Monday, April 24, 2017 Why are You Looking at the Sky?

Daily Bible Reading:  2 Samuel 19-20, Luke 18:1-23

Today’s reading in “The Story” is found in your book starting on page 389 (chapter 28) and it ends in the middle of page 390 before the transition on the next page, with the words, “…go into heaven.”

If you do not have “The Story” you may read the passages in the NIV Bible:  Acts 1:1-11.

In the church, we call the events of this reading “the Ascension.”  It makes sense, because Jesus ascended into heaven.  He left the disciples on the ground and He was lifted up away from them and taken into heaven.  While He was leaving, His disciples kept looking up.  They wanted to watch Him the whole way.

It had all been so unbelievable at first, when He rose from the dead.  They could barely believe it.  But then they began to see Him more and more often.  They ate with Him and they talked with Him.  You can well imagine that they probably listened to Him a bit more closely than they had ever done so before.

But now, it was time.  His time on earth had come to a close and He needed to go to His Father in heaven.  On one hand, the concept was pretty amazing to the disciples. But on the other hand, they didn’t want Him to go.  They didn’t feel as if they were ready to manage the ministry without Jesus being physically there with them every day.

The disciples had been questioning Jesus about whether He was going to establish His kingdom on earth, now that He was raised from the dead.  But Jesus had corrected them, and reminded them that those were things for God the Father to do and that no one knew when He would do them.  But for them, Jesus said, they were to wait for Him to send the Holy Spirit, who would lead them on their mission forward.

Jesus told them that the Holy Spirit would give them power.  He would help them to do the work that Jesus had for them to do.  And that was to be His witnesses.  But not just His witnesses in their town or neighborhoods.  Jesus expected them to be witnesses first in their neighborhoods and town, but then to go out to the neighboring communities and to other areas of that region, and eventually to go to the “ends of the earth” as His witnesses to tell of His saving message!

That was their mission.  But right now, they were watching in awe as Jesus ascended into heaven away from them.  They were momentarily rudderless.  But soon they would have their direction and their mission as they became filled with the Holy Spirit.

Sometimes that’s what happens to us.  We become rudderless.  We are overwhelmed by life and the difficulties that we face.  Often times we fail to seek god’s direction and His will in our lives.  Instead we stare into heaven, wondering what to do, but never asking for help.

Just as God provided the Holy Spirit to the disciples, so too He provides us with His Holy Spirit, who gives us faith and inspires us to speak God’s word to others.  It is by the leading of the Holy Spirit that we too can be witnesses for Jesus.  But in order to do that, we need to stop staring into heaven and start looking around us for those who do not know Jesus.  In that mission, the Holy Spirit will provide us with direction and the words to say.  We too, are to be witnesses for Jesus.

Tell someone today what Jesus has done for you!

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, We’ve heard the expression that sometimes we’re so heavenly minded that we’re no earthly good.  Keep us from looking into the heavens and help us, with the power of the Holy Spirit, to be your witnesses in our homes, neighborhoods, communities and to the ends of the earth. In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

 

Friday, April 21, 2017 Everything is changed because Christ is Risen!

Daily Bible Reading: 2 Samuel 12-13, Luke 16

Today’s Reading of the Story is on page 386 beginning with the words, ” Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee.” and ends on page 388 with the words, “…God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”  If you are reading in your bible, read John 21:1-19

I’ve never posted a sign like this outside my door, but there are times I’d like to. Jesus could have posted it somewhere shortly after His resurrection from the dead. It was sometime after Easter (more than a week later) and sometime before His ascension back to heaven.

On Easter morning the angel told the women:

Mark 16:6-7 (NIV) Go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’

Apparently, the disciples were to go to Galilee where they were supposed to see Jesus. But instead of leaving the city for Galilee they stayed huddled together in Jerusalem in fear. A full week after the resurrection, they’re still huddled together in the upper room (this time Thomas is with them) when Jesus appears a second time showing Himself to be alive from the dead. It is after that that they make their way to Galilee and John picks up the third resurrection appearance by the Risen Christ:

John 21:1-3 (NIV) 1 Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias. It happened this way: 2 Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. 3 “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

Sounds like many of my fishing adventures! But their luck was about to change.

4 Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. 5 He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” “No,” they answered. 6 He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.

Every fisherman’s dream – a boat load of fish! That’s when it dawned on them (punned intended) that this has happened before when Jesus called them to be fishers for men. (see Luke 5:1ff)

John 21:7 (NIV) Then the disciple whom Jesus loved (John, the author of the 4th gospel and the youngest disciple) said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water.

There’s something you don’t often see: a fisherman (Peter) leaving the largest catch of his life behind for something of greater value on the shore.

When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread. John 21:9 (NIV)

After they all arrive on the shore,

13 Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead. John 21:13-14 (NIV)

Here is the note Luke provides to us:

Acts 1:3 (NIV) After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.

Five days ago we celebrated the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Now what? Is it “back to business as usual?” Have you returned back to the same old, same old? If you were Peter, and in a sense you are, you believe that Jesus is the Son of God. Doesn’t Easter Sunday change everything for you? It should because it has!

Help us, Holy Spirit, not to return to the same old, same old, but enable us to live in the newness of our Resurrection life until that day when we awaken to a new day into the eternal day, in everlasting in life. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Thursday, April 20, 2017 We are the blessed!

Daily Bible Reading: 2 Samuel 9-11, Luke 15:11-32

Today’s Reading of the Story is on page 386 with the words, “ Now Thomas (also known as Didymus[a]), one of the Twelve…” and ends on page 386 with the words “…blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”  If you are reading in your bible, read John 20:24-29

Can you blame Thomas? I can’t! I’m not certain I would have hung around either.

I can understand not wanting to be the next one on a cross, but to all of a sudden stop gathering with the people you ate, slept, and worked with 24/7 for three intensive years? I wonder, where was Thomas? Why wasn’t he there on the first Easter evening?

We don’t hear very much about Thomas. He is listed as one of the Twelve; however, he is recorded as speaking only twice in all four gospels. The first time is at the raising of Lazarus:

John 11:16 (NIV) Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

The second time is in the Upper Room when Thomas asks an honest question:

John 14:5 (NIV) Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

John wants us to know that when attendance was taken on the first Easter evening, Thomas was not there. Because He wasn’t there, He missed out when the Risen Jesus appeared to the Eleven. And then, to add insult to injury, Thomas refused to believe his brothers when they told him they had seen Jesus alive from the dead.

“But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” John 20:25 (NIV)

Thomas would be reminded a week later that the Risen Christ doesn’t have to be in the same room with you to hear the words you speak. How do we know?

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” John 20:26-27 

Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” John 20:28 (NIV)

Aren’t you glad Thomas wasn’t there? Why? Because of what Jesus said to him next…

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20:29 (NIV)

WE are the “blessed” ones. Why? Thomas saw Jesus and then believed. We have not seen Him and yet we believe.

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:8-9 (NIV)

Hebrews 11:1 (ESV) Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

We live by faith in the Son of God.

I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20 (NIV)

We are the blessed for we believe by they gracious power of the Holy Spirit at work in us.

…no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:3

Thank You, Holy Spirit for “the hour I first believed” In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Amazing grace! Christ is Risen. Indeed!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017 Walking with the Risen King!

Daily Bible Reading: 2 Samuel 6-8, Luke 15:1-10

Today’s Reading of the Story is on page 384 beginning with the words, “Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus…” and ends on page 386 with the words, “…but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”  If you are reading in your bible, read Luke 24:13-49

I’ve always envied these two. Like Mary Magdalene, they were among the first to see Jesus alive from the dead. Somewhere in their 7 mile walk TO the village of Emmaus, Jesus came among them.

Luke 24:14-16 (NIV) 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him.

Was it the setting sun (as they were heading west) that kept them from recognizing Jesus? Was it their grief that kept them? Did the Lord Himself keep them from recognizing Him until He was ready to open their eyes to His resurrection? Remember what Jesus said before?

Matthew 11:27 (NIV) No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

We can’t be sure. But one thing that is certain is that their walk became the opportunity for Jesus to teach them – and teach them He did!

Luke 24:27 (NIV) And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

I once took a 10-week class entitled: “Christ in the Book of Isaiah”. It was a great class, but I am certain these two learned more in their walk with Jesus in those few minutes than I did in 10 weeks.

How ironic! Jesus reveals Himself in “all the Scriptures” that He is the Christ, but they can’t see the Messiah even when He is walking beside them, even though they understand what the Bible says. It reminds me of when Jesus said to Nicodemus:

John 3:3 (NIV) Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”

It is possible to sit with the King (as Nicodemus did) and walk with the King (as these two on the Road to Emmaus did) and watch the King enthroned (as the chief priests, the teachers of the Law and the elders did) and still not recognize Him as Your King, even when there is a sign over His head:

John 19:19-21 (NIV) 19 Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS.

What John wrote in His Gospel, introducing us to Jesus the Christ, the Word made flesh, is true:

John 1:10-13 (NIV) 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God–…but born of God.

What happens when you believe, when you are born again? You get out of your chair, you don’t finish dinner, and you walk (they probably ran) 7 more miles back to Jerusalem to tell the good news that the King lives.

Though these two weren’t numbered among the “Eleven”, Cleopas and his friend were known well enough to the disciples and to Jesus. Did He know they would run back and tell the good news of Easter to the Eleven? He knows ALL things (see John 16:30 & John 21:17)

What do you say we keep the Good News of Easter alive in our hearts and on our lips?

He is Risen. He is Risen Indeed!

Open our eyes, Holy Spirit, that we may see Jesus as our Risen Savior. In Jesus’ name. Amen

Tuesday, April 18, 2017 Easter changed everything!

Daily Bible Reading: 2 Samuel 3-5, Luke 14:25-35

angel guarding tomb

Today’s Reading of the Story is on page 382 with the words “When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene…and ends on page 384 with the word, “…seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.”

If you are reading in your bible, read Mark 16:1-3; Matthew 28:2-8; John 20:3-18

Do you suppose the narrative of Easter would have been totally different if the woman would have been able to complete the burial work on Good Friday?  I wonder if they knew that Joseph and Nicodemus had already brought 75 pounds of spices on Good Friday to prepare Jesus’ body for burial.  We can speculate all we want.  The truth is:

Mark 16:1-2 (NIV) 1  When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. 2  Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb

It didn’t dawn on them that they might need help rolling away the stone from the entrance to the tomb.  Grief has a way of blocking out important matters for our consideration. But what they had not considered, the LORD had already taken care of.

Matthew 28:2 (NIV) 2  There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it.

Pretty awesome.  Unless you’re one of the guards.

Matthew 28:4 (NIV) 4  The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

I guess that’s the signal that your “graveyard” shift is over!  (sorry, I couldn’t help it).

Easter changed everyone’s plans.  The guards stopped guarding.  For the women, there was no point in preparing Jesus body for burial any more.

Easter changed their hearts. The guards were deathly afraid.  The women were afraid but filled with joy.  Easter increased the fears of the guards and mixed within the hearts of the women with a joy uncontainable.

Matthew 28:8 (NIV) 8  So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples.

Easter changed their conversations.  They stopped talking of funerals and death and began to talk, with a joy unstoppable about resurrection and life from the dead.

Easter changed their hopes that day and forever. Thank God!  Easter changed everything for them and US!

Thank you God our Father, for the truth that Easter has changed everything for us and for the all world, for all eternity.  Fill us with the faith, joy and the hope and of Easter in Jesus’ Risen name. Amen.

Christ is Risen!  He is Risen! Indeed! Alleluia!

 

Monday, April 17, 2017 Unexpected ending!

Daily Bible Reading: 2 Samuel 1-2, Luke 14:1-24

Today’s Reading of the Story is on page 381 and ends on page 382 with the words “…ting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.”  If you are reading in your bible, read  John 19:31-42, Matthew 27:62-66

No one (except Jesus, of course) expected that this was the way the Passover Week was going to end. Five days ago the city was welcoming their new king with shouts of Joy!palm sunday

Mark 11:9-10 (NIV) 9  Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” 10  “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!” “Hosanna in the highest!”

The festive shouts have been silenced by the death of their Savior, Jesus.

I don’t know which is worse: being crucified, or being beaten on the cross to end it all! Of course, their quick death was necessary.

John 19:31 (NIV) 31  Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jews did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down.

Crucifixion was “designed” to make those being punished suffer for days, but not today. Tradition is more important today than punishing criminals.

John 19:33-34 (NIV) 33  But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34  Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.

Six hours on the cross and Jesus was “finished”, literally, and His work as Savior was done.

nicodemus & josephA couple of “secret” disciples, former members of the Jewish Sanhedrin, came to Pilate requesting that they prepare His body for burial.  They came prepared.  75 pounds of spices.  Sounds like a lot for burial.

John 19:40-42 (NIV) 40  Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. 41  At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. 42  Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

One more note from today’s reading.

Matthew 27:62-66 (NIV) 62  The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. 63  “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ 64  So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.” 65  “Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” 66  So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.

guard at tombGraveyard shift. If you’ve ever worked a Graveyard shift – a work shift running through the late hours of the evening to the early hours of the morning – you know that it “should” be an “easier” work schedule.  Everyone else is sleeping. Guarding a grave at a cemetery is a pretty easy job “normally”.  After all, most cemeteries don’t have fences around them.  Most of us wouldn’t be caught dead in a cemetery.  (Sorry!)  So why on earth would you ever need to “guard” the grave of a dead man?  Unless He made promises of RISING from the DEAD.

How do prove Jesus was a liar? You guard His grave.  You seal His tomb.  And you wait for three days.  If the seal is broken…the winter is over.  (Sorry that’s the groundhog).  If the seal is broken, Jesus is Risen, the grave is no longer to be feared, heaven is open to all who believe in Jesus’ name.

(Wait till you read tomorrow’s readings.)

Father on this Easter Monday, knowing that Jesus was raised from the dead, it changes how we read this narrative today.  We find no joy in knowing that it was our sins that made His death necessary.   We derive no satisfaction in the truth that He suffered for our sins so the punishment that should come to us fell on Him.  BUT we pray give us hearts that are continually sad over our sin but joyful as we claim by faith the Holy life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ Risen from the dead.  Holy Spirit, help us always to be faithful and obedient to our Risen Savior, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Saturday, April 22, 2017 Round TUIT

Daily Bible Reading: 2 Samuel 14-15, Luke 17:1-19

Today’s Reading of the Story is on page 388 beginning with these words, “Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain…” and ends on page 388. If you are reading in your bible, read Matthew 28:16-20; John 21:25; John 20:31

Have you ever had a task that needed to be done, and nobody wants to do it?  The dog makes a mess.  It needs to be cleaned up, but nobody wants to take that job on? I feel like that among believers at times about the great commission.

The mission of the church – telling people about a Risen Savior Jesus is the need, the task that needs to be done, and no one “wants” to do it. We all are glad when someone cleans up the mess. We will even applaud those who do it and say, “nice job!” or “thanks for doing it!” or “well done!” But when it comes to seeing it as all our responsibility, somewhere there’s a disconnect.

As I search through the New Testament, outside of the “Great Commission” in Matthew and Mark, there aren’t many mandates, or commands, that say we are to be involved in the mission! AND there are all kinds of examples of those who did.

The women at the empty tomb; the Emmaus Disciples; Peter & John in the early days recorded in Acts; Stephen; Philip to the Ethiopian Eunuch; Peter with the Gentiles; Paul, of course, to the Gentile … to mention a few.

Is there so little said about the need to do “IT” because the Lord of the Church commands we are all to be involved in IT?

When it comes to connecting people to Jesus, you’re IT and so am I. Jesus is pointing His finger at us and He’s waiting for you and me to get at IT.

When it comes to connecting people to Jesus, we are all IT. So let me ask you:

What’s keeping you from getting at it?

  • Fear?
  • Uncertainty?
  • Lack of opportunity?

Here is a Round TUIT so you can get to it!

Just do it!

Then go quickly and tell…

‘He has risen from the dead…’ Now I have told you.” Matthew 28:7 (NIV)

Lord of the resurrection, forgive us for not sharing Your cross and resurrection with people we know right around us. Forgive us for busying ourselves with all sorts of stuff that truly doesn’t matter and won’t last beyond this life. Impress upon us, Holy Spirit, that life is short and eternity is long, and help us to long for and live for eternity when we will be with You forever. Let not our hearts rest until the “rest” of the world knows and believes, in Jesus’ name. Amen.