November 20

November 20

Peter — The lame man healed & Apostles arrested — Peter & John’s bold message.

Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Acts 3
Reading 2: Acts 4
Reading 3: Ephesians 6:18-20

The power of the Holy Spirit is working in so many ways in the early days of the Church. Healing, bold preaching, persecution, opposition, and great impact are all seen in today’s chapters.

Enjoy seeing what God is doing, and pray for all those reading these passages today – that we would each be bold to share the love we have in our lives.

Have a great day!

Mark.

November 18

November 18

Peter — Pentecost — The miracle of tongues & the purpose of tongues (for unbelievers).

Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Acts 2
Reading 2: Joel 2:28-32
Reading 3: 1 Corinthians 14:18-25

After the mass of humanity built a tower at Babel, with the purpose of proving their ability to manage without God, He confused their language and caused them to divide into tribes and nations. This prevented them working together to disobey God.

Now, after the resurrection and ascension, on the Day of Pentecost, God reverses Babel and unites all the believers with those observers from every known nation, all hearing God’s truth in their own languages. This miracle was the first evidence of the presence of the Holy Spirit with the believers, and the power of this first encounter led to many becoming believers and being saved.

Peter is again willing to lead this early church, and as a result of his challenge over 3,000 were added to their number. Imagine that degree of influence and power: 120 became 3120+! That’s church growth!

This was started by the power of the Holy Spirit enabling the believers to speak in other languages. Joel tells us that this is a sign of the last days, before God restores all things. Paul tells the Corinthians that tongues will cause unbelievers to wonder at the power of God, and prophecy will convict them and cause them to acknowledge God’s presence. Holy Spirit is determined to glorify Jesus and the Father by causing as many people as possible to turn to God.

How will He use you today toward that goal?

Have a great day!

Mark.

November 17

November 17

Peter — Ascension & New Apostle — Promises about Jesus’ return & prophecies about Judas.

Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Acts 1
Reading 2: Luke 21:25-28
Reading 3: Psalm 109

The time for Jesus to remain on earth after the resurrection was long enough to prove the resurrection, but short enough to ensure that the next stage of God’s story is not delayed. Jesus gives final instructions to wait for power and be witnesses, then ascends to the Father. Again two angels (maybe the same two seen earlier at the empty tomb) have to nudge the disciples to move forward into the next chapter of this story.

Peter is already emerging as the main leader of this group, after His experience of being restored by Jesus. He leads them to choose a new apostle to replace Judas, continuing the symbolism of Jesus choosing twelve “patriarchs” for the Church reflecting the twelve tribes of Israel. Peter refers back to Psalm 109 to support his actions.

This selection of men does not mean the leadership of the Church was all male – the first apostles (meaning “sent ones”) were the women sent to evangelize the disciples after the resurrection, and we will see plenty more women in leadership as we read through the book of Acts!

For today, consider your greatest failure – it was not as great as Peter’s denial of Jesus, but Peter was fully restored to lead the early Church. Your failures do not disqualify you, but God’s Word restores you.

Have a great day!

Mark.

November 16

November 16

Jesus’ Resurrection — Jesus proves His resurrection over 40 days.

Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: John 21
Reading 2: Acts 1:1-4
Reading 3: 1 Corinthians 15:1-9

We celebrated the resurrection in our readings yesterday, and today we see the personal touches that exemplify Jesus’ dealings with His followers. He treats each one uniquely as befits the individual purpose for which each of us is created.

Peter (who denied Jesus three times) is restored by the threefold question “Do you love me?” The confused, discouraged disciples, who have not yet received the gift of the Holy Spirit to guide and lead them, are shown a miracle so similar to the one which accompanied their original calling that they are strengthened in their faith and made certain that He is alive, whether they see Him with them or not.

And John finishes his gospel account with a clarification of the rumor that he would not die before Jesus returned. This is an eyewitness we can trust – he gives us authenticating details that don’t benefit him but show a knowledge of the facts that corroborates what others reported.

You can be certain of several things today: Jesus is alive, your failures are not an obstacle to God’s purpose for you, and Jesus has a unique purpose for your life.

Have a great day!

Mark.

November 15

November 15

Jesus’ Resurrection — Jesus appears repeatedly to His unbelieving disciples.

Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Matthew 28
Reading 2: Luke 24:13-53
Reading 3: John 20:19-31

Yesterday we saw the turnaround for the women as they realized the truth that Jesus was alive. Today we see more accounts of those who had trouble understanding and believing what they had been told in advance would happen.

We see fear, sadness, doubt, and skepticism in these reports, along with deception and bribery on the part of those who had the most to lose. But these things are written down so that you and I (and anyone else with an open mind) can “believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name.” (John 20).

For us who believe, Jesus has a simple instruction: go make followers!

Who will follow you as you believe today?

Have a great day!

Mark.

PS: If you would like to see a chronology of the events around the resurrection, compiled from the four gospels and other New Testament accounts, you can check out this listing or this more extensive article.

November 14

November 14

Jesus’ Resurrection — The empty tomb, appearing to Mary, & ascending to heaven.

Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Luke 24:1-12
Reading 2: John 20:1-18
Reading 3: Hebrews 9:16-28

Have you ever found you had completely missed the point? I recall several times in my life where, with a sudden rush of emotion, I realized that I now recognized something truly life-changing for the very first time.

Imagine how the women felt, after 36 hours of anguished grieving over the execution of their leader and Lord, they left as early as they could to go and give His body the necessary burial treatments as a final act of love and care. They were clearly in no mood to celebrate or rejoice. But within minutes they saw the empty tomb, spoke with two angels, and recognized the life-upending fact that Jesus was alive. They were the first to know, and to their credit believed right away, remembering that was what Jesus had promised. The men were less adaptable – refusing to believe the women at first.

This authenticity of the accounts makes them much more believable. The honesty and self-incrimination of the record!

We also have the record of Peter and John’s first sight of the tomb (in John’s gospel). This gives us an interesting insight into the process of coming to faith: John “looked in” to the tomb (a Greek phrase meaning he took a quick glance). John was a good boy and he knew he was not allowed inside a tomb. Peter was a little older and much more headstrong – he went in anyway and “noticed” the linen grave cloths (a different Greek phrase meaning he looked more closely) but it was John who was first to believe – and the Greek phrase “he saw and believed” would best be translated “he focused on the details and considered their meaning.”

This process of examination and consideration is how many people come to faith in Jesus. If you genuinely examine the details of the resurrection accounts, and seek to understand the significance of them, it is the most logical and rational conclusion that Jesus is who He said He was – the Christ, the Messiah, God’s chosen Savior for humanity.

This is the approach taken by the writer to the Hebrews, who explains the rationality of believing in the resurrection and all that it implies.

Who will you invite to consider these things today?

Have a great day!

Mark.

PS: If you would like to see a chronology of the events around the resurrection, compiled from the four gospels and other New Testament accounts, you can check out this listing or this more extensive article.

November 13

November 13

Jesus’ Death & Burial — Jesus’ death on the cross & burial by Joseph of Arimathea.

Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Matthew 27:45-66
Reading 2: Luke 23:45-56
Reading 3: Hebrews 2:9-18

The apparent victory of satan in collusion with human authorities to eliminate the Messiah and reject God’s presence on earth comes with the cry “My God, why have you abandoned me?” But Jesus is not crying out in fear or surprise. Instead He is teaching us to the very end – God is turning away from the sin His Son has taken on. By dying as a perfect human being, He takes away the power satan has over death (as the writer to the Hebrews explains). Additionally, Jesus is quoting the first words of Psalm 22, likely intending His hearers to “hear” the whole Psalm through the brief quotation (in a similar fashion to what would go through an American mind at the words “O say, can you see?”). If you read the whole Psalm you will see there is much more there than the idea that God has abandoned Jesus.

So Jesus overcomes sin and satan – this defeat is thus a perfect victory.

And there are several other lessons to learn from those around the scene of Jesus’ death:
You may have died without seeing what you longed for, but God can make you alive again (Matthew 27:52).
The power of God in action is enough to reveal Jesus as the Son of God (Matthew 27:52).
You may not be able to influence the actions of others, but you can still do the right thing in failure (Luke 23:50-53).
It is always right to obey God’s instructions, even if it seems inconvenient or troublesome (Luke 23:56).
Opponents of God will always seek to strengthen their own position at God’s expense, but this only serves to highlight their defeat when God wins the victory (Matthew 27:62-66).

Have a great day!

Mark.

November 11

November 11

Jesus’ Suffering–Various prophecies of the cross
(My God, I thirst, Garments divided, Pierced)

Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Mark 15:20-36
Reading 2: John 19:23-37
Reading 3: Psalm 22

We have looked many times at the prophecies fulfilled in the birth and life of Jesus, but there are many fulfilled in His death too. As you read today, reflect on how these fulfilled prophecies validate the truth of Jesus’ claims and His ministry on earth. No-one could fabricate a story to include all these elements with the range of historical records that combine to shine light on the events as they are recorded.

Our Savior lived and died as recorded in Scripture. We can trust Him with our lives!

Have a great day!

Mark.

November 10

November 10

Jesus’ Conversations — Jesus talks with women, soldiers, & the thief on the cross.

Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Luke 23:26-44
Reading 2: 1 Corinthians 2:7-8
Reading 3: 1 Peter 2:18-25

As Jesus is being taken out and unjustly killed, for doing nothing wrong, He is clear in His final words to point others to the truth and to freedom in God. To the women who are lamenting His impending death He says “weep for yourselves and your children, for worse is coming.” For the soldiers who crucify Him he prays: “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.” And to the repentant thief He promises paradise today!

What an inspiration for us – to speak the truth in love, even when we are rejected, or persecuted. I am not referring to faux outrage about Starbucks using red cups that don’t say Christmas, but the much harsher mistreatment we may well have to face as society turns against religion and lumps true followers of Jesus in with that repulsion. Paul warns the Corinthians that this world does not understand God’s plans, and Peter writes to those trapped in slavery that they can please God by acting counter-intuitively in their suffering. He is not endorsing slavery, but he is promoting radical servanthood that makes the power and love of God visible in an evil world.

You and I may well have opportunity to do the same in our lifetime. Jesus is worth it!

Have a great day!

Mark.

November 9

November 9

Jesus’ Crucifixion — Jesus carries the cross, is crucified, & Jesus’ call to carry your cross.

Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Matthew 27:31-44
Reading 2: Acts 2:22-23
Reading 3: Luke 14:25-33

Today we reach the peak of God’s One Story.

God sent His Son Jesus to be born as a baby, live as the first sinless human being, and die for the sins of all mankind.

As you read Matthew 27:31-44, see the interwoven threads of sin and rejection that led to this moment. Recognize the betrayal Peter refers to in Acts 2. See also the strength and determination of Jesus to complete the assignment given to Him by His Father. This looks like a final defeat, but in “God’s prearranged plan” it will be the beginning of final victory!

Then consider Jesus’ own instruction to us (and all His followers) – if you want to follow such a Savior (and who wouldn’t?) it will cost you everything. You may get to keep relationships, and even possessions, but they will not be yours any more! Giving up all we have reflects the sacrifice of Jesus for us. Sometimes it takes that level of letting go of things to be able to accept and receive what He is giving us.

Have a great day!

Mark.