Monday, 31 December 2012

Blessings through struggles

Now as they spoke to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came upon them, being greatly disturbed that they taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they laid hands on them, and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. However, many of those who heard the word believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand. – Acts 4.1-4

While it might have looked like everything was rosy in the garden for the early church they had problems right from the very start. The preaching of Peter and John began to have an impact on the community so the Sadducees took them into custody.

They might have been tempted to think that this was all a mistake. Peter and John simply preached about the resurrection and off they went to jail. It didn't seem like much of a start did it?

But look what happened despite it all. 'However, many of those who heard believed, and the number of men cam to be about five thousand.'

This reminds me of the verse in Exodus that describes the new persecution of the Jews under the pharaoh who 'knew not Joseph.' The Bible tells us here that 'the more they afflicted them the more the multiplied and grew.'

Christians tend to fear and dread opposition. The Bible tells us that God’s people thrive under opposition and oppression.

Who knows what the next year will bring? I think we can be pretty certain that it is not going to get any easier for Christians. Instead of crying about it maybe we ought to just get out there, proclaim the glorious name of Christ, and see what God can do with His faithful people when they are opposed. 

Sunday, 30 December 2012


And His name, through faith in His name, has made this man strong, whom you see and know. Yes, the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all. "Yet now, brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord,  - Acts 3.16-19

Peter continues on from the section about the lame man walking here. Speaking of Jesus Peter says 'through faith in His name this man is made whole...the faith which comes through Christ has made him completely sound before your very eyes.'

He sad this to the very came group who he had just said killed Jesus! 

'I know you and the rest of your leaders did this out of your ignorance, but Christ has fulfilled all the prophecies of the Messiah. Jesus has born the suffering that Messiah had to bear.' Peter continued.

The Jews knew all about the reigning and victorious Messiah, but they had missed the passages like Isaiah that told of a suffering Messiah.

'But now is the time. Now Is your chance. Repent and be converted so that your sins may be wiped out and you can enjoy the refreshment that comes in the presence of the Lord.'

This is an amazing picture of the grace of God and His immeasurable love even for His enemies. Peter just said that this was he lot who had killed Jesus, then He tells them that if the repent and be converted they can share in the blessings of the presence of Christ.

What a great God we serve. He loved us when we were still the enemies of God. That gives me great hope even for the most hardened enemies of God today. The invitation is still open – repent and be converted and enjoy the blessings of refreshment that come from being in Jesus’ presence. 

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Why are you so surprised?

So when Peter saw it, he responded to the people: "Men of Israel, why do you marvel at this? Or why look so intently at us, as though by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified His Servant Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go. – Acts 3.12-13

God was doing some amazing works in the early days of the church. Some of this was to get the world's attention since Jesus was gone and the Bible was not yet done.

We read that when the lame man went leaping and jumping up and down as we came into the Temple the people were surprised – and no wonder. They had seen him every day begging by the roadside.

'Why are you so surprised at this men of Israel? Why do you act like we did this by our own power? God, the God of our fathers has done this. He glorified His Son Jesus, but you delivered Him up to the courts and demanded His death even when Pilate wanted to release Him.'

Following on we read 'But you denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses. And His name, through faith in His name, has made this man strong, whom you see and know. Yes, the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.'

They didnt have a clue who they were sending to His death, now Peter is telling them that this is the One who healed the lame man.

I guess we shouldn't be surprised that these guys were surprised. They didn't know Jesus or what He could do.

These people remembered Jesus. They knew who He was. They had seen His miracles. They had seen His great works. Did they really think that could stop Him?

On another note, we should never be surprised at what God does when He works. We can never forget that wonder of His mighty works and stand in awe when we are reminded of His goodness. But we should never be surprised at Him. After He is our God and He loves us. We simply ought to be grateful. 

Friday, 28 December 2012

Silver and gold

Then Peter said, "Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk." – Acts 3.6

As Peter and John we walking to the temple for worship they saw a blind beggar asking for money. They had nothing tangible to give.

The wonderful truth is that they had so much more to offer than just silver or gold.

Just last week we watched 'Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer' with the grandchildren. When I came across this verse a song in that show came to mind (and it is still there now). Anyone familiar with the show can hear Burl Ives singing

Silver and gold
Silver and gold
Silver and gold
Ev'ryone wishes
For silver and gold.

The song was sung in the context of Yukon Cornelius and his obsession to find these treasures.  The lesson of the song is that there is much more to life than just silver and gold.

Our world is very much a 'silver and gold' world. It has always been a silver and gold world. It has always seemed that the answer to everything is more silver and gold.

But that is not always the answer. Peter and John had no silver and gold to offer this man. But they had something better. They had Jesus and His power. Jesus healed this man and he went, as the beautiful old King James translation put it, ‘walking and leaping and praising the Lord.’

Jesus is still in the healing business. This broken man was fixed by Christ and this broken world needs the same thing.

Silver and gold is not going to fix the broken world. We ought to have that figured out by now.  Instead of the relentless drive for silver and gold we need to realise that Jesus’ fix is for eternity and share that good news with those around us. 

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Favour with all the people

So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. Acts 2.46-47

I am challenged by so many aspects of the testimony of the early church. I look at these folks at the very start and I wonder how they did it a world that was totally unfamiliar with Christians and the church. Of of what the church would be and what it would do was contingent on their beliefs and actions.

We saw already how they continued steadfastly in fellowship and sharing. While they did so they lived in gladness and simplicity and they praised God and had favour with the people. And people were being saved.

I just want to look at two of these aspects of the early church today - they praised God and they were favoured with the people.

Praising God is something I think we do a pretty good job of as whole. Sure, we get down in the dumps and maybe even get discouraged at times, but I think most Christians have some attitude of praise in their lives. I hope that we can praise God for what He does for us and never forget to honour Him.

But the 'favour with the people' bit? That be a little but tougher can't it?

It is hard to know how far we go to have favour with the people isn’t it? I think however can put it pretty simply. We should never compromise in our walk with the Lord. We should never compromise when it comes to declaring our faith. We should never compromise when it comes to standing for truth and right. But we don’t have to be jerks about it.

People may not agree with us, and may even oppose us, but if we stand firm in a kind loving and compassionate way we will gain respect. We need to stand without personal attacks or name calling, even if we are provoked.

When we are attacked and reviled we need to return a blessing. We don’t have to win the fight, our goal and desire is to win the person. 

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

All the books of the world

And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen. – John 21.25
I have always really liked the end of John's gospel. I like the phrase 'I suppose even the world could not contain all the books that would be written' if we tried to record all that Jesus has done.

John of course was writing of his day and of all that Jesus had done in those 3 1/2 short years. It was impossible to record everything that He had done even in that time period. I find it fascinating that we do not even know everything He did while He was on earth.

So we think about what John said, that all the world could not contain the books required to tell all that Jesus had done.

If that was true then, how much more true would it be today? Over almost 2000 years of history Jesus has saved and worked miracles in the lives of His people to the point that nothing could possibly contain all that He has done.

I can’t help but be reminded of the great hymn ‘The Love of God’ which expresses it this way.

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above,
Would drain the ocean dry.
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.

O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints' and angels' song.

Indeed, the whole world could not contain the books required to record all that Jesus has done through His love. 

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

When the fullness of time had come

But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. – Galatians 4.4-5

Happy Christmas to you all.

In the midst of all the hustle and bustle and confusion today is the day that we have chosen to commemorate the birth of our Saviour. We all know that Jesus probably was nor born on the 25th of December, but that doesn’t really matter. The important thing is that we have chosen a day to remember the miracle of the Incarnate Deity.

'In the fullness of time' God says, when everything was just right, 'God sent forth His Son...'

If I got started on trying to deal with this entire verse we would be here all day. There are so many lessons we can glean from this passage. But I just want to take one to heart today. It might be a slightly different focus for this Christmas Day.

About 1993-94 our fund raising to move to Ireland was going quite slowly. I was, believe it or not, discouraged. We wanted so desperately to get to Ireland. I was sharing this with some friends when one of them said 'remember, God has never been late.' We can get very impatient with God. We often want God to work in our time-frame  Right now our poor daughter-in-law Karen is waiting on her child and is four days overdue. We were talking yesterday afternoon when I remembered what our friend and shared it with her. God, indeed has never been late.

God sent forth His Son in the fullness of time. For years generation after generation of Jewish families had waited for Messiah to come. But God wasn't late, He never is. He acted in the fullness of time. Jewish prophecy had prepared the way spiritually. The Romans had built a great road system and the Pax Romana would expedite the spread of the gospel. Greek was the lingua franca of that part of the world and would ease the transmission of the gospel as the written word.

It was the fullness of time.  God’s timing was perfect.

But then God’s timing was perfect for us to get to Ireland. God’s timing will be perfect for Karen’s baby.

God always acts in the fullness of time – we just need to realise that He is not, never has been, and never will be, late. 

Monday, 24 December 2012

Follow Me

This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, "Follow Me."  - John 21.19

Peter was an interesting guy. As soon as he had that talk with Jesus and was told to tend to Jesus’ sheep he looked over, saw John, and said ‘what about John? What is he going to do?’

Isn’t that just the way it is? We get a job to do and the first thing we think is ‘what is so and so supposed to do?’ We can be so afraid of having to do something more than the other guy that we don’t just get to the task but we worry about him first.

But Jesus didn't even deal with it. 'What is it to you if he just hangs around till I come again? You worry about following me.' (Even this was misunderstood. The rumour got out that Jesus said John wasn't going to die till Jesus came back.)

Leaving all that aside the lesson is pretty clear - don't worry about what the other guy does or doesn't do. Just follow Jesus and what he has for each of us.

We are not going to get anywhere if we worry about what everyone else is doing or not doing. Let’s determine to spend the next year following Christ, looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith, not looking at the storms around us but walking on the waters of our live with our eyes focused on Him. When we fall may we say ‘Lord save me,’ get up, and then follow on.

I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back. 

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Do you love me

So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." He said to him, "Feed My lambs." He said to him again a second time, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." He said to him, "Tend My sheep." He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?" Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, "Do you love Me?" And he said to Him, "Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You." Jesus said to him, "Feed My sheep. John 21.17-18

Now that Jesus had their attention He focused on teaching Peter a. lesson about love and service. ‘Do you love Me more than these?’ Jesus asked Peter. ‘I do Lord; You know I do love you.’

That makes sense, but then Jesus asked him again ‘do you love me.’  Again Peter responds ‘You know I love you.’

‘Tend my sheep.’

‘Peter, do you love Me?’

Now Peter was hurt, ‘Lord, you know all things. You know that I love You.’

‘Feed my sheep.’

The first time Jesus asked the question it seemed to be related the Peter’s earlier claim that His love for the Lord was so great that even if everyone else turned away He would not, but Peter knew that he had turned away. His reply was ‘I love You’ but no word that it was more than the other disciples had.

There is a lot more we could talk about with all the implications here, but I want to keep t simple and make an application. Twice more the same basic words are exchanged. Thrice Peter had denied Jesus and now thrice he professed His love.

At the end Jesus says, for the third time, feed my sheep.

I am sure that Peter felt guilty for his betrayal. We know for a fact that he wept in shame when Jesus looked at him after the third denial.

What do I take from this today? God is the God of second chances. Peter failed. He promised that he alone would stand if everyone else ran, but he alone denied Jesus; not once, not twice, but three times. And yet Jesus reached out to Peter and told him to tend to His followers. Instead of discarding Peter Jesus reached out and put him back in the game.

I love this. I love that fact then when I fail Christ doesn’t just cast me off. He can still use me. He can still use any of us when we turn back to Him. 

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Gone fishing

Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, "I am going fishing." They said to him, "We are going with you also." They went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing. John 21.2-3

I apologise again for the confusion. We will get back to Acts in just a couple of days.

After Jesus appeared to the disciples it appears that they didn’t know quite what to do next. Simon was gathered with six other disciples when Simon said ‘I’m going fishing lads!’ The other six replied simple, ‘alright, we’re going too.’

So they went out fishing, spent all night in the boat, and caught nothing.

The next morning Jesus came to where they were and asked how their fishing went. They told Jesus that they had not caught anything. Next Jesus told them to try again on the other side of the boat.  To their surprise they caught so many fish that they could not bring them into the boat.

It doesn’t take a great theologian to figure out the application here.

Peter was a brash kind of guy. He often acted on impulse. Here, instead of waiting for Christ to tell them what to do he just figured they would go back to fishing and the other guys agreed, despite the fact that Jesus had promised to make them ‘fishers of men.’

And they failed. Just like we do when we go off on our own without waiting for Him. It is important that we not using waiting as a excuse for laziness, but at the same time we need to be sure that we don’t rush off without praying and patience and seeking God’s direction.

Jesus came to them, gave them a good catch, and then reminded them what they were supposed to be doing. 

Friday, 21 December 2012

All together now

Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. – Acts 2.44-45

It is pretty obvious from the very beginning that unity and ‘togetherness’ were pretty important to the early church. ‘All those who believe, they had everything in common and they shared everything so that no one had a need.

The psalmist told us something of how important unity was in Psalm 133 - Behold, how good and how pleasant it is or brethren to dwell together in unity!

Years ago I read a book called We Really Do Need Each Other. It is all about how God never intended for us to be alone. It talked about how important it was in this troubled world that we have each other to depend on. That is part of the reason why God gave us the local church, so that we never need be alone.

This togetherness is much more than just going to church together. It means that we are always there for each other.

Too often we get the idea that we don’t want to be a bother when we have things we are dealing with. We figure that other people have enough problems on their own. That was never God’s intent. The first church took care of each other. Nobody worried about what was yours and what was mine. They made sure that no one suffered for lack of need.

In this Christmas season lets be aware not just of family and close friends. Let’s make sure that everyone is taken care of and that we are together, with all things in common.

Thursday, 20 December 2012


And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.  - Acts 2.42

If we are looking for some basic instructions are what a New Testament church should do we don’t have to look very far from the beginning.

The people were saved, they were baptised, and they continued steadfastly in doctrine, in fellowship, in breaking bread, and in prayers. In other words they got saved, they got baptised, and they got busy.

The phrase ‘continued steadfastly’ means that they constantly gave attention to these things. When they got saved the things they paid attention to new things.
They gave constant attention to Bible teaching. They didn’t miss a chance to hear the disciples teaching on what it meant to be a Christian. They focused on learning more about the word of God.

They gave constant attention to fellowship with each other. The recognised that they really needed each other to survive in the perverse generation they had been saved from and they spent time is sweet Christian fellowship.

They gave constant attention to breaking bread.  This was not the Lord’s Table, but regularly sharing what little food they had with each other.

They gave constant attention to regular seasons of prayer. They knew right away that they needed to pray and made prayer a vital part of their church life.

But what amazes me is the ‘gave great attention to regularly’ aspect of this. It looks like their faith was the most important aspect of their lives. Going to church and fellowshipping and sharing and praying were first on their list. They weren’t things they just squeezed in when it was convenient.

I think we get that confused sometimes. We let the distractions of the world turn us away from what should be our priorities.

Maybe we need to look at to the beginning and learn a few lessons from those who came before. 

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Were baptised

Then those who gladly received his word were baptised; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. – Acts 2.41

I don’t talk about specific doctrine much here. I think church is a much better place for that. But this verse just grabbed me today.  I think I like it so much because it helps believers of today identify with our brothers and sisters in Christ at the very beginning of the church.
I realise that I am a Baptist. But more than that – much more than that – I am a Christian. I like the fact that when these people heard Peter’s message, accepted it, and were saved they followed the Lord in baptism. This happened long before there were Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Pentecostals, or any other group. It was simple, those who received his word were baptised.

And the wonderful thing is that we identify with Christ and with His body when we follow Him in baptism.

It makes me sad when believers don’t follow the Lord in baptism, not because I am a Baptist, but because they miss the blessing of being obedient to Christ and they miss the blessing of almost 2000 years of fellowship with the rest of His body.

My brothers and sisters have been ridiculed, suffered, and even died over believer’s baptism. May I always hold my baptism as precious as they did and strive to live in a way that honours my Lord and the rest of His body. 

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

From this perverse generation

And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, "Be saved from this perverse generation." – Acts 2.40

At the very end of Peter’s sermon were drew it all together. Not all of the sermon is recorded here but when he got done he simply said, ‘be saved from this crooked and perverse generation.’

When I look at that I might be tempted to say something like, ‘if that was a perverse generation what is today’s generation?’

The truth is that every generation since the fall of man has been a perverse generation.

The tragic events of last Friday only serve to remind us of what a wicked and perverse world we live in. The deaths of twenty children and their teachers shocked us, and rightfully so. But every day all over the world innocent children die. Many die of starvation because their governments are so corrupt that they deny them relief. Children are drafted into armies and used as ‘cannon fodder.’ Other children are sold and traded as sex slaves and discarded like rubbish when they are done.

And yet history is replete with violence like this. Until about 200 years ago children were seen, even in many parts of the ‘civilised west,’ as commodities to be used up and thrown away. Ancient Greece and Rome saw nothing wrong with rulers and aristocrats having young boys as their sex toys.

Yes, we live in a perverse world. But the world has always been perverse.

That is why Peter’s words are so memorable. They don’t speak to one age. There is only one answer to every perverse generation. That is the salvation that Peter preached about in his sermon. What people need is not so much a public forum, or changes in the law, or a crackdown, or moral change. What they need is Jesus. A real, genuine relationship with Jesus Christ is the key to overcoming and changing our society.  

Monday, 17 December 2012


Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it. – Acts 2.23-24

‘Death cannot keep its prey, Jesus my Saviour; he tore the bars away, Jesus my Lord!

Up from the grave he arose; with a mighty triumph o'er his foes; he arose a victor from the dark domain,
and he lives forever, with his saints to reign. He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!’

These words are from the great hymn ‘He Arose’ written by Robert Lowry in the mid-19th century. What moved Lowry to such thoughts? One day while he was doing devotions he saw the scene whey the angels asked ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is risen!’ The full impact hit him – even death could not hold Jesus!

The world really thought they had won this one. Jesus was dead. The ‘great messiah’ was in the grave. The stone was rolled over the mouth of the grave. The grave was sealed and guards stood over the sealed tomb. There was nothing more to worry about. Done and dusted.

But that’s not where it ended. It was impossible for death to hold Him. He arose.

In Christ death is defeated. Because death could hold Christ and I am in Him death has no more power over me. Because death could not hold Him is lives today in me.

As the song puts it so well -

Death is crushed to death;
Life is mine to live,
Won through Your selfless love. 

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Whoever calls

And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved – Acts 2.21

We have here a part of the first sermon ever preached to the church. Pentecost has come. The Holy Spirit has come. And then Peter gets up to preach.

He preached from the book of Joel about the ‘day of the Lord’ and announced to his hearers that the day of the Lord had arrived and that it would be accompanied by signs and wonders.

At the very end Peter quotes Joel message of great hope ‘all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved.’

We are so accustomed to that phrase that we are tempted to just read over it and go on. But we can’t miss the importance of it.

Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

‘Whoever’ – anyone. That means that no one is left out of the possibility of salvation.

‘Calls.’ Not does great works, not is really religious, not happens to be born into the right family – just ‘calls.’

‘On the name of the Lord.’ -  Jesus Christ, the one who had just given His life to pay the penalty of sin for ‘whoever.’

‘Shall be saved’ – forever and for all eternity from the penalty of sin.

With this one phrase at the very first ‘church service’ the Lord gave us His plan for salvation. The Law had done its job; it had shown us our need of salvation. We couldn’t match up, no one could. So now ‘whoever’ could simply call on the Lord for salvation.

Praise His wonderful name that ‘whosoever surely meaneth me.’ 

Saturday, 15 December 2012

How do we handle the news?

These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers. – Acts 1.14

‘What do we do now?’

That must have been at the heart of what was going on for the disciples. They were told to wait, but in the meantime they had business to take care of. They knew the scriptures and they knew that Judas had to be replaced.

So the disciples, the women associated with Jesus’ ministry, and Jesus’ mothers and brothers gathered together.

They gathered together to pray and submit themselves to God’s leadership. I love the fact then when we first meet what will soon be the church they are together praying and seeking God’s face.

I am having a tough time working on this today.  The full gravity of the terrible shooting last night in Connecticut is just setting in. As I watched some of the news clip the tears flowed as I thought about  the children who saw the events, the heroic adults associated with the school, and especially the families who dropped their children at school yesterday having no idea they would never see them alive. I think about I dropped AJ at school yesterday, gave him a kiss and a little swat on the bum, and watched him go through the door. Twenty children, about AJ’s age, did the same thing yesterday. Only they never came home.

So what do we all do now? We can get up in arms and demand that laws be changed. We can talk about the evil in the world.  Some may even doubt their God today.

But the reality of evil ought to drive us to God. We ought to be in one accord physically or even spiritually in  prayer and in seeking God’s face.

What do we do now? We realise that we live in an evil world. This kind of tragedy happens all the time, but rarely in such a visible and public place. Four and five year olds die all over the world every day because of violence and poverty, we just don’t see it in such a dramatic way.

And then we do what these early believers did. We turn to God in prayer and seek His face on how to deal with the evil that is all around us. Then we can talk about all the other issues involved. 

And in this case we pray for all those involved in the tragedy that is now Newton, Connecticut. 

Friday, 14 December 2012

Time to get busy

And He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven." – Acts 1.7-11

First of all please accept my apologies. I tend to schedule my devotions a few days in advance and somehow I skipped all of John 21. We will go back there and catch that up in a few days.

Anyway – to the book of Acts.

Acts is written by Luke, kind of a Luke II. It starts after the resurrection and after all the disciples have seen Jesus. Between the gospels and the start of Acts Jesus spent some time with the disciples.

Now, in His last message on earth Jesus said (pardon the parrowphrase) ‘Don’t worry about God’s timeframe. You are going to receive the power of the Holy Spirit. Be witnesses for me at home, abroad, and every place in between.’

And then He was carried away into heaven.

Can’t say I blame them, but the disciples stood there gaping into heaven.

So the attending angels said something that convicts, challenges, and even shames me – ‘Why are you looking up into heaven? Jesus will come back just like He left.’

The implication is clear – ‘stop hanging around here and get busy doing what Jesus just told you today.’

I spend far too much time waiting and looking and just standing around gazing at this or that. I have friends and neighbours and co-workers and townsfolk who need to hear my witness of Christ. I have the power of the Holy Spirit.

‘Roger, the angels might very well ask, why are you standing there gazing. Get busy.’  

Thursday, 13 December 2012

That you might believe

And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.  - John 20.30-31

We only get a glimpse what Jesus did while He was here. There were a lot of things they were not written here. At the end of the book we find out that all the books in the world could not contain what Jesus had done.

But here we find out why He did what He did.

All these things are written down (I love that by the way. It is all written day. It was not just oral tradition. It is all there in black and white) so that the readers would believe that Jesus is the Christ, that He is the Son of God, and that the belief would be life in His name.

What a blessing to see that not only did Jesus die for us, He lived for us and did all Him marvellous works for us as well. When He turned the water into wine He did that so that we would believe and be saved. When He healed the sick and raised the dead He did that so that we would believe and be saved. When He walked on water and calmed the storm He did that so that we would believe and be saved.

‘Living He loved me, dying He saved me, and buried He carried my sins far away. Rising He justified freely forever. One day He's coming, oh, glorious day, oh, glorious day.’

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Believing without seeing

Jesus said to him, "Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." - John 20.29

When Jesus came into the room where the disciples were they were all not a little surprised. When Thomas showed up a few days  later the disciples said that they had seen Jesus. It took Thomas eight days to get there, and when he did he could not be convinced that it truly was Jesus until he not only saw Him, but actually put his fingers in Jesus’ wounds.

So when Jesus arrived He offered Thomas a chance to do just that – ‘Here, look at me and put your hands in my wounds.’

Then Thomas confessed ‘My Lord and my God.’

Jesus then said that Thomas was blessed for his belief, but would have been more blessed if he had believed without seeing.

I hate it when I do that. I love the fact that God loves me enough to help me believe, but I would love to just simply believe without the signs and proofs. Peter wrote about the kind of joy that comes with that belief – ‘whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.’

I can do okay when it comes to salvation and knowing that I am saved, but it falls short when I need to remember that He promised to be with me and take care of me and to be my shepherd. So over and over again He has to do something to prove it to me.

I long for the day when I can just believe Him without having to reach out and ‘touch the wounds.’

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

They went home

Then the disciples went away again to their own homes. - John 20.10

I have never, ever noticed this little phrase before. Jesus had been crucified and now the tomb was empty. I don’t know what I should have expected here, but ‘the disciples went home’ is not on my list of possible responses.

They just went home.

I am not sure what to think about that. It just seems kind of strange that after all that had happened the disciples would just ‘go home.’ The commentators differ over whether that means they went back to their own houses or they went back to where they had come from. Either way it still seems kind of strange that they just left when they encountered the empty tomb.

When I first read this it was with a critical spirit. ‘How could they just go home after seeing the empty tomb?’ But on reflection I am not so sure that they did the wrong thing. When we look down just a few verses we find the disciples gathered together when Jesus came into the room.

Sometimes we can rush headlong into programmes and activities without even stopping to think, pray, and talk it over. Later on, when Jesus came to meet them they were all assembled together. They didn’t scatter in fear.

I tend to be an over-reactor. Maybe I can take a lesson from these guys. Don’t try to fix it or sort it out without thinking about. Stop, reflect, pray, get some counsel and then move on. In the meantime the Lord might just step in and show me what to do. 

Monday, 10 December 2012

They did not know the scripture

Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; and he saw the linen cloths lying there,   and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself.  Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed. For as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead. – John 20.6-9

The disciples seem, shall we say, just a little thick at times. After all they had been through and all they had heard they still did not understand the scriptures that said that Jesus would rise again from the dead. When they heard from the women that Jesus body was missing they came to the tomb. They didn’t believe it until they actually saw the empty tomb.

I like the humanity of the disciples. It gives me comfort that Jesus didn’t use superstars. He used people like you and me. Jesus’ death shocked them despite all the times He had told them that He would die. The empty tomb surprised them despite the time Jesus told them it would happen. Just like us they had a hard time believing without seeing.

But you know what? They did believe. And do you know what else? God used them.

While that doesn’t excuse my lack of faith and lack of understanding it does give me comfort and strength to keep on going even when I don’t ‘get it.’ If I stay at it one day I will. 

Sunday, 9 December 2012


So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, "It is finished!" And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit. – John 19.30

It is finished, the battle is over
It is finished, there'll be no more war
It is finished, the end of the conflict
It is finished and Jesus is Lord

Whenever I read this passage of scripture this song by the Gaithers is the first thing that comes to mind. This verse is one of the most encouraging passages possible. Long before these words were said and for centuries since religion has told men that they have to ‘do’ in order to please God. Jesus said it is done; there is no more to do.

Satan will always try to mock what Christ did by telling us that it was not enough. If we could be saved by keeping the Law or doing good works Paul tells us that Jesus would have died for nothing.

Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe.

Or as the amazing new hymn ‘The Power of the Cross’ puts it -

Now the daylight flees;
Now the ground beneath
Quakes as its Maker bows His head.
Curtain torn in two,
Dead are raised to life;
"Finished!" the vict'ry cry.

I am grateful every day for the words ‘it is finished’ because if it depended on me and trying to do something more I would certainly never, ever make it. 

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Mother and son

Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, "Woman, behold your son!" – John 19.25-26

I will never fully understand the whole concept of Jesus as both God and man. I trust it, I believe it, and I accept it, but I don’t see how it all works. It is however true and here we have an example of how it is manifest.

The ‘big picture’ is the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. God Himself is shedding His blood for you and me. The suffering is intense. He is literally bearing the weight of the world on His shoulders.

Adding to that is the fact that the thousands who once followed Him have disappeared. Not only that but his disciples had almost all fled. He has been rejected, betrayed, denied, and abandoned. But He was still a man and still had earthly concerns. 

At the foot of the cross were four people – only four. His disciple John was there. His mother Mary was there with her sister. And another Mary was there (nobody seems to know who she was, but many think she was James’ mother.)

Jesus looked down from the cross and thought about His mother. Apparently Joseph was dead and she had no one to care for. Jesus said, in some of His rare recorded words from the cross, ‘woman, here is your son’ and to John He said ‘behold your mother.’ Speaking on the cross took great effort. It was nearly impossible to breath, much less speak.

And yet Jesus took the time to show His human love. He saw that His mother would be left all alone. His practical compassion for her was obvious. Barnes put it this way – ‘Jesus, in his dying moments, filled with tender regard for his mother, secured for her an adopted son, obtained for her a home, and consoled her grief by the prospect of attention from him who was the most beloved of all the apostles. What an example of filial attention! What a model to all children! And how lovely appears the dying Saviour, thus remembering his afflicted mother, and making her welfare one of his last cares on the cross, and even when making atonement for the sins of the world!’

What love and what an example of how important family should be. 

Friday, 7 December 2012

No king but…

But they cried out, "Away with Him, away with Him! Crucify Him!" Pilate said to them, "Shall I crucify your King?" The chief priests answered, "We have no king but Caesar!" – John 19.15

I mentioned this just a couple of days ago. The people who had welcomed Jesus as king now said their only king was Caesar. When Pilate offered to release ‘their king’ they didn’t want it. ‘Our only king is Caesar.’ Maybe they were afraid of being complicit in Jesus’ treason. Maybe they were disappointed. Maybe it was combination of both. Either way they had rejected Jesus as their king.

Hopefully none of us go that far when it comes to Jesus as our king. Hopefully we would never say ‘I have no king but ‘whatever’.’ However that doesn’t mean that we don’t think act or believe as though Jesus was not our king.

How do we know what is king of our lives?

The king of our life is the thing or the person that sits on the throne of my heart. It is the person or thing that I bow down to. The king is who I obey.

We sing ‘King of my life I crown Thee now’ but do we really? Are we like the people of Jerusalem, but instead of saying ‘we have no king but Caesar’ we say ‘I have no king but me?’ 

Thursday, 6 December 2012

You have no power

Jesus answered, "You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin."  - John 19.11

Pilate was furious that Jesus would not answer his questions. ‘Don’t you know what I can do to you? Don’t you know who I am?’

Jesus’ reply was clear and to the point – ‘You wouldn’t have any power at all against Me if God didn’t give it to you.

Pilate was a government official who was given power by God to order the death of His son. We often find it easy to complain about our government officials and even advocate disobeying the law or even violent revolution. What Jesus tells Pilate here is totally consistent with the rest of scripture. ‘The Most High rules in the kingdom of men and He gives it to whoever He will.’ ‘The powers that be are ordained of God.’ ‘Honour the king.’

The problem is one of our perspective. It would make no sense, from a human perspective, that God would put a man in power who was going to kill His son. Without knowing what we now know it would be very difficult to believe that God would allow that to happen. Surely, God putting Pilate in power could not be possible.

It takes faith to believe that ‘the Most High rules in the kingdom of men’ and to believe ‘the heart of the king is in the hands of the Lord.’ Do we have the faith to accept it? 

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Crucify Him

Therefore, when the chief priests and officers saw Him, they cried out, saying, "Crucify Him, crucify Him!" Pilate said to them, "You take Him and crucify Him, for I find no fault in Him." – John 19.6

What an amazing turn of events from Sunday to mid-week. In just a few short days Jesus went from being the conquering hero to the most vile of criminals. When the people were given a choice between releasing Him and a hardened criminal the people opted to release the criminal.

First it was the chief priests and officer, but eventually the blood thirst spreads to the whole crowd – ‘Crucify him! Crucify him! We don’t have any king but Caesar!’

How did that happen? I think it is pretty simple. He didn’t do things the way they wanted Him to. They thought when He entered the city He was about to liberate them from Rome. They figured that they were about to be free. You can almost sense a William Wallace like shout of ‘Freedom!!’

But then everything fell apart. He was arrested and didn’t even fight back. Now He was on trial for treason and anyone who took His side might very well be arrested as well.

So they turned on him. Completely. Absolutely. He didn’t do it their way.

We might very well take a haughty attitude about them and think ‘how could they do something like that?’ but I wonder if we are really much better.

How do we do that? Just think about how we respond when Jesus doesn’t do things the way we think He should. When things don’t go the way we want we can easily start to question Him. No one there could have possibly understood that God’s greater plan was being worked out.

I have felt that way. I can’t always see what He is doing. When it goes totally against my way of thinking I can doubt Him. I may even reject His way. I may not say ‘crucify him’ but I may be tempted to say ‘are you sure you know what you are doing?’

Is that really any better? I already know what He has done. I know the price He paid. I know that He has proved Himself over and over again. And yet still I doubt. I can go from praise to doubt in just hours, much less days.

I don’t think I at least have much room to be critical. Would I have been there by their side? 

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

What is truth?

Pilate said to Him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, I find no fault in Him at all. - John 18.38

Poor old Pilate. I said the other day that I can almost feel sorry for this guy. He was certainly in a lose-lose situation. He had nothing to do with Jesus. It really wasn’t his matter to deal with. The Jews should have handled this situation themselves. He was exasperated. Try as he might he can’t find any reason to convict Jesus.

Then Jesus says, ‘those who are of the truth hear me.’ You can almost sense Pilate’s attitude as he says ‘What is truth?’ then walks away to go tell the Jews that he can find no wrong in Jesus.

This makes me sad. It seems like Pilate is one of those people who just almost get there. Here he stood face to face with the Truth and asked ‘what is truth?’ He literally couldn’t see truth right before His eyes.

I know that I have been in similar situations before. I try to share the truth with someone and they just don’t get it.  Like Pilate they turn away and go on about their business.

We can’t expect everyone we meet to accept the truth. Pilate stared it right in the face and missed it. How sad it is when we or anyone get that close and still fall short. 

Monday, 3 December 2012

Everyone who is of the truth

Pilate therefore said to Him, "Are You a king then?" Jesus answered, "You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice." – John 18.37

So how do the subjects of Jesus’ non-earthly kingdom act? Jesus tells us here as He is describing His kingdom. ‘I was born to be a king,’ He said, ‘I came to bear witness of the truth.’ And then He talks about us – ‘Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.’

Jesus uses a similar illustration when He talks about being a shepherd and that His sheep hear His voice and follow Him.

The truth is the same in both cases. There is a challenge for all of us here. King Jesus’ true subjects are the ones who hear His voice.

What this means is that those of us who are truly His, those who know Him as the truth, are the ones who hear His instruction. It is kind of like our King has a special message for His subjects while we are here. Others may know of Him and gain some profit, only His subjects really hear His voice and are able to apply it to our lives here.

The problem is what we do with His voice when we hear it. He says all true believers hear it, so that can’t be the problem.

The problem is mentioned above. When Jesus talked about us as His sheep He added something else – ‘my sheep hear my voice and they follow me.’

The true test of what we do when we hear something is how we follow up. We often talk about ‘selective hearing’ with kids when they seem to hear what they want to hear. Sadly we too can be guilty of selective hearing. Sometimes we too can hear only what we want to hear when it comes to following Christ.

Everyone who is of the truth hears His voice. What do we do after that? 

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Not of this world

Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here." – John 18.36

The other day we looked at the fact that though we are sent into this world we are really not of this world. Today Jesus uses the same terms to speak of Himself and the world.

Jesus was involved in a trail accused of claiming to be a king. Pilate, a government official who represented Rome was sitting as judge. I almost feel sorry for Pilate. He was not in a prime posting for a Roman official. He was stuck away in the region of Judea and now he had to deal with a religious squabble between the Jews and a trouble making teacher.

‘Are you a king? Pilate asked. ‘I am,’ Jesus answered, ‘but my kingdom is not of this world. If it were my followers world fight to protect their king, but my kingdom is not of this world.’

This is yet another reminder, if we needed it, of the reality of the two worlds that co-exist.

We often may wonder why the world can’t just follow Jesus; instructions because if everyone just listened to Jesus the world would be a lot better. The American president Thomas Jefferson though that. His ‘Jefferson Bible’ was created by simply cutting out all of the teachings of Jesus and compiling them into one volume as a guide for life. He called it ‘The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth’ and intended it as a tool take the deity out of Christ.

But the ‘Jefferson Bible’ simply would not work. Though people can all improve their lives and benefit to some extent by following the teachings of Jesus they will never get the full benefits because He is not their king. They are not really a part of His kingdom.

But those of us who are of His kingdom have no excuse. King Jesus tells us exactly how we are supposed to live. The only question is if we are going to follow our King or follow the ways of the world neither of us are a part of. 

Saturday, 1 December 2012


that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.
– John 17.21-23

Oneness is a beautiful concept and the oneness talked about here is especially beautiful. This is a great prayer, Jesus prays for all kinds of unity. He prays that we would all be one with each other. He prays that we will not only be one with each other but that we will also be one with Him and the Father and that we would all share in the same glory, and that we would all share in the same glory,

That’s pretty amazing isn’t it? In some incomprehensible manner Jesus prays that we would share in the same unity and glory that Jesus shares with His Father.

Why would Jesus pray for unity and God’s glory in our lives?

Jesus wants the world to know for certain that He came from the Father and loved the world with the love that the Father has for Him.

It’s amazing how it all works out. We get to benefit for the unity and glory and love of God and at the same time the world gets to see that Jesus is just who He says He is and that He is working through us.

What kind of example of oneness with God and my fellow believers does the world see in me today?