Tag Archives: Church

God’s People, part 246: Dorcas

Read Acts 9:36-43

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.”  (Romans 12:1, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Dorcas_TabithaPart 246: Dorcas. According to Luke, Tabitha (or Dorcas as she was known in Greek) was a Christian believer and someone that was kind, compassionate, and always serving others, especially the poor. She was a woman who lived by the very example of her Lord Jesus Christ and was, clearly, filled with the Holy Spirit. What a powerful witness she must have been to our Lord Jesus Christ.

So, it must come as a shock to learn that this sweet, kind, loving, compassionate and thoughtful woman found herself succumbing to a serious illness. How could a such a faithful follower of the Lord Jesus Christ die? How could God allow that to happen? Such questions lead us into a realm of theology known as theodicy: why does God allow sin, evil, pain, and suffering to happen to good people. Why do those things exist at all?

Before we progress anymore into Luke’s account, I want us to pause here. First, there is no answer that will satisfy why evil, sin, pain, and suffering exist. The search for solving the dilemma of theodicy has led people in different directions. Some form some pretty horrifying theologies to explain why God either causes or “allows bad things to happen.” Such theology has done much physical, spiritual, psychological and emotional damage to people. While some have found a safe haven in such theology as it seems to give their suffering a purpose, others have been further lost in their suffering as a result of a theology that locks them within it.

What’s more, that theology has lead people to develop and opposite and equally damning theology. “If I am forced to believe in a God who causes or allows evil to happen,” such a people say, “then I would rather just not believe in God. Thank you very much! Have a nice day.” It’s what leads people like outspoken anti-theist Dr. Richard Dawkins to proclaim, “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all of fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully”[1]

What’s important to understand is that much of this comes from a misunderstanding. Most people think that, because God is good, then only good things will ever happen to those who follow God. Yet, as can be seen in Acts, Scripture never promises that. Yes, God is good and wants the very best for us; however, we live in a broken world where people use their free will to turn away from God and follow their own selfish desires. That is sin, which in turn can lead to evil, pain, and suffering for self and for others.

If God were to simply end all sin and evil, what would be left of this world? I think we have a story in the Old Testament that points to what would exactly happen were God to do that: NOAH and the flood. Dawkins, and those like him, fail to realize that the story of Noah was written to provide an explanation as to why God is so patient with the evil and sin that we perpetuate out in the world.

Again, that may not exhaustively satisfy one’s thirst to discover an answer to Theodicy; however, it is also important to not miss the forest for the trees when it comes to stuff that is beyond our understanding. The presence of evil, sin, suffering and pain do not cancel out the possibility of God’s existence any more than they prove any sort of divine reason or purpose for them existing.

Back to Dorcas. Yes, she was a faithful servant who got ill and died. Like countless faithful people before and after her, she fell ill from a virus and died. Had people not been greedy to the point of their being impoverished people, might she had avoided getting ill? We’ll never know as we don’t know how she got ill. Beyond that, even if she hadn’t gotten ill and died then, she would have died eventually. That is a fact of life.

The truth is, unlike Dorcas, most people don’t get resurrected back to life immediately after dying. As with any miracle, her resurrection brought honor and glory to God and caused many people to believe in Dorcas’ Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This miracle, as with all miracles, was performed to glorify and bring others to Christ.

Let us remember what miracles are for and let us also learn to not only look to aggrandized signs as miracles. Miracles happen every day and they come in all shapes and sizes. Anything that brings people into a relationship with Jesus Christ is a miracle.

Dorcas, herself, was a miracle because her loving, compassionate, kind spirit brought people to Christ in life, just as much as in death. Nurses and other frontline workers are miracles as they selflessly risk their lives to save the lives of others and you better believe people are coming to know the glory of God as a result of it. So, instead of waiting around for miracles and signs, and instead of us wondering why God doesn’t do anything to eliminate sin and evil, let us be the miracles that God created us to be.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
How quickly we forget God’s great deliverances in our lives. How easily we take for granted the miracles he performed in our past.

PRAYER
Lord, help me to see the miracles in my life that have brought glory to you, and help me to be a miracle in the lives of others so that they may see your glory as well. Amen.

[1] Dawkins, Richard. The God Delusion. (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2008), 51.

God’s People, part 245: Aeneas

Read Acts 9:32-35

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“’Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!’ And the man jumped up, grabbed his mat, and walked out through the stunned onlookers. They were all amazed and praised God, exclaiming, ‘We’ve never seen anything like this before!’” (Mark 2:11-12, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

WomanOnBeach-MiraclesPart 245: Aeneas. Here again we come across a person who was named, but not much else is known about him. In the Bible there are three basic categories for people. First, there are the main characters where chapters, books, or multiple books are dedicated to describing who they were, what they taught or did, and why they are noteworthy. The second category are those who are merely mentioned by name, but not much else is said about them. The third category are those who remain nameless. There are plenty of those people, for instance, “the man born blind”, “the Samaritan woman at the well”, etc.).

With Aeneas, we have the second category.He is named; however, all that we really know about him is that hey had been a paralytic for eight years prior to being brought to Peter. With that said, that tidbit of information helps us enough to figure out what was going on in the passage. Once, we have a deeper understanding of the passage we can the see how it fits into the bigger picture.

So, let us look at the passage itself. Peter had been traveling place to place and decided, along the way, to visit the believers in Lydda. Today, that city is known by it’s Hebrew name, Lod; however, Lydda was the Greco-Roman name for it. It is located a little over 9 miles southeast of Tel Aviv. It was there, in Lydda, that Peter ran into a paralytic man who had been bedridden for eight years.

Peter told the man, upon meeting him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you! Get up and roll up your sleeping mat.” Following those words, Aeneas was instantly healed! What an amazing miracle for him and others to witness! One can imagine the kind of amazement that must have been filling those witnessing that miracle. In fact, Luke tells us that the entire city, upon seeing Aeneas walking around, turned to the Lord.

From this account we see a couple of things happening. First, we’ve seen this miracle before. This miracle parallels Jesus’ healing of the paralytic man. Instead of forgiving this man’s sins, however, Peter simply points the man to Jesus who, clearly, forgives his sins. “Jesus Christ heals you,” Peter proclaimed.

The second thing to note is this, we see the beginning of the fulfillment that the disciples would not only do what Jesus had done in the past, but they would surpass him. In this account, Peter not only did what Christ did in healing the paralytic man; however, he pointed people to Jesus and watched them believe en masse! Wow!

Finally, we see exactly the model for discipleship. We are called to follow Jesus, to learn from him, to imitate him and to allow the power of the Holy Spirit to work through us! When we do, when we genuinely put our faith in Christ to work through us, it is amazing the sorts of miracles that come about. With that said, let’s pause here. What’s the point of a miracle? That question is answered in this passage as well. Miracles lead people to recognize and turn to the Lord. They are not magic tricks, they’re not brought about by our own power or will; rather, they signal to those who witness them that God is near and real!

This should challenge us. We should not set out looking to be miracles workers, otherwise, we will fall into the trap of Simon magus. Rather, we should set out looking to be faithful in our service to Christ. Once we seek out faithfulness, we will find ourselves stepping up and out in ways we never knew possible. That alone, my friends, is miraculous! Just imagine what God can do in and through your faithfulness! Let us be challenged to be like Peter who was faithful to Christ and never saw someone as being too insignificant for his time and presence.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Miracles are not contrary to nature, but only contrary to what we know about nature.” – Augustine of Hippo

PRAYER
Lord, work through me in a way that witnesses to others your glory and your coming Kingdom. Amen.

Maundy Thursday Online Worship

pictures-of-jesus-gethsemane-960152-wallpaperJoin Rev. Todd and First UMC of Newton, NJ for their Maundy Thursday Online Worship service at 7:30 p.m. Eastern Time (U.S./Canada) on YouTube. https://youtu.be/SMdTRcV6tEA
Holy Week is more than just Easter. It starts with Palm Sunday, works its way to Upper Room and Garden of Gethsemane on Maundy Thursday, to the foot of the cross on Good Friday. Without the suffering of Christ and his death on the cross, there would be no Easter! Join First UMC of Newton tonight and tomorrow night and prepare for the joyous celebration of Easter morning!

Coronavirus Update…

IMG_6127To all of my readers,

I pray that the grace of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, be upon you all! As you know, the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic has spread virulently throughout the world and that there is no place that really has avoided the spread. I live and serve in New Jersey, USA, and we are in an area that the virus is spreading exponentially. Our state as shut down bars, restaurants, movie theaters, and there is an 8 p.m. curfew here that will continue throughout the foreseeable future. What’s more, our president and federal government has asked that groups of no more than 10 people gather at any given time. Thus, as a pastor, I have had to make the hard decision of closing our place of worship and moving to an online format. I have also been placed on a Coronavirus Response Team for our Skylands District of the United Methodist Church of Greater NJ. All of this has taken tremendous amount of time and energy and, as a result, I have not had the chance to write this week’s devotions. I am fully planning on getting back into the swing of things next week, the Lord willing. I thank you all for your readership, understanding, your patience, and your prayers.

In the mean time, check out this message of encouragement I gave to my church on our Facebook Page:

With Love in Christ,

Rev. Todd Lattig

A LOOK BACK: Rising From the Ash

lent-CrossesThis week kicks off the most important season in the Christian liturgical calendar. Lent, Holy Week, and Easter remind us of our sinful nature, the cost that our sin ultimately cost, and the hope of the Resurrection in Jesus Christ who conquered the grave. Ash Wednesday kicks off the season of Lent, a 40 day period that parallels Jesus temptation in the wilderness and the 40 years the Israelites spent wandering the wilderness in search of the Promised Land. Click here to kick off your Ash Wednesday on the right foot.

God’s People, part 234: Barnabas

Read Acts 4:36-37

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard what was happening, they tore their clothing in dismay and ran out among the people, shouting,”  (Acts 14:14, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

barnabasPart 234: Barnabas. When it comes to the New Testament, we think a few prominent figures. We think of Mary and Joseph. We think of Jesus Christ and his twelve disciples. Among them, we think of Peter, John and James. When it comes to Acts, we predominantly think of the Apostle Paul; however, barring those who have read the Acts of the Apostles and the Pauline epistles (aka letters), most would NOT know the name, “Barnabas”; yet, he was a very influential apostle in the early church.

Barnabas’ actual name was Joseph and he was nicknamed Barnabas which means, “son of encouragement”. While on the surface it may not be clear why he was given that nickname, a closer read of Scripture provides the clues as to how Joseph fit into his nickname. When Saul of Tarsus first became an apostle, he was taken under the wing of Barnabas, with whom he traveled the known world on mission trips to bring the Gospel to the Gentiles.

While the Scriptures do not explicitly say that Barnabas was Paul’s mentor, it can be ascertained by the order in which their names appear. In Acts 11:30; 12:25; 13:2, 7, they are always listed in the following order: Barnabas and Saul. From that point on, however, they were listed as Paul and Barnabas. That means that from that point on, Paul (who decided to use his Roman name) was the apostle in charge.

Yet, mentoring Paul was not the only place where we find Barnabas encouraging people. He was a mentor to many, no doubt, including his cousin John Mark, which may or may not have been the same Mark who wrote the Gospel. Not only did Barnabas encourage him, but he advocated for him when Paul no longer wanted John Mark to be a part their missionary journeys.

The reason behind this is that John Mark had been with Barnabas and Saul (before he was using his Roman name) on their first missionary journey together. At some point during that first journey, John Mark had “abandoned them” midway and returned to Jerusalem. I put the word “abandoned” in quotes because, while it is never mentioned why John Mark left them, Paul was upset by it and clearly viewed it as a sort of abandonment of duties.

Thus, when Paul invited his good friend Barnabas on his next journey, and Barnabas stated he wanted to bring John Mark along, Paul vehemently disagreed. That, sadly, ended up in the a division between Barnabas and Paul. They parted ways and Paul went on his next journey with Silas, while Barnabas went to Cyprus with his cousin. The two sadly never joined forces again.

It is impossible to know if the two kept in contact with each other from that point on, or if their split became a permanent end to their friendship, or if they’re going separate ways made it impossible for them to reunite; however, Barnabas stood up to Paul in defense of his cousin Mark. He believed his cousin should be shown grace and encouraged to grow. As a result, Mark went on to possibly author the Gospel (though that is disputed) and more than likely to be a bishop of Apollonia.

Thus, as Christians, we could use to be like Barnabas. We could use to be an encourager and an advocate for people who we see great potential. Some times we do need to be like Paul and move on from people who are consistently unreliable; however, in this case, Paul may have been too rash as John Mark only left them once.

We, too, can often write people off too quickly because it seems like the easier route; however, Christ (and, ironically, Paul too) encourages us to be encouragers and a people who build others up. We are not to write people off, but to extend grace and extra chances to them, until it becomes clear that they are unwilling to accept such grace and change. Let us be encouragers, like Barnabas, and nurture people into deeper commitment and discipleship.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.”  – Paul of Tarsus, Apostle of Christ in 1 Thessalonians 5:11, NLT

PRAYER
Lord, help me to be an encourager of the church. Give me the grace to extend to those who may not be where I think they should be, for I know I am not where you think I should be. Thank you for your grace and your love. Amen.

God’s People, part 233: In Common

Read Acts 4:32-37

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Right now you have plenty and can help those who are in need. Later, they will have plenty and can share with you when you need it. In this way, things will be equal.”  (2 Corinthians 8:14, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

EarlyChurch_LivingInCommonPart 233: In Common. The Scripture reading for today’s devotion is a powerful scripture that has, unfortunately, been vastly misunderstood and misused. It shows us the power that exists within the body of Christ when it is living out the kind of servant-love that Jesus taught and commanded his disciples to carry on following his ascension; however, it also is an example of how Scripture can be used and twisted to carry out the agendas of human beings, even if they do so with good intentions.

Let’s first get the humanist interpretations out of the way. Good people with good intentions can still find themselves paving the way to hell. This Scripture gives us a prime example of how that can happen. People like Karl Marx were largely against religion and, especially, deterministic materialism. The Church, especially the Roman Catholic Church but also including Protestantism, had become an institution that promoted deterministic materialism. It expanded like an empire, demanded that monks not marry in order to retain church property, and pushed to grow its authority on a global scale.

All the while, it taught that “slaves should obey their masters,” that God determined who should serve as rulers and that all people should respect and subject themselves to kings, political authorities, and the law (no matter how immoral it might be), and it held people in subjection to classes defined by wealth. Sadly, many of the religious leaders who held people in their economic places were themselves extremely wealthy (e.g. the Pope, the King of England, bishops and cardinals, etc.).

Thus people like Karl Marx saw religion in such a way: “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.”[i] Religion was something that needed to be rooted out from society in order for socialistic and systemic change. With that said, Marx was sympathetic to the non-supernatural elements of Christian teaching, especially when it came to everyone living in common as found in Acts 4:32-37.

Marx is not alone in that and many, including Christians, have pushed for social change. In fact, there are some Christians that would call themselves “Communists”. Still, it is not equitable to mention Communism (not to be confused with Socialism and/or Democratic Socialism) and not mention the failings of that political system. Any student of history knows that Communism led to the rise of dictators such as Joseph Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Fidel Castor, Hugo Chavez, etc., who used brutal measures to uphold their authority and Communistic ideals. Of course, those ideals led to the elite government leaders being rich and everyone else being poor.

That is not what we see happening in the early church; rather, what happened in that context was much more practical, organic and self-sustainable. As mounting pressure rose up against early Christ followers from Jewish and Roman authorities, the community came to rely on each other to survive. The early Jewish Christians took a vow to poverty, meaning that they would not own anything to themselves, but would share resources and rely on the charity (love-driven giving) of others to sustain their lives and ministry. That is a far cry from the top-down approach of Communism.

With that said, it was also a witness to the great faith of the the early Christian community in Jerusalem and, we see that even Paul encouraged his churches to contribute to the “poor” in Jerusalem in order to support their lives and ministry (Romans 15:31; 2 Corinthians 8:1-15; Galatians 2:10). It must be noted; however, that this “living in common” was not something that was completely widespread throughout the church, but was specific to the Church in Jerusalem. Clearly, Paul’s churches did not all live in common, giving ownership of everything (e.g. money, property, resources) up to the Church as a whole; however, Paul’s churches still equitably shared their resources with others, including offering their homes up to be used as places of worship, tithing to support the ministries, and sharing in common meals.

What does this say for us? In our churches today, we see less and less giving. People see tithing as a “personal” matter and they get easily offended with pastors and/or church leaders talk about money. People want all of the “services” of a church (e.g. baptism, weddings, funerals, weekly services, Bible studies, Sunday School, counseling, and visitations); however, they don’t feel all that inclined to making their contributions a top priorty over other expenses. In fact, many view giving to the church (local, regional and global) as an obligatory expense.

This is not how the Church was intended to be. All of us make up the Church Universal, and investing in the Church is the same as investing in ourselves. That was the view of the earliest church, and that is how we should view it today. We are God’s and belong to the body of Christ; therefore, should we not prioritize supporting the body of Christ with our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service and our witness? That should be our top priority, along with bringing the good news of Christ to all people. I pray that you will reflect on that, if you are not already, make that the top priority in your life.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Generosity is as much showing your vulnerability as it is your passion for something.” – David Droga

PRAYER
Lord, help me to let go of my materialistic desires, so that I may generously supply the Church, of which I am a valuable part, its needs so that that it can carry on your ministry and advance the Kingdom of Heaven. Amen.

[i] Marx, Karl. “A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right” in Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher. (Paris, 1844), https://marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1843/critique-hpr/intro.htm.

God’s People, part 231: Leaping Beggar

Read Acts 3:1-10

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is upon me, for the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed. He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the LORD’s favor has come, and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies.”  (Isaiah 61:1-2, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

peter-and-john-heal-a-man-crippled-since-birthPart 231: Leaping Beggar. So what? That is the skeptic might be asking in light of the Pentecost experience. So what that people could understand the disciples in their own languages? First off, many of those people were Jews, even if they didn’t live in Israel, so who is to say that they did not have some understanding of Hebrew? Or, perhaps there are other possible explanations that could explain that without thinking that Jesus Christ actually rose from the dead. Surely, ecstatic and emotional experiences lead to all sorts of things, so 3,000 converting is not an unlikely phenomenon. But does that mean that the disciples’ account of Jesus resurrection was literally, physically true?

Of course, the skeptic will never be fully satisfied because they see everything through their skepticism. What’s more, they are looking for physical, tangible, empirical truth that can be measured by the physical sciences. In today’s time, people have forgotten the other sciences and solely put their faith in the physical/natural sciences; however, that does not lead them to the truth in regard to things outside of the physical realm.

For instance, look at dreams. They can be measured scientifically to an extent. Brainwaves, electrical signals, pulse, REMs, sleep cycles, etc. are all observational ways in which scientists can study what physically happens when we believe one is dreaming; however, why one dreams and/or how the brain produces the specific dreams can only be speculated on. They are not physically measurable. Yet, none of us are skeptical that we dream.

That brings us to Peter and John who crossed paths with a beggar who could not walk. He had to be carried every single day to the place known as “The Beautiful Gate” in order to beg for money. No doubt, many people passed him by without giving, an act that really is a not so “beautiful” reality in human behavior. So, there this man sat every day, looking to raise anything he could to survive.

When Peter and John encountered him, the man eagerly asked them for money. Peter and John didn’t have money to give him; however, they said that what they did have to give came from Jesus Christ their Lord. I cannot imagine what this man thought of that; however, the two disciples left him little time to think. “In the name of Jesus Christ,” Peter exclaimed, “get up and walk!”

While the hubbub of Pentecost could be easily dismissed as ecstatic enthusiasm, there was no room for skepticism in the heart and mind of the disabled man. Instead, he got up and walked. In fact, he did not just walk but leapt and danced with joy all the way with the disciples into the Temple. The people who knew this beggar, and had passed him every day on the way through the Beautiful Gate, were astounded by what they saw! This man’s newfound ability was witness enough to them about the power of Jesus Christ!

Let this text challenge you. First, let us understand that signs and miracles happen so that people might see the glory of Jesus Christ our Lord and be transformed by witnessing such things. Second, let us put our skeptical minds behind us. If none of the miracles in the Bible speak to you, ask your self this: how did this little sect of Judaism become the main religion of the Roman Empire? Conspiracy theories aside (and there are many of them), history shows this to be one of the most remarkable achievements in all of history. Not only remarkable, but next to impossible. With that said, the historical record is clear…it HAPPENED.

Let us recognize that there is more to reality than what can be seen or physically/scientifically measured. Skepticism can be healthy; however, when we are blinded and paralyzed by it, and when we are able to be skeptical of this (e.g. religion), but put faith in that (e.g. physical sciences as the sole measure of reality), we find ourselves mired by an unhealthy skepticism. Let us avoid such a swamp and really soul search for the truth of God.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
What good is being skeptical when one is not skeptical of his or her own beliefs?

PRAYER
Lord, help me work through my skepticism and lead me to the path of faith. Amen.

God’s People, part 230: 3,000

Read Acts 2:14-47

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Then, after doing all those things, I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your old men will dream dreams, and your young men will see visions. In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on servants—men and women alike.”  (Joel 2:28-29, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Peters-first-sermonPart 230: 3,000. We now move from the Gospel accounts of Jesus and his disciples, to Luke’s account on the life of the church following Jesus’ ascension. This account is actually volume 2 in a 2 volume work that Luke wrote. The first is, of course, the Gospel According to Luke. The second is entitled, The Acts of the Apostles. This second volume follows the apostles, the early church, and the missionary trips of the Apostle Paul. It starts in Jerusalem and ends outside the walls of Rome.

As we move through Acts, we will be looking at some of the characters that the Apostles interact with and we will see that the Holy Spirit did remarkable things for the promotion and spreading of God’s Kingdom through the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. Miraculously, this budding movement would go from illegal “cult”, banned and hunted by Roman authorities, to the official religion of the Roman Empire. All of this, happened without Christians lifting a sword against Rome.

In today’s reading, we enter into Luke’s account just after the Holy Spirit came to to them on the day of Pentecost in the upper room. Right after that, the disciples were ecstatic and filled with the power of God through the Holy Spirit. They were compelled to bring their enthusiasm and their Christian witness out into the streets. There was just one problem to that: Pentecost was a big ordeal in Judaism and many people from all over the world would be there.

Why? Because it was one of three pilgrimage holidays in Ancient Judaism and, thus, disapora (Jews living outside of Israel) Jews would travel to Jerusalem to observe Pentecost, a holiday marked the date that God gave Moses the Torah, or Jewish Laws. It is a date that is marked 50 days after Passover, when God freed the Israelites from enslavement in Egypt. With that fact established, how would these diaspora Jews, who spoke the languages of the countries from which they came from, ever be able to understand what Peter and the disciples were saying?

To the amazement of the disciples, the people were miraculously understanding what the disciples were saying in their own languages at the very same time that they were speaking. How incredible is that?!?! Some of the people mocked the disciples, claiming that they were drunk; however, Peter reminded them that it was merely 9 a.m. and that they were most certainly not drunk, but filled with the power of the Holy Spirit.

Peter then proceded to preach his first recorded sermon. In that he proceeded to tell them the Gospel message, first as it appeared in the Old Testament. He tied in the the Messianic prophecy of Joel and then he turned to King David, whom he also referred to as a prophet! He convincingly conveyed how King David saw the day in which God would raise up one of David’s own and place him on the throne. He saw that the death of this Messiah would not end in the tomb, but in this Messianic King being exalted at God’s right-hand, the place of honor.

Finally, he convicted them with the truth about “Jesus the Nazarene”. He was God’s chosen Messiah; however, even though the Jewish political and religious leaders had Jesus put to death, with the help of “lawless Gentiles” (aka the Romans), Jesus was raised from the dead, ascended into heaven, and sent the Holy Spirit to the disciples so that they might bring the Good News about Jesus Christ to all the people of Israel!

Upon ending his sermon, the people were so moved that they ended up getting baptized. ALL 3,000 OF THEM! That is right, Peter convicted the hearts of 3,000 people and they turned their lives over to Jesus Christ! Can you imagine that scene and how amazing it must have been. Can you imagine how moving, how transformative and, honestly, how frightening this all must have been?

Here’s the challenge for each of us. We are called to carry on the work of the disciples. We, too, are also filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. That is a gift that the Bible tells us is bestowed on all believers. We have been given gifts of the Spirit as a result of that and should be using those gifts to bring more people into an intimate and transformative relationship with Christ. In what ways can you up your game in evangelism? How has God gifted you? In what ways, utilizing those gifts, do you see yourself passionately sharing your faith with others and guiding them into a relationship with Jesus Christ? I pray you will reflect on these questions and accept the challenge for the glory of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“The LORD said to my Lord, ‘Sit in the place of honor at my right hand until I humble your enemies, making them a footstool under your feet.’” – King David in Psalms 110:1

PRAYER
Lord, continue to guide me toward being an even more faithful and effective witness to your good news! Amen.