Tag Archives: Jesus

Today’s Scripture – June 10, 2019

Acts 13:13-25 (NIV)
From Paphos, Paul and his companions sailed to Perga in Pamphylia, where John left them to return to Jerusalem. From Perga they went on to Pisidian Antioch. On the Sabbath they entered the synagogue and sat down. After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the synagogue rulers sent word to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have a message of encouragement for the people, please speak.”
Standing up, Paul motioned with his hand and said: “Men of Israel and you Gentiles who worship God, listen to me! The God of the people of Israel chose our fathers; he made the people prosper during their stay in Egypt, with mighty power he led them out of that country, he endured their conduct for about forty years in the desert, he overthrew seven nations in Canaan and gave their land to his people as their inheritance. All this took about 450 years.
“After this, God gave them judges until the time of Samuel the prophet. Then the people asked for a king, and he gave them Saul son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin, who ruled forty years. After removing Saul, he made David their king. He testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’
“From this man’s descendants God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus, as he promised. Before the coming of Jesus, John preached repentance and baptism to all the people of Israel. As John was completing his work, he said: ‘Who do you think I am? I am not that one. No, but he is coming after me, whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.’

Paul and company had gone through the major towns of Cyprus, and now were directed to Galatia, a region of central Asia Minor (Modern Turkey) north of Cyprus. Once they hit the mainland, John Mark decided that he wanted to go back to Jerusalem. Luke doesn’t record the reason for John’s change of mind, but Paul was unimpressed with it. Later, when Barnabas wanted to bring John along on another mission trip, Paul refused, resulting in a conflict that was so strong that the pair decided to go their own ways (Acts 15:36-41).

As was his custom, Paul began in the synagogue at Antioch in Pisidia. He didn’t ask to speak, but word of his presence got to the leaders of the synagogue, and they sent word to ask him if he had a message of encouragement for the people. If so, he was offered an opportunity to speak.

Paul began his message with a recap of the history of the Jewish nation. In a few well-chosen sentences, he covered the whole history from Abraham through Jesus, a period of around two thousand years. He hit the following high points:

  • God’s choosing of the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to be his people.
  • The sojourn in Egypt and the exodus enabled by God’s power.
  • The forty years spent in the wilderness, including a not-so-veiled reference to the Israelites’ continuous rebelliousness.
  • The conquest of the Promised Land.
  • The period of the judges, ending with Samuel.
  • The choosing of King Saul, followed by the choosing of King David and the establishment of his dynasty.
  • The revelation of Jesus as the Son of David (the Messiah) and the Savior.
  • A brief flashback to the ministry and prophecy of John the Baptist, as well as his prophecy that Jesus, the Messiah, would follow him.

All this was to lay a solid foundation for the good news that was to follow. The emphasis throughout is God’s work to deliver, preserve, and guide His people through the centuries in order to fulfill his promise to send them Jesus, the great Deliverer, the Messiah.

Father, Paul knew the history of his people well. It would have been very easy for him to let himself get wrapped around the axle, enmeshed in a thousand little details. But he was going somewhere with this recital and never lost sight of his goal in its delivery. The people gathered in the Synagogue, both Jews and God-fearers (verse 16) needed to understand that Jesus was not just some guy who had come forward with a claim to be the Messiah, but that He had sprung from the same roots as they had, that He meshed perfectly into the own history, and that He had fulfilled prophecies about the Messiah. He was clearly the Messiah that the people had been waiting for. Lord, help us, whenever we share the gospel ourselves, to remember Paul and the simplicity, directness and relevance of his presentation. Amen.

If you are enjoying my blog, I invite you to check out my book, When We Listen, A Devotional Commentary on the Gospel of Mark. Just follow this url: http://eagerpress.webstarts.com/ Thanks, and God bless you all!

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Today’s Scripture – May 19, 2019

Acts 10:36-43 (NIV)
“You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached–how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.
“We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen–by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

The gospel had been progressing rapidly all throughout Judea, and Peter assumed that Cornelius and those with him had heard the general outlines of it. So, he determined at the outset to focus on the broad outlines and then respond to questions with fuller teaching.

The first section was the general point that Jesus came to bring the gospel (“good news”) of the possibility of peace with God through Himself and His work, as opposed to such peace only being available to those who were able to devote their lives to studying the whole law of Moses and conforming their lives to every detail. This was especially pertinent to Cornelius, and presumably to his gathered family and friends, who, as God-fearers, still lacked obedience to some parts of the law, specifically with those requiring circumcision in order for them to be brought into the people of God.

The next point was focused on Jesus’ ministry. He had come on the scene toward the close of John the Baptist’s ministry, after He had been filled with the Holy Spirit. And His ministry was typified by spectacular works of power, as well as works of kindness to those in need, including freeing people under spiritual oppression by casting out the demons who had taken them over.

Next in order was Jesus’ murder by crucifixion and his resurrection on the third day. Peter spoke of these two events in the same breath. To him they were a single movement in God’s plan of salvation, and the short space between them, very significant to Peter while he was experiencing it, had shrunk in his own mind into insignificance. Jesus died, and then God had raised Him from the dead; those were the facts. And the reality of the resurrection was attested to by all His followers who had seen and talked with Him, and ate and drank with Him, afterwards.

Finally, Peter’s story reached the present, and the commission that Jesus’ followers had received to share the story of Jesus’ life, ministry, death and resurrection with everyone. This included helping people to understand all that He had accomplished and included His elevation to judge of the living and the dead. All of this was exactly what God had foretold through the prophets for hundreds of years before Jesus had come on the scene. And the bottom line was that belief in Jesus was God’s only path to forgiveness of sins, and the only entrance into the real relationship with God that Cornelius and the others had been searching for and trying to accomplish in their own strength. They had sought God, and God had sent them a man who could share with them the one way that He had devise to find Him.

Father, Your mercy to Cornelius and his whole household is phenomenal. Just as You promised, he sought You with all his heart, and in response, You let Yourself be found. Deuteronomy 4:29) He hungered and thirsted for righteousness, and now he would be filled. (Matthew 5:6) And the message that took him to that point wasn’t long or complicated, but simple, to the point, and based on Peter’s own experience with Jesus. Lord, help me to be as clear and open when I tell others about Jesus, without trying to pad it with theological terminology and high-sounding concepts, so that those who hear can easily see You and receive Jesus. Amen.

If you are enjoying my blog, I invite you to check out my book, When We Listen, A Devotional Commentary on the Gospel of Mark. Just follow this url: http://eagerpress.webstarts.com/ Thanks, and God bless you all!

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Today’s Scripture – May 5, 2019

Acts 10:1-8 (NIV)
At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, “Cornelius!”
Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked.
The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. He is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea.”
When the angel who spoke to him had gone, Cornelius called two of his servants and a devout soldier who was one of his attendants. He told them everything that had happened and sent them to Joppa.

Cornelius was the kind of person known as a God-fearer. He worshiped the same God as the Jewish people, and even observed many of the dietary laws and the moral code of the Scriptures. But in order to become an actual convert to Judaism, the men had to be circumcised, a step that many of the Greeks and Romans in the empire refused to take. In fact, many considered the practice to be barbaric.

But Cornelius’ heart toward God was good, seeking to please Him and praying often. That sincere seeking is ultimately what opened the door to God’s showing Him the way to come into His kingdom.

As he was praying that day, God sent an angelic messenger to him. The message of the angel was quite simple, and was in two parts:

  • God was aware of what he had been doing. His acts of charity, done from a good heart, had risen before the throne of God like incense. And his prayers to know more of God had also been clearly heard and were about to be answered.
  • In order to learn more about God, including how to enter into a real relationship with Him through receiving His Messiah, he needed to send for Simon Peter in Joppa, 35 miles south along the coast. Peter knew that way, and would show it to him.

As soon as the angel disappeared, Cornelius sprang into action. He chose three men to leave immediately for Joppa, two trusted slaves, and a soldier who was a God-fearer himself. He explained everything he had seen and heard and sent them quickly on their way. God had acted; God had spoken. And now it was his turn to obey.

Father, this is a clear testimony to those who claim that all that is necessary to get into a relationship with You is to “live a good life.” If that were the case, You would have had no reason to have Cornelius send for Peter to tell him and his household about Jesus. The only necessary message would have been, “Good job, keep it up.” But You did send him to Peter, because there is no salvation apart from Jesus. And, because Cornelius was intent on having a relationship with You, You put him on that path. Thank You , Lord, for caring about us enough to provide a way for us to really know You through Jesus. Amen.

If you are enjoying my blog, I invite you to check out my book, When We Listen, A Devotional Commentary on the Gospel of Mark. Just follow this url: http://eagerpress.webstarts.com/ Thanks, and God bless you all!

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Today’s Scripture – April 15, 2019

Acts 8:1b-4 (NIV)
On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison.
Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.

A mob mentality caught fire with the murder of Stephen, throwing justice out the window and inspiring instead a relentless bloodlust that fed a relentless season of violence. Some of the followers of Jesus took charge of Stephen’s body to ensure that he was properly buried and mourned.

But the rest of the Church suddenly found themselves public enemies. Their lives were now at risk as devout Jews, with Saul at their head, began a house-to-house search for anyone who would admit to being a follower of Jesus. To ensure that a patina of legality covered the whole affair, the believers weren’t stoned on the spot, but put into prison until their “case” could be heard.

Jesus had told His followers that when persecution broke out against them in one place, they were to flee and go elsewhere (Matthew 10:23). So, the Christians fled Jerusalem and took up residence in other towns in Judea and Samaria, unconsciously moving into phase two of the evangelistic plan that Jesus had laid out for them (Acts 1:8). But the apostles felt led to continue their ministry to the widows who had no means to leave, to encourage those who had been taken captive, and to continue to spread the good news everywhere there was an opportunity. So, they elected to remain in Jerusalem.

A significant note is included in verse four. Far from being intimidated into silence by what had happened to Stephen, far from claiming that evangelism wasn’t their gift, those scattered believers continued to be faithful to Jesus’ command and continued to preach the word, the good news, everywhere they went.

Father, these men and women are great models for us. All around the world today, Christians are suffering for their faith. But even in the midst of their suffering, they continue to be faithful in sharing the good news at every opportunity, just like those first-century Christians. Help me to be faithful today and every day, to continue to share the good news at every opportunity, to let Your light shine through my life no matter what kind of resistance I run into. Help me to be a witness, Lord, in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:2), so that every day and in every way, You can use me to help others to come into Your kingdom. Amen,

If you are enjoying my blog, I invite you to check out my book, When We Listen, A Devotional Commentary on the Gospel of Mark. Just follow this url: http://eagerpress.webstarts.com/ Thanks, and God bless you all!

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Today’s Scripture – April 6, 2019

Acts 7:30-36 (NIV)
“After forty years had passed, an angel appeared to Moses in the flames of a burning bush in the desert near Mount Sinai. When he saw this, he was amazed at the sight. As he went over to look more closely, he heard the Lord’s voice: ‘I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.’ Moses trembled with fear and did not dare to look.
“Then the Lord said to him, ‘Take off your sandals; the place where you are standing is holy ground. I have indeed seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their groaning and have come down to set them free. Now come, I will send you back to Egypt.’
“This is the same Moses whom they had rejected with the words, ‘Who made you ruler and judge?’ He was sent to be their ruler and deliverer by God himself, through the angel who appeared to him in the bush. He led them out of Egypt and did wonders and miraculous signs in Egypt, at the Red Sea and for forty years in the desert.”

It took forty long years from the time Moses fled from Egypt until God was ready to deliver His people through him. God caught his attention with a bush that burned on the slopes of a mountain but was not consumed. And when Moses came over to check it out, God spoke to him and gave him the calling to deliver Israel from their oppressors.

Though Moses was raised as an Egyptian and now lived as a Midianite, God reassured him of who he really was: a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, an heir to the promise given to them, and someone who belonged to God by virtue of ancestry. This was vital for him to both know and communicate, because God would not bring in a deliverer from outside His own people.

Stephen reviewed God’s commissioning of Moses, the direct call to be His chosen deliverer. He also points out the irony that this Moses, who really was the God-sent deliverer, had been outrighted rejected as a deliverer by the Israelites forty years previously.

But now, finally, they would accept him as their leader, and would end up following him all the way through decades of wandering in the wilderness, right up to the edge of the Promised Land. The thing that finally persuaded them was Moses ability to do wonders and miraculous signs in Egypt and for forty years in the desert.

But now the leaders of God’s people had again rejected God’s chosen deliverer, Jesus. And they were even more hardened and resistant than their ancestors had been, because they rejected Jesus despite the wonders and miraculous signs that He had done day after day before their very eyes!

Father, we are often told that cynicism and doubt about You and about things like miracles and the supernatural are a sign of maturity and intellectual sophistication. But history shows that those things are really a sign of depravity, increasing sinfulness and hardness of heart. Lord, we have so many hard-hearted people out there today, many of them in positions of power and authority, and many of them leading people away from the path of life under the rubric of sophistication and intellectualism. But we can only find You, we can only come to You, if we are willing to put aside any pretenses of sophistication and come to You as little children (Mark 10:15). Help me to always enter Your presence like a little child, so that I can fully receive Your love, Your grace and Your guidance. Amen.

If you are enjoying my blog, I invite you to check out my book, When We Listen, A Devotional Commentary on the Gospel of Mark. Just follow this url: http://eagerpress.webstarts.com/ Thanks, and God bless you all!

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Today’s Scripture – March 3, 2019

Acts 4:11-12 (NIV)
“He is ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone’. Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”

Peter had just declared to the whole Sanhedrin that it was through faith in the name of Jesus that the man standing with them, lame from birth, had been completely healed after more than forty years as a cripple. He had gone on to not only accuse the high priests and the whole Sanhedrin of orchestrating the murder of Jesus, but also had accused them of being grossly ineffective, since Jesus had risen from the dead on the third day.

Peter, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, went on to quote Psalm 118:22. Using that passage, He identified Jesus as the rejected stone, and the leaders of the Sanhedrin as the builders who had rejected Him. The problem was that, while the leaders had rejected Jesus, God had accepted Him, and had made Him into the cornerstone of the people of God, the cornerstone being placed first, and thus determining the orientation of the entire structure.

The teachers of the Jewish people taught that Salvation was accomplished through circumcision and obeying the law of Moses, both the Ten Commandments and the other 603 commands spread throughout the first five books of the Bible, the Torah. This, in effect, elevated Moses, making him into a savior through whom people could find God and live as one of His people.

But here was Peter boldly declaring to those firm believers in Moses, that it is Jesus, not Moses, who is the true Savior of all mankind. In fact, being the only begotten Son of God, and the one who not only died for the sins of all humanity, but who also rose from the dead on the third day to show that He had forever defeated both sin and death, Jesus is the ONLY Savior, and His is the only name through which salvation can be experienced and wonders can be performed.

Father, the world recognizes many saviors today. And there are even many people who are determined to act as their own savior through “living a good life” and doing nice things for others. But the truth then is still the truth today: Jesus and He alone is the Messiah, the Savior, the Lord of all. Therefore, there is still no other name or combination of names that can result in salvation. Thank You, Lord, for providing Jesus for us. Amen.

If you are enjoying my blog, I invite you to check out my book, When We Listen, A Devotional Commentary on the Gospel of Mark. Just follow this url: http://eagerpress.webstarts.com/ Thanks, and God bless you all!

 

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Today’s Scripture – February 17, 2019

Acts 3:1-5 (NIV)
One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer–at three in the afternoon. Now a man crippled 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. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.

Peter and John, as well as many of the other people of the Church, went up to the temple to worship and pray several times each day (Acts 2:46). Although they were worshiping alongside other Jewish people, the worship of the Christians was different in substance and focus. While other Jews praised God for the historic deliverance He had brought them in the biblical past, and prayed to God to fulfill the promises He had made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Christians were full of praise for the great contemporary deliverance that He had worked through Jesus, and for the promises that He had now kept to the letter.

The temple courts were located at the top of the mountain on which Jerusalem was built, and were surrounded by a great wall, accessed through several gates. The main gate through which people entered the temple was on the east end toward the Mount of Olives and was called the Beautiful Gate. It was covered with gold and adorned with many precious stones donated by people. It was an impressive way to come into God’s presence.

The gate was immensely popular, so the walkway to it was the favorite place for beggars to sit with their alms bowls. Since it was considered a mitzvah, a good deed done in obedience to God’s commands, to give alms to the poor, it was expected that many of those entering the temple would take the opportunity to drop a coin or two into one or two of the bowls thrust up at them as they neared the gate.

This particular man had been brought to this place by his family every day for many years. He was over forty years old (Acts 4:22) and couldn’t walk. He was well known by those who went frequently to the temple (Acts 3:10). In fact, Jesus Himself had walked past the man several times as He walked through this main gate into the temple over the previous years. Some might wonder why, if Jesus saw Him, He hadn’t already healed him. The simplest answer is twofold: the man didn’t ask to be healed, and it wasn’t yet time. God had reserved this man’s healing to bring glory to Himself at the same time as He used it to give prominence to the apostles and to lend credibility to their testimony.

All was normal during this trip to the temple until Peter and John heard the man’s cry for alms and saw his bowl being held out in their direction. At the same moment, the Holy Spirit spoke to their hearts, indicating that this man was to receive from them, not money, but healing. So, they stopped in their tracks and looked straight at the man. The man’s gaze had already move down the line of approaching people, so Peter called his attention back with a loud, “Look at us.” And as the man’s gaze moved back to them, so did his bowl.

Father, this reemphasizes to me that, as people of the kingdom, none of us are lone rangers simply determining for ourselves what we should do next. Jesus made Himself completely dependent on Your direction (John 5:19) as a model for us, and He taught that same complete dependency to His followers. But that also meant that they had to keep their eyes and ears constantly open to Your leading so that they could respond instantly when You spoke. Help me, Lord, to have that same dependency, that same expectant reliance on your guidance, so that I can do all that You tell me to do immediately. Amen.

If you are enjoying my blog, I invite you to check out my book, When We Listen, A Devotional Commentary on the Gospel of Mark. Just follow this url: http://eagerpress.webstarts.com/ Thanks, and God bless you all!

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