Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Acts 11-12~ Day 50~ God's sovereignty + man's responsibility

There are a couple of things that I just can't figure out, no matter how many times I read through the New Testament.  But, that's OK with me.  It proves God is so much bigger than me and my little brain.  That is the kind of God I want!  One bigger than anything I can figure out, so I can feel safe and secure knowing that he can take care of me and my little issues.

So what are these mysteries?  One is "free will" verses "predestination".  The bottom line on that subject is that the Bible speaks to both God's sovereignty and man's responsibility.  Therefore, to me, the answer is both!  If the Bible speaks to both, both are true.

Today, my reading pointed out the other perplexing issue for me.
I thought it was interesting that Barnabas was sent to Antioch and “when he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encourage them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.“ (Acts 11:23)  Humm... why did Barnabas need to encourage them to remain true?  Could they turn away?  Ahhh, the age old question..."can one lose his/her salvation"?

Most would adamantly argue one can not. I would agree with that, yet because of a multitude of scriptures, I have put it into the category of "God's sovereignty and man's responsibility" working together once again.  A mystery that keeps God, God.
Again, if scripture speaks to both, than both must be true! The Bible speaks to "hold firm to the end", "persevere to the end", "hold on to the end", and "remain true" several times throughout scripture.  (Matt. 10:22, Heb. 3:6,14 and Col 1:23 to name a few).  But it also says God will complete his work, keep you from stumbling and keep you firm (1 Cor. 1:7-9, Phil. 1:6, Jude 1:24).

I LOVE pondering these issues because the mysteries keep me enthralled in my great big, wonderful God who can not be "figured out".

Monday, February 18, 2019

Acts~9-10~ Day 49~Immediate, life changing and growing!

I love reading how Saul got baptized immediately after he could see again – even before eating!!  And, “At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the son of God.” (9:20)
What a great example for us!!  If a conversion is real, why wouldn’t one want to show changes in their life right away?! Paul didn’t slowly change, i.e. “I think I will persecute less Christians every day from now on!” No... his lifestyle changed over night! The same should go for us! We don’t slowly eliminate sin in our life, we do a 360 away from it when we realize who Jesus is! As a result,, for Paul, it was obvious to all who saw him that he had become a follower of Christ. The same should go for us! There should be no doubt in other people’s mind’s who we are following!

I also loved how Saul was so bold! Can you imagine if everyone’s conversion story was immediate and bold like his?  The world would be converted in a matter of days!

The best line of all, for me, in today’s reading was, “Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah.” (9:22) Remember, Saul was already very familiar with the law since he was a Pharisee.  However, I bet after a day of preaching in the synagogue he would go back home, re-read the Scriptures, and get a whole new understanding now that he was reading them with “a new lens”.  This was a great reminder for me. I don’t need to know everything about the Scriptures before I share with others who Jesus is. Yet, I do need to keep reading the Bible so that I can become “more and more powerful” in how to explain and “prove” that Jesus is the Messiah.

Paul’s conversion story is a great example for all people, not just for murders, but for people who think they are pretty good in their own eyes. It was immediate, life changing and growing in knowledge day by day. Lord, help me to be like that!! 

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Acts 7-8~ Day 48~ 2 wrongs don’t make a right.

We are so fortunate to live in America where we can make long speeches with relatively little fear of being killed for our words (although it does seem like our culture is changing ever so subtly in that regard)!
At first read through, it seems that Stephan’s speech is just an oral account of Jewish history, that his audience would have known well.  Why would they get so upset? 
Well, at the very end, he says something that I think provoked down right fear
“Look”, he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:56) 
This very crowd could have been some of the same people who heard Jesus tell the council of religious leaders, “ But from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.” (Luke 22:68) These were the exact words that sealed the deal on the death sentence for Jesus! 
I bet the men who heard those words out of the mouth of Jesus were shocked out of their minds and filled with terror! “Oh no!! His words were true! Stephen is seeing it!! Nooooo, it can’t be!!!”

The fear of knowing one has played a role in killing the Messiah would be overwhelming, don’t you think?!  Instead of sinking into despair, anger is another reaction that can be chosen. Anger is useful to repress guilt and get rid of that which is causing the guilt. 
It reminds me of how some people respond today to guilt from their past. They may choose to get on a crusade to make what they did wrong into a socially normalized right. And they get angry at people who don’t agree with them. 

Sadly, for these people we are reading about and today’s people on their crusade, “Two wrongs don’t make a right.” 

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Acts 5-6~ Day 47~ "Wait"~ That's sound advise!

You know Gamaliel, who stood up in the Sanhedrin?  He was a pretty wise dude!  Even though he was a teacher of the law (a group of people Jesus often called hypocrites), he seemed to have more sense than the others.

Luke, the writer of Acts, tells us Gammy was "honored by all the people" (5:33). Paul was even under his teaching (22:3).  I can see why!  He showed his wisdom when he said, "But, if it is from God, you will not be able to stop those men, you will only find yourselves fighting against God." (5:39)  That is good advise!!  It's like he is saying, "Time will tell."

I often say to my kids, "Just wait.",  "See how it goes." , "You don't need to respond right away."
God works at his pace not ours, right?!
What I know of God is that he is patient (Rom. 9:22, i Pt. 3:20, 2 Pet 3:9) and slow to anger (Ex. 34:6, Num 14:18, Neh. 9:17, Psalm 86:15. 103:8, 145:8, Jonah 4:2, Nahum 1:3 - to name a few).
Therefore, Satan would naturally encourage the exact opposite, right?  Look at our culture today: immediate gratification, results and responses, quick fixes and quick to jump to conclusions.  We don't know how to endure, persevere or be patient!

So, wise Gamaliel was  right; "Wait"  The Bible is full of this teaching!
"But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it." (Romans 8:25)
"Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary." (Gal. 6:9)
"Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength." (Isaiah 40:31)

If hurry, worry and trying to fix things fast is your thing....you may want to look again at what Gammy said, "you will only find yourself fighting against God."

Gammy knew, what everyone eventually learns, God's purpose will be done regardless! 

Friday, February 15, 2019

Acts 3-4~ Day 46~ We are being schooled...by the best!

I have a feeling that after Jesus rose up into the clouds, the disciples hurried back to Jerusalem, got out their dusty old scriptures they had at home and started to read.  Or if they didn't have a copy of their own, they went to the synagogue where they could get their hands on a copy.

I can just imagine their minds being blown away when they opened the scriptures and began to see what had been there the whole time.    I bet they squealed with excitement every time they came across a prophesy that they had witnessed Jesus doing.....

John:  Pete, listen to what I am reading in Psalms!!! "They divided my clothes among them and cast lots for my garments."  They did that!!! I saw that the soldiers didn't want to rip that really good coat Jesus had, so they gambled for it!!

Peter:  OMG! That's incredible!  Listen to what I am reading in Zechariah!, "..see your king coming seated on a donkey's colt."  I went and got that donkey!!  Jesus told me exactly where to go to get it and there it was!!  This is blowing my mind!!

It was no longer a boring read that they heard a thousand times as they grew up going to the synagogue each Sabbath.  Rather, they eagerly read it and the Holy Spirit revealed it's meaning to them.  No wonder,  "This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled that says...", was a common phrase in our gospel reading we just finished!

So, in light of all that, this verse stood out to me:
"When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus." (Acts 4:13)

I think by this time in the life of Peter and John, and the other disciples, they were pretty schooled!  Meaning....no, they didn't formally study the law under a Jewish Pharisee like Paul had done (Acts 22:), but they studied scripture none the less! And they had been with the greatest teacher of all!!
What a good example for us who didn't go to seminary.  We don't have to have formal theological training to read and understand the Bible.  We just need to get into it and READ it!!  The Holy Spirit will reveal things to us daily!!  He is the best teacher after all!

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Acts 1-2~ Day 45~Grief turned to Joy!!

I always pictured the disciples watching Jesus ascend into the clouds, leaving, with them feeling really sad.   I would be!.....don't leave me Jesus! 😫

But then, I remembered something Jesus said back in John.  "Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices.  You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy." (John 16:20)

After being reminded of that verse and reading what the two men dressed in white said to them (he's coming back), I actually think they were filled with joy and eager expectation! They were probably excited thinking about what it meant to be "baptized with the Holy Spirit." (Acts 1:5)  I don't think they turned from the scene and headed back to Jerusalem somber and filled with grief.  Rather, I bet they hurried back to Jerusalem with the excitement a kid feels on Christmas morning!  They're probably thinking, "What is Jesus going to do now??"  True, Jesus left them, probably, a little dazed, processing all that was happening, but I don't think mourning the loss of Jesus was one of their emotions now......
Anyway, that was a new thought for me on the reading today.

There was one other thing that stood out to me.   I found it interesting that Peter quoted Joel saying, "In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people." (2:17)   The words "last days" stood out to me.  Did you know that the disciples and Paul all felt that they, and we, are living in the last days now.  Check out 1 Cor. 10:11, Heb. 1:1-2, 1 Peter 1:20 and 1 John 2:18.
The last day’s to what? “before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.” (Vs.20)

For those of you who read Revelation 20 and believe that Jesus will return and then reign for 1000 years, this must cause some confusion, don't you think?
I'm going to repeat myself, I know I have said it often on this blog....scripture does not contradict itself.....new prophesy does not contradict old prophecy.  Therefore, I'm going to suggest an idea that's not so popular these days.....consider that we are in the "figurative" 1000 year reign of Christ now.  That makes sense in light of being in the "last days".  You might turn to Rev 20 and read about the dragon and think, well the devil certainly isn't bound up now!!.... well, don't forget...."by his (Jesus) death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death-that is, the devil-and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fears of death." (Hebrews 2:14-15)
That sounds like the dragon to me!!.......I'm just say'en.......Something to think about.........😁

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

John 19-21~ Day 44~ Three chapters today! 😁

Two days ago I mentioned that I can remain in Jesus by staying in his word.  John says basically the same thing in today's reading!

"Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples which are not recorded in this book.  But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name." (20:31)

John wrote his account so that we may believe that Jesus is the Messiah.  Luke also wrote his account so that Theophilus "may know the certainty of the things" he had been taught. (Luke 1:4)
Lucky us, we get four written accounts to help us believe!!!

Once again I am thankful for this reading plan that keeps me in the word daily.

Have you EVER met anyone who was actively reading the Bible and says, "I don't believe."?  I have met a lot of people who have stopped reading the Bible and started spending a lot of time in other people's writings.  Those people seem to get off the course.  They go off their memory of what the Bible says, but they are actually not remaining in the words of Jesus.  I am reminded again of what we just read the other day, "If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you." (15:7)

If you know someone who is "getting off course" because they are going off their memory as to what the Bible says, why don't you ask them to read with you now!  We start Acts tomorrow.  That's as good a place as any to start reading!!  "These things are written that you (they) may believe"!