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Posts from the ‘Devotional’ Category

The Day Before ‘The Next Day’

And the night the Lord stood by him (Paul), and said, Be of good cheer: for as thou hast testified concerning me at Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome. And when it was day, the Jews banded together, and bound themselves under a curse, saying that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul. And they were more than forty that made this conspiracy.

Acts 23:11-13

What God has said, He will do. Be reminded of this in your life. There is nothing that can stop God’s plan. Not even 40 blood-thirsty men determined to kill you. Such was Paul’s situation when he work up the next day. Imagine discovering that kind of news in your own life. Think about it: 40 religious men, some of whom you may have known, who are fasting to see the end of you; fasting for your destruction. Perhaps in your own life the news is somewhat different. Maybe it is someone bent to ruin your reputation. Perhaps it is a situation where someone is working behind the scenes to make you fail on the job. Or, it might be an attack from a family member, religious person, or former friends.

Whatever the case may be, we must consider the day before. Why is the day before so important? God often speaks to our hearts the day before ‘the next day’. That is why the day before is so important. Consider the context of Paul’s threats to his life. The night before the Lord was with Paul comforting him and reminding him of where he must go – to Rome. The Lord comes to strengthen, remind, and encourage each one of us concerning his plans for our life. He often comes the day before ‘the next day’ because he knows that we need to hear his reassuring voice confirming his plan for our lives for His ultimate glory. Yes, His grace is sufficient for each day but such moments like these in our lives – where the comforting voice of the Lord is so clear- seem to have a spill-over effect.  We can always look back in whatever we are facing and recall the ‘day before’ while we are living in the ‘next day’. As we do that, we trust God and walk in his plans for us. Moreover, just like Paul, he has places for us to go and people testify to concerning the gospel.

Later in the book of Acts, as it turns out, Paul was protected from the plot to kill him and eventually made it to Rome just like the Lord had said. Along the way, Paul faced numerous situations that were life-threatening (ship wrecks, a snake-bite, the courts) . Yet, it was what the Lord said that Paul held on to. Later in Acts 27:24, the writer records the same message from the Lord (You will testify before Caesar) delivered by an angel to Paul while he is lost at sea due to a storm.

I do not know when you will face a day like ‘the next day’, but I do know that the Lord wants to speak to you. He wants to let you know where he wants you to go and with whom he wants you to share the gospel with. And when you find yourself in the midst of ‘the next day’ you must still recall the Lord’s promises from the day before. For in doing so, you can walk into ‘the next day’ and every day after with joy, peace, hope and strength.

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The Power of Presentation

Have you ever thought about the power of your presentation?  I am not just talking about how you dress, act, or speak, but instead the volitional act of giving oneself over to the Lord.  Romans 6:12-13a says it this way:

‘Therefore, do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its desires, and do not present your members to sin as instruments to be used for unrighteousness…’

Here Paul is talking about the power of presentation.  As a believer, we can choose to present our bodies to a defeated master – sin.  Sin is ready and willing to resume its reign in our life.  Worship and spiritual living is a matter of choice.  We can present our bodies to be used of sin (our old master), or to be used of God (our new master).  Romans 6:13b continues, “BUT present yourself to God as those who are alive from the dead and your members to God as instruments to be used for righteousness”.

Romans 12:1-2 demonstrates the same idea and usage of the verb ‘to present’.  Here, Paul says ‘Therefore, I urge you brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a sacrifice, alive, holy, and pleasing to the Lord, which is your reasonable service.’   Because sin has been defeated by Christ, we have been set free from its mastery.  We have a choice – we can serve sin or serve the Lord.

The power of presentation is true consecration.  Like Paul, I encourage you to present your bodies to the Lord.  As you present your body to the Lord, you will find yourself being used as an instrument of righteousness rather than unrighteousness; walking with God instead of suffering under the rule of sin, which is an old, defeated master.

When You Don’t Believe What You Preach

Every preacher faces an occupational dilemma. It is the task of trying to build another in the faith when in fact, it may be that the preacher’s faith which may be weak. So, a preacher (I am including myself) preaches a message to encourage a believer, but may not fully believe the message that they have preached.

Thankfully, there are many great preachers to look at within the pages of scripture. I take comfort in this fact. I also find that God does not give us a ‘re-touched’ image of the preachers, prophets, teachers, and apostles of the past.  In fact, scripture paints a very real picture of the circumstances that surround them and often their level of faith and expectancy from God. I find this especially true of the Apostle Peter. From a preacher’s perspective, Peter gives me hope in the sense that I don’t always live out what I am preaching, but rather in many cases, I struggle to live out the Christian life with the upward call of God in Christ. Peter is someone who I can look to because, in one small – yet crucial aspect of his understanding of scripture, did not fully believe what he preached until the Lord made it clear to him in a special way.

Let’s consider some text out of Acts 2 where Peter preaches (publicly for the first time) in the power of the Holy Spirit and 3,000 people are added to the church in Jerusalem. If we examine Peter’s message, we discover some preaching that Peter himself did not fully believe at the time, but would believe later. Let’s consider the following scripture:

‘And in the last days it will be,’ God says, ‘that I will pour out my Spirit on all people,and your sons and your daughters will prophesy, and your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams.’  Acts 2:17

A quoted above, Peter recites scripture found in Joel 3:1-5. This is clearly a reference to the indwelling presence of God through the Holy Spirit made available to all, irregardless or race (the Spirit made available to Jews and Gentiles). This is what Peter preached on the day of Pentecost. Yet, when we come to Acts chapter ten, eight chapters later, we see that Peter did not yet believe that the gospel with the power of the indwelling Spirit of God was for the Gentiles. In fact, God had to graciously give him a vivid object lesson in order for him to believe that the gift of the Spirit was for all people (Act 10:1-22).

It was only after the lesson in the vision and Peter’s obedience to the Lord that Peter finally understood the text out of Joel that he preached on Pentecost. For we read the following In Acts chapter 10:34-46:

34 Then Peter started speaking: “I now truly understand that God does not show favoritism in dealing with people, 35 but in every nation the person who fears him and does what is right is welcomed before him. 36 You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, proclaiming the good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all)– 37 you know what happened throughout Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John announced: 38 with respect to Jesus from Nazareth, that God anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, because God was with him. 39 We are witnesses of all the things he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, 40 but God raised him up on the third day and caused him to be seen, 41 not by all the people, but by us, the witnesses God had already chosen, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to warn them that he is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead. 43 About him all the prophets testify, that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” 44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell on all those who heard the message. 45 The circumcised believers who had accompanied Peter were greatly astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, 46 for they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.

Looking at the example found in Acts 10, we see that the Lord was trying to let Peter in on the reality of the Gentiles to receiving the Spirit. For, the Spirit was for all people, as Peter had preached on the day of Pentecost. Yet, it is not until Acts chapter 10 that Peter fully realizes and believes the prophetic promise in Joel 3; namely that the Holy Spirit would be poured out on all people.

When you examine the chapter of Acts 10 some more, you can see that Jesus, the great teacher, gave Peter an object lesson to deal with his crisis of belief.  Often, in our own lives, Jesus will deal with our own levels of belief in a similar way. He will often give us gentle, clear, relatable, and compelling object lessons to help us with our own unbelief. When God makes our own unbelief clear to us, the gospel can spread and the Holy Spirit can really fall on the lives that God intends to touch.

So, what is the lesson for the preacher? Well, you could always believe what you preach the first time. Yet, this is easier said than done. We strive to take God at his word and obey. Experientially, this is is where the Lord leads us into all truth by the power of the Spirit. Old truth (The promise of the Spirit prophesied in Joel) becomes animated by the Spirit to become new truth realized (The Spirit being received by Gentile believers).  God continues to do the revealing and the uncovering in our lives as we submit to Him. The Spirit makes the old new and uncovers what was once secret. God, in his sovereignty, even uses the unbelief of the preacher to see people believe in Him. Ultimately, it is His truth that transforms us as we believe it, obey it, and partner with it in seeing people come to know Christ.

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