good through Christ, it will indeed be pleasing to God as he receives our sacrifice.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, receive our sacrifice of praise and lead us to the places where doing good and sharing with others is a natural outflow of our relationship with you. We seek Jesus to lead us as we offer our sacrifices. May you be pleased in every way and may people see the light of Christ in all we do. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

 

 

Pray the Lord’s Prayer today. And every day.

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Today’s Reading - Philippians 4

 

Verse

 

4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. - Philippians 4:4-7

 

Meditation

 

Consider the source. We use that phrase when we want to add value to information being shared or to question the accuracy of the information. We need to consider the source when tucked right in the middle of Paul’s admonition to rejoice always and not be anxious about anything, he says bring your requests to God with thanksgiving. The person who might have more jail time than any first century person is pairing thanksgiving with a seemingly difficult request. I don’t think he is being impractical or simply theoretical, I believe he is speaking out of his own experience of hardship to help us correctly frame our heart and mind. Thanksgiving is the key to the peace of heart and mind which he says will be the result of coming to God with a thankful heart. Our lives cannot be separated from the goodness of God and we should not lose sight of it regardless of the situation we are facing. Anytime we pause and give thanks it has a calming effect and gentleness becomes evident. It helps us realize the Lord is in fact always near. We tend to look at these four verses as four separate and distinct principles that Paul randomly strung together. I believe it is one principle connected with the concept of thanksgiving. Paul in his typical writing style didn’t put it in correct order for us to understand the connection of the verses, but thanksgiving allows all the other concepts to fit together. A thankful heart and mind allows so many other things to be manifested in our life like rejoicing, gentleness, calm and peace. Give it a try. Consider the source sitting in jail speaking these words.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, in the midst of whatever is going on in our life today, we pause to give your thanks for your goodness and for the assurance that you have an answer to every request we bring before you. We face our own emotional and situational jail time, but in spite of that we give you thanks for your goodness. We seek gentleness, calm and peace to come forth in our life today. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

 

Pray the Lord’s Prayer today. And every day.

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Today’s Reading - Revelation 7

 

Verse

 

11 All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying:

 

“Amen! Praise and glory

and wisdom and thanks and honor

and power and strength

be to our God for ever and ever.

Amen!” - Revelation 7:11-12

 

Meditation

 

Of all the words we could use to express our feelings toward God or our love for Him, the angels chose seven and John recorded them for us. Thanks was among the words chosen. Sometimes there are no words that are adequate. Sometimes you have to list several like we read today and hopefully the string of words capture the thoughts running through your mind and the emotions of your heart. We can be thankful for many things in a horizontal perspective, things of this world, but there are times when our only focus needs to be vertical, toward the heavens, toward the glory of God. And in those moments, there are not enough words or phrases which are truly adequate to express our thanks, but remember the angels, bowing before Him on the throne, considered it important enough to include thanks among the seven they chose. As the angels worshiped their heart was moved to include in their expression of worship that it was important to point toward a lifetime of worshipful expression. To say these words one time was not enough in their mind, they looked beyond the moment and offered these words to be unto God for ever and ever. It might be that the words of the angels are perfect for you and I invite you to pause during the day and just repeat verse twelve several times. You might think of words which express your heart of thanks and praise in more meaningful ways. Use them. Today, let’s give glory to God in a way which expresses the thoughts of our mind and the emotions of our heart. And include thanks.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, we bow before you today in a posture of worship and join with the angels before your throne and simply say, Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. And Amen again. We worship you forever and ever with hearts of gratitude. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

 

Pray the Lord’s Prayer today. And every day.

Monday, November 27, 2023

Today’s Reading - Psalm 35

 

Verse

 

15 I will give you thanks in the great assembly; among throngs of people I will praise you. - Psalm 35:15

 

Meditation

 

King David was a leader among leaders as we say. Some people naturally gain respect and have authority and they can determine the emotional atmosphere in almost any gathering of people. They are able to influence outcomes. I believe David was one of those people. A leader among leaders who is widely respected will leverage their influence for the good of all people. In spiritual terms, as followers of Christ, we want to leverage our influence for good and not evil. You might not consider yourself a leader among leaders, but you can leverage your influence for good and not evil and you might be quite surprised at how often you can determine the atmosphere or mood among a group of people. You have experienced what I am talking about. Let one negative person get into a conversation and the entire conversation turns south and has the possibility of gaining enough momentum so that all the conversations have a negative tone about them. David took advantage of his influence and gave thanks and praise during the assembly of people, among a great host of people. We have biblical accounts of David doing this at other times. The context of this psalm is David pleading to God for help in the midst of His seemingly absent presence against his enemies and to overcome his distress because of the situation. I’m sure the listeners joined with David in the plea. About half way through this psalm David changes the mode, redirects their thoughts and resets the atmosphere. He paused the thought process to give thanks to the Lord God. I imagine it took great courage in this situation to stop and give thanks and praise to his Lord and King. We can do the same. Have courage among the throngs you find yourself with to influence the direction of the gathering and give testimony to the goodness of God and give thanks. We will be tempted to join the lament of our present situation but we can always pause and give thanks. You will be surprised at the instantaneous difference it makes and you will have been a powerful witness for the sake of our good, good God.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, as we make our way through life give us courage to speak of your goodness and give thanks in situations where the atmosphere needs to change. Give us a measure of influence we don’t realize we have. Give us a simple and clear word of thanks and praise which will penetrate the hearts of those who most need to hear. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

 

 

Pray the Lord’s Prayer today. And every day.

Thursday, November 23, 2023, Thanksgiving Day

Today’s Reading - Psalm 100

 

Verse

 

1 Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.

2 Worship the Lord with gladness;

   come before him with joyful songs.

3 Know that the Lord is God.

   It is he who made us, and we are his;

   we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving

   and his courts with praise;

   give thanks to him and praise his name.

5 For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;

   his faithfulness continues through all generations.

 

Meditation

 

The Hymn of Thanksgiving. That’s what I call it because in my mind it is the second most beloved psalm written and the one we read every time we think of giving thanks. Three verses strongly encourage, almost admonish, us to offer praise and thanksgiving to God, and in this case Yahweh, the most holy One. Two verses really hone in on why, verses three and five. Focus on those two verses and just let them speak to you. Consider the meaning behind the image of being one of his sheep in the pasture of the Great Shepherd. And then live this day, especially this day, and every day in the trust, hope and assurance God is good, his love endures forever and his faithfulness is eternal. It’s a day of praise and thanksgiving. Read the psalm as many times as necessary to allow it to permeate every fiber of your being. You have time. Give thanks to him and praise his name.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, holy One, Yahweh, we enter into your courts, into the throne room of grace, simply to praise your name and give you thanks for being the Great Shepherd and counting us as sheep in your pasture. Even when sheep are being sheep, you are good, you love us in spite of us being sheep, and you will faithfully be graceful and merciful until eternity. For that we give you all our praise and thanksgiving. In Jesus’ holy and precious name we pray. Amen.

 

 

Pray the Lord’s Prayer today. And every day.

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Today’s Reading - Ephesians 3

 

Verse

 

15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. - Ephesians 1:15-17

 

Meditation

 

Sounds familiar I’m sure. Paul made a very similar statement about the believers in Philippi. There must have been a solid core, or maybe a large number, of believers in Ephesus who were joyfully and vibrantly living out their faith in Christ and their love for all of God’s people. He couldn’t stop giving thanks for them! Not only could he not stop giving thanks but he kept asking for more and more and more for the people. More wisdom and revelation so they might be the smartest people on the planet. Wrong. So they might know God, our glorious Father as Paul called him, better and better and better. Put yourself on the receiving side of Paul’s thanks. We should desire to be living our relationship with Christ, our faith, our love for all God’s people, in such a way that those who know us well will be giving thanks and praying that we might have great wisdom and new revelation so that we will know our Father better. I believe there are people in each of our lives that come to mind who are faithful and loving above and beyond the norm that they are worthy of offering a prayer of thanksgiving for them. Just because of their great faith. Just because of their great love. Just because they passionately seek to love Him more. And then we should give thanks for the measure of faith and love that we have, well beyond what we deserve, and pray for the same wisdom and revelation that we might know Him better. We should all desire to be included in the group of faithful and loving Ephesian people who Paul was excited to give thanks for and to continually pray for. Know I am praying prayers of thanksgiving for each one of you today. Obviously not by name, but out of a heart of thanksgiving for you that you would pause and read this devotion. By reading, I know you have deep love for God our Father.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, thank you for blessing us with faith and love that allows us to love you and love others. I give thanks for all those who have great faith in Jesus and love for his people that have crossed my path and those I never will know. I pray that I might desire great wisdom and new revelation to know You better. I pray that all people might be filled with the Spirit today which draws them closer to you. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

 

 

Pray the Lord’s Prayer today. And every day.

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Today’s Reading - Philippians 1

 

Verse

 

3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. - Philippians 1:3-6

 

Meditation

 

We are who we are because the I AM tells us who we are. We’ve met the Author of our story and he’s the great I AM. These two sentences are taken from a song I listen to often. When God authors our story, he puts people in our lives who are part of our story. Paul is giving thanks for the people of Philippi who are part of his story and who have partnered in the gospel with him from the very beginning. There are people in our life who are part of our story in a significant way who deserve thanks. They might have been part of a significant relationship forming, securing a job that has turned into a career, or maybe as quick as a kind word at a critical moment and you might not know their name. Let’s give thanks for all the people in our story, those whose names we know and those we don’t. Then there are people who were partnering in the gospel in some way and they are part of your spiritual story. A Sunday School teacher or small group leader, a pastor, a singer/songwriter you will never meet but penned lyrics to a song which has made a difference, or a person whose vibrant witness was so impactful it changed you. Give thanks for those people who helped write the part of your story which will have eternal impact on your life. And finally, give thanks to the Author of your story. He has promised to finish the work which He began in you the day He spoke the first words of the story you are living out. Paul says so much about the joy of giving thanks in these few verses we need to be mindful of. He was. He prayed for those people and gave thanks for them each and every day. It’s a good thing to do.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, we do give you thanks today for each and every person in our life who has been a part of our story. Some for many years, others for just an instant. Some in practical ways, some in eternal ways. We give you thanks for all of them, names we know and names we don’t. Most of all, we give thanks to you for authoring our story and promising to see it to completion. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

 

Pray the Lord’s Prayer today. And every day.

Monday, November 20, 2023

Today’s Reading - Colossians 3

 

Verse

 

15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. - Colossians 3:15-17

 

Meditation

 

Be at peace in Christ and be thankful. Let the word of Christ permeate your soul as you are an empowered witness in the world and be thankful. Do all things in the name of Christ and be thankful. In the midst of the stress and strain of life, peace is certainly an attribute we long for. When glimpses of peace or seasons of peace and contentment are realized, experienced and enjoyed we have every reason to be thankful. We long for the days when the complexity of life does not blind us to the peace we have in Christ. And for those days we are thankful. It is natural to be thankful when we realize the goodness of God being manifested in our life. Peace. It is slightly different to be thankful as we fulfill the kingdom purpose we all share together of witnessing to the goodness of God. Paul says as we teach and admonish each other do it with a heart of gratitude. That’s a little bit harder. But when we think about being blessed with the word of Christ in our heart and soul and the joy of sharing the word in a wide variety of contexts, we should, and can do that with a heart of gratitude. And we should give thanks for being part of the witnesses God has sent into the world to reach people with the Word. Christ in us. Paul concludes his thoughts by saying whatever we do, whether it is speaking and doing a good deed, do it in Jesus’ name and give thanks. It is as if he thought giving thanks is bigger than just when admonishing one another, I’ll just tell the people in everything they do, do it with a heart of gratitude. All things. Give thanks. It seems Paul wrote these verses with a spirit of calmness and encouragement and you feel good just reading them. Peace. Word. All things. Give thanks.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, we do seek peace in our heart and life at all times and we give you thanks for all the peace we enjoy because Christ dwells in us. May all that we say and do be reflective of a heart of gratitude for being part of your kingdom and the work that is before us. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen. 

 

Pray the Lord’s Prayer today. And every day.

Saturday, November 18, 2023

Today’s Reading - Psalm 9

 

Verse

 

1 I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart;

   I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.

2 I will be glad and rejoice in you;

   I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High. - Psalm 9:1-2

 

Meditation

 

This might feel more like a Bible study assignment than a devotion but here goes. There is significant scholarship which says Psalm 9 and 10 may have originally been a single acrostic poem in which alternating lines began with the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet similar to Psalm 119. This is how it is included in the Septuagint, the original Greek translation of the Old Testament. If you have time, read the two Psalms as one. In reading them both together, you will read a beautiful representation from Israel’s perspective (actually King David’s) of who God is and all that He does and some graphic detail of wicked humanity. It would take a little time but it’s Saturday so you might have some extra time today to read Psalms 9 and 10 and think in terms of your perspective today which means taking the specific details of David’s descriptions and thinking how the details apply in principle to your life. God is the same God yesterday, today, and forever, therefore, who God is and what God does in principle has not changed. Here are a few examples. God still reigns forever, he turns back our enemies, he will judge in righteousness and govern with justice, and he has never forsaken his people. The wickedness of humanity has not changed in principle. Because of this, we can pause today and take a few minutes to simply praise Him with all of our heart and rejoice and be glad that He has not changed. I need to give you a heads up. Attempting this exercise might lead you to an understanding of God that is not exactly like your current concept of God. Regardless of the outcome and the questions which might arise, live into the simplicity and beauty of the two verses above. They are our prayer today and feel free to expand it and express it in your own way.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father,

 

I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart;

   I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.

I will be glad and rejoice in you;

   I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High. In Jesus’ mighty name. Amen.

 

Pray the Lord’s Prayer today. And every day. 

Friday, November 17, 2023

Today’s Reading - Colossians 1

 

Verse

 

10 And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. - Colossians 1:10-12

 

Meditation

 

It is easy to get the impression that Paul really likes how the church in Colosse has turned out and the people have really grown in their relationship with Christ. The opening verses of the book are rich with affirmation and encouragement of their life and faith. Paul gives thanks for their faithfulness because of the eternal value of sharing in the inheritance of the kingdom. When he wrote to the church in Rome, he said to rejoice with those who rejoice. It seems he is doing this. Even though he was a recipient of the inheritance, his thanks in this instance was clearly directed to the people of the church and their faith. We need to be mindful of not only thanking God for what he is doing in our life, but give thanks for how God is working in others, our family, our friends, especially around the areas of their relationship with Jesus and their faithful walk. Our intentionality to give thanks for what God is doing which doesn’t directly involve us is a healthy way to turn our focus outward and not become self-centered in our thinking which then impacts our living. It’s not choosing to do one or the other, we should never neglect giving thanks for what God is doing in our life, but we should not forget to rejoice with those who rejoice, especially when it involves kingdom inheritance matters. We should shout hallelujah but giving thanks is a great place to start.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, we give you thanks for all those in our circle who are qualified to share in the kingdom inheritance. We thank you for the gift of salvation in our own life and in others as well. We give thanks beyond ourselves as an act of surrender which allows us to look to others. We give thanks for the salvation of the many people we love and count as friends. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

 

Pray the Lord’s Prayer today. And every day.

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Today’s Reading - Revelation 4

 

Verse

 

9 Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say:

 

11 “You are worthy, our Lord and God,

   to receive glory and honor and power,

for you created all things,

   and by your will they were created

   and have their being.” - Revelation 4:9-11

 

Meditation

 

There will be thanks-giving in heaven. Not a holiday, but an act of worship. It will be part of worship in the presence of the Almighty. Everybody will be participating in this glorious moment of awe because of who He is. We will join the masses, the living creatures, the elders who lay down their crowns, and give thanks. We are who we are because of who He is. Our Lord and God has engrafted in us his very being as he created us in his image. He is worthy to receive honor and glory and power and we will stand in his presence and worship him who will live for ever and ever with a heart of gratitude. Imagine that scene for a minute in the presence of a Holy God and participating in true worship of Him who sits on the throne. Forget the details, savor the moment in His presence. Just his presence. We should get a glimpse of that moment in our moments of worship now in our present life as we gather and worship in houses of worship, prayer closets and quiet spaces instead of heaven. So let’s practice today. Find a quiet place and let verse 11 guide your thoughts as we give thanks for His worthiness. Imagine yourself worshiping before the throne of God and in your own way give him glory, honor and thanks. In fact, make it a prayerful offering to Him.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.” In Jesus’ name we pray and offer thanks. Amen.

 

Pray the Lord’s Prayer today. And every day.

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Today’s Reading - 2 Corinthians 9

 

Verse

 

14 And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. 15 Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! - 2 Corinthians 9:14-15

 

Meditation

 

On the three most important days of the Christian year, Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost, we read the story of Christ’s birth, his resurrection, and the coming of the Holy Spirit because there is a biblical event related to the day. Thanksgiving is not a Christian holiday and there is no biblical event associated with the day, but we could make a solid argument there is nothing more important that we should be thankful for than our salvation we receive through grace by faith in the gift of Jesus Christ! I can always add it as an additional reading on Thanksgiving Day to go along with Psalm 100. As retail stores annually do, they usher in the gift giving season long before we have time to focus on giving thanks. Many people have already started thinking about the perfect gift for certain people in their life. For others, it is not as important. God had the perfect gift for humanity and Paul described it as indescribable. He is exactly right! There is really no way we can adequately describe the gift of Jesus Christ for the salvation of all who choose to believe in him. A gift we didn’t deserve, couldn’t earn, will never have to repay in any way, and was given unconditionally. It is truly a gift that is beyond description to capture the depth of meaning. No human terms or concepts are adequate because we really don’t have the capacity to relate to the nature of the gift. We know lots about the gift, but will never truly describe it. That being the case, let’s focus on what we can do and that is give thanks to the very best of our understanding from the deepest place in our heart. On this day, give thanks for the perfect gift, the gift of salvation.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, we don’t really know how but we reach into the depths of our heart and soul and give you thanks for sending your one and only Son to offer us salvation and eternal life. We can’t describe the gift and we confess we don’t adequately know how to express thanks but we give thanks with all our being and understanding. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

 

Pray the Lord’s Prayer today. And every day.

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Today’s Reading - 2 Corinthians 2

 

Verse

 

 14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. - 2 Corinthians 2:14-15

 

Meditation

 

Giving thanks comes to us most naturally when we receive something and we want to say thank you. Paul reminds us we should be thankful because of what we get to participate in as followers of Christ. He uses an interesting metaphor to describe our role. We are to be the aroma of Christ in the world. It’s a sensory metaphor which makes it all the more impactful. Smells can affect us in many different ways. From the best to the worst smell or somewhere in between. Bakery items, grilled meat, perfumes and candles seem to be the most common smells which people enjoy the most. I’ll not name the smells beyond rotten food which are under the category of worst smells. Paul goes on to say the aroma is both. To some the aroma is the smell of death and to others the smell of life. Remember he is talking in spiritual terms and he is correct in his description. Don’t read this literally. To those who are not following Christ, the aroma of Christ is unpleasant to say the least. For those following Christ, it is indeed a smell of life, new life, life more abundantly, eternal life. It becomes the best aroma which brings out the best of our sense of smell. There are several ways to consider the value of giving thanks for the privilege of being the aroma of Christ everywhere we are. First and foremost, we give thanks because Christ is in us and has saved us. Then we have the privilege of participating in the most important kingdom work of being the conduit of Christ to others. We have the opportunity to be used by God so that Christ can permeate the heart and soul of unbelievers and forever change their life so that the aroma of Christ is pleasing to them. Paul’s word to us is also a word of warning. Not everyone will think the aroma is the best aroma since a sliced piece of fresh bread. Some will demean and reject the aroma. Stay the course. Continue to be the fragrance of Christ regardless of its perceived goodness or lack thereof. Give thanks for Christ being in you and give thanks you represent Christ in the world.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, we pray that we will be an aroma which is pleasing to you and permeates the world with the aroma of Christ. Let us take advantage of every opportunity we have to be the aroma, known or unknown. Guide our thoughts and minds today to be the best likeness of Christ we can be. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Pray the Lord’s Prayer today. And every day.

Monday, November 13, 2023

Today’s Reading - Romans 1

 

Verse

 

21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. - Romans 1:21-23

 

Meditation

 

Focusing on the negative consequences of our behavior is rarely popular but can be helpful as an occasional word of warning. As Paul is describing the situation with the church in Rome, he first stated the believers knew better. We can all remember as children it was one thing to get in trouble, it was even worse when the words “you knew better” followed the accusation. We knew the punishment was going to be more severe than if we could plead that we had no clue our actions were wrong. What we learn is that the failure to give thanks was catastrophic to the people of the church. When we take our eyes of Jesus our thinking becomes stinking as some say. And the list of consequences comes one after another in the text until we reach the most convicting words Paul wrote, “God gave them over.” One thing caused another until God had given them over to sin and deceit and horrible living three different times. It all started with the people as a whole not glorifying God or giving him thanks. I can assure you we never want God to give us over to anything negative. We want God’s love, grace and mercy to receive power and favor and blessing. We want God to give us over to the greater things of his kingdom and it seems from the text that glorifying him in all things and not overlooking giving thanks is a key element in being part of those greater things. Don’t get trapped by a negative spirit and bypass giving thanks. The consequences of shameful behavior are real. We know better!

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, forgive us when we have failed to do the simple things like giving thanks. Help us always be mindful to keep our eyes on the glory of the kingdom and your goodness and give you thanks and praise. Steer us away from a negative spirit which leads to trouble and heartache. Let us focus on Jesus and his righteousness. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

 

Pray the Lord’s Prayer today. And every day.

Saturday, November 11, 2023

On this Veteran's Day, be mindful to pray and give thanks for veterans who are no longer active, those presently serving our country, and in light of today's devotion, give thanks for those who will serve in the future who aren't currently serving.

 

Today’s Reading - Daniel 6

 

Verse

 

10 Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. 11 Then these men went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help. - Daniel 6:10-11

 

Meditation

 

Daniel found himself in another crisis situation. The king issued an edict threatening to throw anyone in the lion’s den if they prayed to any other god but his. Daniel did what he always did, prayed three times a day giving thanks to his God and was found asking God for help. His pattern of praying included giving thanks to his God as he sought the help of the Lord. As we look back on Daniel’s challenges, first the training plan, several dream interpretations, the fiery furnace, and now the lion’s den, we would expect his continual trust in God. When brought out of the den, not a wound was found on Daniel because of his obedience and innocence, both to Yahweh and the king. As we learn about the prayer patterns of the Israelites, and Daniel exemplifies this, they most often first gave thanks for all God had done in the past and then proceeded with the current need before them. It was a daily part of their prayer routine to give thanks and this would begin by expressing a heart of thankfulness for all God had done to that point. It is a pattern worth duplicating during this season we focus on giving thanks. When we seek the Lord’s activity in our life in any situation, let’s be mindful to give thanks for the ways we have seen God work in our life in similar situations and then give thanks for ways realized and unrealized beyond our present context. It is not necessary to recall every single incident, but be mindful of those God brings to your recollection and give thanks. This creates a trust in God that guides us to then give him thanks in advance for the help we are presently asking for, knowing that he has been faithful in the past and he will be faithful again. The evidence of our maturity in faith is when we are thankful in two directions, looking in the past and giving thanks for all God has done, and looking into the future and giving thanks for all he is going to do.

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, we have experienced your work in our life in so many different ways when we sought help and when you knew we needed help without asking. We know of your graciousness and love and mercy for us when we were faced with being thrown into a lion’s den and no way of winning the battle. We pause to give you thanks for all those times and give you thanks for future acts of supernatural intervention into our life. We humbly give thanks for who you are and what you do knowing our words of thanks are inadequate. Hear our prayer, O Lord. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

   

 

Pray the Lord’s Prayer today. And every day.

Thursday, November 9, 2023

Today’s Reading - 1 Corinthians 15

 

Verse