Tuesday, April 30, 2013

"God only knows..."

Acts 1:24-25 And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” 
We often use that phrase lightly, but it is an extremely true and important statement. The Lord knows.        That is why we must pray - He knows and we do not.  we need Him to show the way.  The apostles got it right.  Let's not neglect to pray.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Of first importance...

Acts 1:12-14 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey away. And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers. 
In a sense, this was the first day on their new job for the apostles.  They have been through training (3 years worth), and are waiting for their first assignment.  Rather than sitting around drinking coffee and playing cards, what do they do?  Their first order of business is to pray, and to get others praying with them.  Not only do they know that it's not all about them, but the power of God, it is also not just about their prayers, but all those who follow Jesus.  We need to be a praying team.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Look both ways...

Acts 1:9-11 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” 
Notice that the angels here do not say: "Stop looking!"  They ask WHY they are looking.  Are they looking in expectation or exasperation?  There needs to be a longing for Him to come again, so we need to keep on "looking."  But we also need to be looking around and ahead in this life for what and who Jesus wants us to be doing.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Wrong Question...

 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
(Acts 1:6-8 ESV)
The disciples (and we for that matter) often asked the wrong question. Despite all that had been said and that had happened, the apostles had some errors in thought. They thought that Jesus needed to rule with Israel over the world.  The question is not: "When are you going to do what you're supposed to do, God?", but "What do you want us to do, Lord?" What they needed, and we need, is God's plan at work in us - to be witnesses to Christ so He will rule and reign in hearts. 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Worth waiting for...

 He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.
 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

 (Acts 1:3-5 ESV)
Jesus repeated His promises often in different ways on different occasions. We need that.  The same is true of the Holy Spirit.  Not only are we thick, needing reminders; we need patience - being willing to wait for His promise.  Every time, it's worth the wait.  He knows what we need, and we definitely need the Holy Spirit.  May we wait on Him today to lead and empower us.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

A whole lot of blessing goin on...

 Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God.
(Luke 24:50-53 ESV)
As Jesus ascended back to heaven, He blessed the apostles, giving them purpose and direction, as well as more assurance that He could give them victory.  In return, they blessed God - not because Jesus had gone away, but because once again, everything was falling in place, just as Jesus had said. We too have great reason to bless God, to say that He is good and His plans are right and good. And we have that same assurance that He is with us and know what He is doing. We are blessed beyond measure.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

courage to take the next step

Matthew 28:19-20 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” 
Jesus has indicated change will continue to take place.  He will go away, and the apostles will have a whole new way of life.  But they are not discouraged.  Why? The great promise: I am will you always. He will never leave or forsake us.  He is faithful, and He has all authority.  If it was true for them, it is for us as well.  Take courage.  He is with us who believe.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. (Matthew 28:16-18 ESV)
When the apostles had seen the risen Christ a few times, each time they believed more.  But some of them still doubted, still lacked confidence.  It still did not all connect that if Christ had risen, He also could carry through on His other promises - that He had authority over life and death, just like He had shown them His authority over the sea and the demons and all the wisdom of men. ALL Authority.  That makes Him the One and only in whom we can trust; we can have confidence in Him and what He tells us to do.

Monday, April 22, 2013

learning to live one step at a time...

Luke 24:49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” 
Throughout His ministry Jesus said many things that did not make sense until after His Passion was complete.  When they saw the risen Christ, His followers then were able to comprehend as He opened the Scriptures to show Him how all the pieces fit.  And they were more prone to take Him at His Word, even though they did not have full insight into the future.  Such is the case here when He told them to go into Jerusalem and wait for The Promise of the Father, the one He has made in the upper room, about the coming Holy Spirit.  They had no way to fully comprehend what it would be like, but go they did and wait they did.  They were learning to live by faith and obedience one day at a time. We need to learn the same lesson - follow Jesus one day at a time.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Not the end of the story...

 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. (Luke 24:45-48 ESV)
As great as the completed work of Christ is - His death, burial and resurrection, it is not the end of the story. All of these are Historical facts with eternal implications, but there is something that is ongoing - the proclamation that in His name there is forgiveness of sins, which requires reception and repentance, which in turn requires that we share these things, that we are witnesses.  It's a package deal.  We cannot receive the good news without receiving the responsibility to pass it on. Are we?

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Enough Evidence...

John 20:30-31 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. 
As scripture says elsewhere, if everything Jesus said and did that was value was recorded, we would never have time to read and apply it all.  God has chosen this "sampling" to reveal the character and accomplishements of Christ.  These should be more than enough, when allowed to sink in by the Spirit of God, to bring us to belief, to bring us to the same point as Thomas: "My Lord and my God." If they are not enough, nothing would be enough.  God has presented His case; it's the truth.  Believe and receive.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Best Yet...

John 20:26-29 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although 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, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
What a directive! "Do not disbelieve."  If I were into bumper-sticker Christianity, that would be one.  Or a plaque to put on my door whenever I would leave (or for that matter, get up in the morning.  How does this "doubter" respond to that?  Perfectly. He demonstrates full faith with a response that goes further than any other to this point.  Further than rabbi, or messiah, or prophet, or any other. He says: "My Lord and my God!"  May we start and live this day with that same state of heart and mind.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Valid Excuse?

John 20:24-25 Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” 
 We often give Thomas the label of "doubting" because he did not believe the testimony of the other apostles.  But they themselves had been disbelieving, even after they saw them.  The clincher for them was seeing Him eat.  John is casting no dark shadow over Thomas here; he is simply stating a fact: Thomas was not there, did not see, and therefore did not believe.  He may indeed have been more skeptical, but this is not viewed as a fault.  More on that tomorrow...

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Supper after the last one...

Luke 24:40-43 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them. 
First, Jesus told them.  They were afraid.  Next He showed them.  They still disbelieved.  Finally, He demonstrates the reality of His physical resurrection.  That's what they needed - to see that this really is the Jesus Who said He was the Messiah.  He would need to be one of us, yet different from us - holy, sinless, and powerful enough to defeat death and the sin that causes it.  One meal is all it takes.

Monday, April 15, 2013


Luke 24:36-39 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 
Jesus came bringing peace - the very thing He had promised to come and bring back to them. But they would not receive it.  Their hearts and minds rejected it. They chose to remain in fear and doubt instead.  So rightly asks them, and us, "Why?"  Why do you choose this response?  Examine the evidence. Take a look, touch, and be convinced.  Whenever Jesus asks us "Why?" it is very soul-searching.  Why are you arguing with one another?  Why did you have no faith?  Why are you afraid?  The answers are always found in something He has said, and we are wrong, because we have not heard or believed or received the truth He has given.  May we stop being so unbelieving.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

A memorable meal...

 And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread. (Luke 24:33-35 ESV)
Overwhelmed by realizing the Lord was Risen indeed, the two disciples returned to Jerusalem to tell the apostles what they had experienced - on the road, at the table, and especially, in their hearts. This was nothing to sit and savor - it had to be shared.  Much in the same way, we need to spend time with Him, listen to Him, let Him reveal what we need to see and hear, and then share it with others. Maybe in a sense, telling it reinforces the truth to us as well as letting others know: He is risen indeed.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

It's not heartburn, but burning hearts...

 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” (Luke 24:30-32 ESV)
There was something about the breaking of bread by Jesus that sparked these disciples, but the real fire within came from Jesus' opening of the scriptures.  Sharing meals together is great, but feasting on the word together is so much more.  "Man does not live by bread alone" - what will really get us going is God speaking to our hearts.  Many times it happens when we eat in fellowship, but the real thrill is what God has to show us.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Room for Jesus

 So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. (Luke 24:28-29 ESV)
"Stay with us".  What an invitation.  It's the kind Jesus wants and deserves.  Yet we often do not have that attitude.  We forget what it is to be with Jesus and intentionally and intensively hear from Him.  May we take the time today to say: "come stay with me, and I will listen." 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Slow with the scriptures...

 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. (Luke 24:25-27 ESV)
Yes, you're just like me.  At some time or other you've read this famous passage and thought: "How in the world could they not see this was Jesus?"  They, like others in their day, could not see Him for Who He was because they could not see the truths of Scripture. They were slow to understand all the promises about Him, including His suffering.  We would not be able to see Him either, because we also often suffer this "slowness with scripture." We do not struggle until we understand. Going back to Christ's coming, some, like Anna and Simeon did struggle to the point of being ready to see Him. But most, like us, gave up too easily. May  we stop our slowness and increase our intensity of seeing the truth, and seeing Him for Who He really is.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A mouthful, but something's missing...

 And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” (Luke 24:17-24 ESV)
Having "overheard" their conversation, Jesus works His way into the discussion by doing what He does so well - asking a question.  Cleopas willingly shares every detail - about what they had heard and thought and felt.  What is missing is that high view of who Jesus is.  Calling Him a popular and mighty prophet was a compliment, yet a slap in the face; it fell short of Who He really is - the Messiah, the Son of God.  Only when we see Him as such do all the pieces fit. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Ignorant of His presence...

 That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. (Luke 24:13-16 ESV)
From all of the resurrection appearances it is apparent that Jesus looked differently after His resurrection.  Something about Him kept Mary, these two, and even the 11 from recognizing Him immediately.   Beyond the physical, however, there are many things that keep us from "seeing" Jesus, and appreciating His presence.  We often have a mindset that ignores Him.  These two are leaving Jerusalem and heading to Emmaus.  Are they heading down the right road to find Him?   Or are they making Him chase after Him? Today, are we running toward Him, or away from Him? 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Not just a girl thing...

 After these things he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country. And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them. (Mark 16:12-13 ESV)
Mary and the other women had come to tell the apostles that they had seen the risen Lord. But to the men it had seemed an old fairytale women tell.  But what if other men witnessed the risen Lord. Then would they believe?  In brief... no.  Skepticism runs deep.  It is no respecter of gender, intelligence or any other factor.  It boils down to discerning the truth and responding to it.  It comes down to recognizing the One who says "I am truth."  Will we recognize truth when He is right in front of us?

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Resurrection Blessings

 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” (John 20:19-23 ESV)
When the disciples are finally willing to receive and believe in the Risen Christ, the blessings overflow:  Peace, a sense of purpose, and the promise of forgiveness.  So many things come to us BECAUSE He is risen indeed.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Things are not always what they seem...

 Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. (Luke 24:10-11 ESV)
As the women reported to the Apostles, their message seemed well, like an old wives' tale - the kind of things a group of women are stereotypically accused of.  But it is not.  They were the privileged first witnesses of the event of history - the resurrection of Christ.  It is not an idle tale, but a living and powerful message of hope.  He is risen indeed, and life is worth the living, just because He lives!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Check it out...

John 20:1-10 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus' head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples went back to their homes. 
Mary, and, we find from the other gospels, some of the other women who followed after Jesus, went early to check out the grave, in order to honor the Lord.  Their report inspired Peter and John to do the same.  The big question is "Why did more of the disciples not go to check it out?" Were they afraid?  Did they not care enough?  Or did they trust the word of their fellow disciples so much that they felt no need to go?  Whatever the case, God makes note of those who did go.  Let us not allow fear or laziness to hold us back from fully pursing the risen Christ.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Historical revisionism at its worst...

Matthew 28:11-15 While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ And if this comes to the governor's ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day. 
Historical revisionism is nothing new.  In fact it goes all the way back to the Garden and Satan putting doubts into Eve's mind about what God had said.  Satan loves to twist the truth, and we see some of his revisionism here.  The soldiers share all that had taken place.  What they remembered is not detailed, but they had some clue of what had happened.  The leaders gave them a substitute story to tell, and the assurance that their "little lie" would never be held against them.  Lying really is harder than the truth!  But lies die a hard death.  The seed Satan planted in the Garden - both in Eden and the place of the tomb, has caused many to miss the truth.   May we never shy away from telling what really happened on Resurrection day.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Following to a tee...

Matthew 28:7-10 Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.” 
The instructions of the angelic messenger were clear: God quickly and tell.  So the women went quickly and told.  Just to make sure a detail was not left out, Jesus Himself reminded them about the detail of going to Galilee to see Him there.  But probably the detail we have the hardest time remembering is "Do not be afraid."  He was there before; He is with us now; He has gone ahead of us and will be there as well.

Monday, April 1, 2013

A fearful thing...

Matthew 28:1-6 Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.
The resurrection of Christ is a point in time historical event which cannot be caught in one simple statement.  It is an earthquake with ongoing tremors that reaches throughout the world and throughout history.  Thus, we cannot simple "celebrate" it one day.  The initial event sent such fear into the guards it sent them into shock, but that was not the response God intended for these faithful women or for us.  His intended purpose is that we believe in Who Christ is and all He has said, including the promise to rise again.  That there must have been some sense of shock and amazement is doubtless, but let's not stop there.  Let the wave begin to rise as we contemplate everything the Risen Christ means.