“Then Peter replied, “I see very clearly that God shows no favoritism. In every nation he accepts those who fear him and do what is right. This is the message of Good News for the people of Israel—that there is peace with God through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. You know what happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee, after John began preaching his message of baptism. And you know that God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.
And we apostles are witnesses of all he did throughout Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a cross, but God raised him to life on the third day. Then God allowed him to appear, not to the general public, but to us whom God had chosen in advance to be his witnesses. We were those who drank with him after he rose from the dead. And he ordered us to preach everywhere and to testify that Jesus is the one appointed by God to be judge of all—the living and the dead. He is the one all the prophets testified about, saying that everyone who believes in him will have their sins forgiven through his name.”
If you don’t remember, this is the story of the first time the gospel was preached to Gentiles, the non-Jewish people. God uses Peter, who grew up as staunchly Jewish as anyone. He would’ve spent his whole life learning that the Jews were God’s people. But, God used Peter to reach out to the Gentiles for the first time.
I encourage you to go to Acts 10 sometime today to read this entire story; it really is incredible. Very simply, today I want to challenge you to remember that people are God’s mission. It’s not always how we think it should happen or even the people that we think it should be; but God’s mission is saving people. There’s no way around it.
I hope and pray that you, like Peter, are faced with having to get over yourself and get over your prejudices so that God can really use you, and use me, to reach as many people as possible. It probably won’t be the time that you would choose or even the people that you would choose; but don’t be mistaken, God wants to bring you in on this mission of saving people. Are you willing to go?
“Rules of the Game”
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV
For years I have watched my boys play baseball, basketball, track, football, soccer, and even golf. I usually know the basics of the game but I prefer to park myself next to other fans that actually studied the rules and know of any new regulations so I can learn the game through them. This way I can be informed and have a better understanding of the game and the calls made by the referee. I suppose I could study the rules myself but I really don’t want to take the time so I am content learning from someone else. It’s all good unless the other person is wrong about a rule, but then how would I know?
My approach may be okay for sports but not for studying the Bible. It’s way too easy to read what others write, and learn from others but not actually read the Bible –God’s Word to us – ourselves. I’m not suggesting that the writers, teachers, and preachers are teaching incorrectly, but how do you know if you’re not in the Word yourself? We get busy and distracted and can allow ourselves to get out of the habit of reading God’s Word. If you haven’t been consistent in studying your Bible, then start today. I challenge you to be an informed follower of Christ, one that is competent and equipped for every good work, and not just a fan that is content to only learn from others.
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119:105 ESV
But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Matthew 4:4 ESV
For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Romans 15:4 ESV
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 ESV
With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:10-11 ESV
“It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth” – Isaiah 49.6
On a retreat with our Campus Church leaders our focus was Hezekiah. Hezekiah led reforms in the Temple-priesthood, stood up to the foes of Jerusalem with faith, and prayed each time he found himself in dire circumstances.
One such circumstance occurs in his life when he is deathly ill. When Isaiah, said, “Set your house in order, for you shall die; you shall not recover,” it was a bad day. Disregarding Isaiah’s poor bedside manner, Hezekiah prayed for healing. God granted his prayer and gave him another 15 years to serve as king (2 Kings 20.1-6).
Not too long after this healing, Hezekiah foolishly opened his entire treasury to the envoys of Babylon. He had accumulated significant wealth and Babylonian conquerors had their eyes set on this lucrative acquisition. Isaiah rebuked Hezekiah and told him that Babylon would carry away Judah’s treasure, people, and even Hezekiah’s own sons because of his foolishness (20.17-18).
But, it’s Hezekiah’s response that strikes me as odd, “‘The word of the LORD that you have spoken is good.’ For he thought, ‘Why not, if there will be peace and security in my days?’” (20.19).
I doubt Isaiah spoke the above prophecy to Hezekiah, but there is something lethal about being short-sighted. With our leaders, we prepare for the immediate semester, but we also acknowledge that we are part of a much bigger story. Each of us, God-willing, will have decades to be faithful in serving God. Each of us are a part of a global and eternal community in which we play a small, and yet significant role.
Think about your legacy. Are we living near-sighted for peace and security in our days or are we laying foundations for much bigger things?
“And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown in the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?” Matthew 6:30 (NLT)
We are almost through January. Have you found yourself back into a hurried pace? It’s so easy to do. The pace of life seems to pick right back up as the year gets into full swing. With hurry often comes worry. Have you ever noticed that? Typically if we are hurrying from one place to another it is because we have not left enough margin in our lives and are worried about getting all our over-commitments accomplished. And we are deceived into believing that so much depends on us to make the world go around. We start to trust ourselves more than we trust God. It’s a slippery slope, one I know all too well.
But Matthew reminds us of Jesus’ words. Common things like birds and wildflowers can show us how carefully God is attentive to detail. And we are much more important than birds and wildflowers to the God who made us with his own hands, formed us in our mother’s womb, breathed life into us, and sent his son to redeem us. When we remember our great God in this way, it is much easier to trust him with the details of our lives, and to slow down and let him set the pace. He knows the pace that is best for us anyway.
Abba, may you guide my details today and increase my trust in you alone.
Read: Read the passage quietly to yourself.
Psalm 103:1-5 The Message
O my soul, bless GOD.
From head to toe, I’ll bless his holy name!
O my soul, bless GOD,
don’t forget a single blessing!
He forgives your sins – every one.
He heals your diseases – every one.
He redeems you from hell – saves your life!
He crowns you with love and mercy – a paradise crown.
He wraps you in goodness – beauty eternal.
He renews your youth – you’re always young in his presence.
Think & Pray: Often we pray that God would bless us. Does the idea of you blessing God sound weird to you? How could you possibly bless God!?! The meaning of the Hebrew word for “bless” here is “to kneel”. When we bless God, our souls kneel to him, in thankfulness and worship.
Read the passage a second time out loud. This time concentrate on kneeling your soul and heart to God as you read it. If it helps, physically kneel as your read. After reading it a second time pray a grateful prayer. Spend a couple minutes being thankful for all you have in your life right now: a family member, the car you drive, the job you have, the church family he’s given you…
Live: Before you go to sleep tonight take a few minutes to kneel by your bedside. Go over your day with your Heavenly Father and tell him about all the details that rush to your mind that you’re thankful for.
God is our Deliverer
“Some sat in darkness and the deepest gloom, prisoners suffering in iron chains… Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He saved them from their distress. He brought them out of darkness and the deepest gloom and broke away their chains. He sent forth His Word and healed them; He rescued them from the grave.” Psalm 107:10, 13, 14, 20
I have always had a fascination with prisons. Even as a child, I remember driving through the countryside and would come upon a tall watchtower and immediately I would become alert to the barbed wire fences around the perimeter. Several years ago, I had a strong conviction to lead a weekly women’s bible study at our county jail. I was blessed to meet hundreds of ladies – all with a different background and criminal past.
There’s something about being in prison that produces despair, gloom, and loneliness- which is why I loved being able to share the light and hope of God’s Word.
One thing I’ve found is that you don’t have to be behind prison walls to be a prisoner. You may be walking through a prison of your own. Satan wants to steal, kill and destroy your life. (John 10:10)
What is your darkness?
What are the lies Satan is speaking to you?
How are you suffering?
How do you need to be healed?
No matter what prison of darkness you’re in the midst of and no matter how deep your gloom, God loves you. God gave you His Word to heal you. God sacrificed the blood of Jesus to rescue you from the grave. The Christian life doesn’t make sense without eternity. Even in the midst of your sadness, there is celebration because we know how God’s grand story will end.
“Not about Me”
”And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word.” 1 Kings 18:36 ESV
As a parent I have bestowed some valuable wisdom on my children over the years. “If all your friends jumped off a bridge…,” “I don’t care what Johnny’s parents let him do…,” “If you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all” and so many others.
One of my favorites is “the world doesn’t revolve around you.” I know I didn’t like hearing that one when I was young. I wanted the world to revolve around my preferences, my schedule, and my happiness – all around me. Fortunately the world doesn’t revolve around me, my children, or even you. The world revolves around God. Elijah understood this. Elijah was facing 450 false prophets of Baal when he declared to God that “you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant.” Take time to read 1 Kings 18:20-40 and see how God showed himself in a mighty way and proved Elijah’s claim to be true.
When you know God, and know that he is the one true God, you are free to serve Him with confidence. You know that the world doesn’t revolve around you. It revolves around Him.
Father, thank you that you are at the center of this world. Forgive me when I am self-centered and teach me to serve like Jesus, who took on the form of a servant and was obedient to death on the cross. Convict me when I act as if life revolves around me. Make me aware of opportunities to serve you and others.