Acts 2: “The Moment of Truth”

I have to admit, there were times in high school I didn’t pay the closest attention.

I was at a large Christian event being held at the Philadelphia Spectrum in high school, and I found myself sitting next to, and being distracted by, a group of girls.

Not paying attention at all to the speaker, as he started talking louder, I started drawing in the little notebook they gave us for “notes.”

It was coming to the end of the message time when suddenly the girls around me stopped passing notes and started paying attention. Suddenly the girl I was “interested” in got up and started walking down to the front of the stage. Not being one to miss out on an altar call, or the opportunity to pray with a girl, I started walking down towards the front as well. I thought it was mildly strange that there were a lot of girls going down, but I pressed on.

So I get down to the front and they have us stand, not kneel around the alter. You know, they wanted everyone to see publicly that you were ready to commit to what the guy up front was preaching about.

I have my eyes closed and I’m looking down and the speaker from up front says, isn’t this incredible? “Look at the response we have had here today. We even have one man who has come down to take this stand,” everyone claps. So I look up to see who’s the guy, and you guessed it, I look on the huge jumbo tron and there I am, big as life, standing in the middle of all the girls that were going down front to take a stand in favor of dressing appropriately, not wearing so much makeup, and resisting the temptation of getting physical with boys. I remember thinking, “you’ve got to be kidding me!”

So what did I do? I stood there, like I was meant to be there. And the speaker addressed all those young ladies, and one young man, about the dangers of dressing inappropriately and heavy dating with boys. And I just stood there.

Take a Stand

What do you stand for? Maybe a more important question is, who do you stand for? Today we have the opportunity to read about one of the greatest moments in human history, Pentecost. The day when God’s Spirit penetrated earth and baptized his believers with fire. Just like John the Baptist said he would. But in the midst of this monumental occasion is a really powerful moment for one disciple.

After being given a second… third… no, fourth chance, Peter is among the believers who experienced Pentecost together. The question for Peter would be, would he stand up?

Looking at Peter’s life should give us great hope. Here’s a disciple who had quite the topsy-turvy existence up to this point.

  • Peter walked on water, but sinks moments later
  • Peter calls Jesus the Messiah, but minutes after is rebuked for not believing Jesus
  • Peter cuts the ear off a high priest’s slave in the garden, but doesn’t show up at the cross
  • Peter denies Jesus three times, but later will be restored by Jesus, three times

So it wasn’t a given here on Pentecost Sunday that Peter would lead as Jesus hoped. I’m sure there was an eager anticipation for what Peter would do in this moment. We have to remember that Peter always had a choice. We’ve seen his power of choice over and over again in his story. This would be no different. As the Spirit was falling, people were preaching, devout Jews came running, and with all of heaven watching… Peter would make his choice. This was Peter’s moment of truth!

In my opinion, one of the most powerful moments in the history of the post Pentecost church, Peter stood up! Not to belittle this moment, but it reminds me of the line at the end of Top Gun, “Maverick’s reengaging sir!”

Peter stood up, and the rest as they say, “is history.” I can only imagine for Peter the words and thoughts that swirled through his mind. “Upon this rock…” “Ye of little faith…” “You will deny me three times…” “Do you love me…?”

The question for us to consider today is this: Peter stood up, will you?

 

Acts 1: “Power’s Comin'”

Welcome to Acts! As a part of our Daily Reading you’ll notice that we started with Luke intentionally to lead right into reading the Book of Acts. Being the author of both books, Luke again gives a careful account concerning the “acts” of the Holy Spirit working through the apostles. Scholars aren’t sure exactly who Theophilus is, but original manuscripts find Luke referring to him as, “most excellent;” a title given to those who sat in a seat of authority.

Connecting with Acts 24, Luke 1 refreshes our memory as to how we got here and what’s about to happen. Of course the disciples are still focused on the possibility of a Revolution (1:6), but Jesus is more focused on getting out of here so the Spirit could bring power. John 16:7 (NLT) But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send him to you.” What Jesus was limited to do in his body, he’s unlimited to do in his Spirit.

Scripture has many names for the Spirit: Author, Comforter, Counselor, Guide, Teacher, just to name a few. In John, the Holy Spirit is called Advocate, here in Acts 1:4 the Spirit is called the “gift,” but the one thing the Spirit always does is bring POWER!   Continue reading Acts 1: “Power’s Comin’”

Luke 24: “Jesus Drew Near”

One of my favorite post Resurrection stories can be found in our reading today in Luke 24. It’s the story of two men and their walk home after celebrating the Passover from Jerusalem to Emmaus. If you read it just straight through and let it stand as it is, this story is amazing, but when you take a closer look, this story has some powerful implications for you and me today. Let’s join the two men as they walk on the road to Emmaus.


Luke 24:13-18 (NLT) 13 That same day two of Jesus’ followers were walking to the village of Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 As they walked along they were talking about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things, Jesus himself suddenly came and began walking with them. 16 But God kept them from recognizing him.

17 He asked them, “What are you discussing so intently as you walk along?”

They stopped short, sadness written across their faces. 18 Then one of them, Cleopas, replied, “You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about all the things that have happened there the last few days.”


Although there’s lot to discuss and break down in this story, I want to simply point us to one key movement in the message; the two men went from sadness to gladness, and it was all because they were reunited with Jesus, once again.

I love the way the King James reads in (v. 15), “15 And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them. But what Jesus encounters as he got closer and closer to the two men was sadness. We can hear the anguish and disappointment in their voices, 21 “We had hoped he was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel.

Here’s a point for us to consider today: Not only were these two geographically far away from Jesus, but their faith was far away from Jesus as well.

Have you ever put your hope in things only to find yourself walking away disappointed?They had put false expectations on what they though Jesus should do. It’s easy to put our hope in things or people and suddenly find ourselves overshadowed by our circumstances. Like these two, it becomes easier and easier to fall into depression, loose focus, doubt, forget, fall away, reject, to give up and give in.

Thank God that in spite of:

  • Our clouded situations and circumstances…
  • getting lost frequently along the way…
  • the times we decide to run away from our difficulties…

There is a God who not only comes looking for us, but also DRAWS NEAR and TAVELS WITH US until we see again!


Luke 24:27 (NLT) 27 Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.


Jesus didn’t just draw near and walk with the two men, he also coached and discipled them…”as they were going..(that’s another Reflection for another day)”.

As they approached their destination, because Jesus gave us the wonderful gift of free will, and because he wants to be invited in, Jesus acted as if he were going on. But the two men begged him to stay the night. I’m moving fast, but at the table that evening for dinner, Jesus took the bread and blessed it, but then he broke it, and when he broke the bread their eyes were opened and they recognized it was Jesus! Suddenly their situation changed dramatically!

Look at the change…

FROM:

  • (v. 17) “sadness written across their face”
  • (v. 21) We had hoped he was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel”

TO:

  • (v. 33) They got up and went all the way back to Jerusalem!
  • (v. 35) Excited to tell the story of how Jesus drew near!

Conclusion:

Jesus’ death and Resurrection gives Him the opportunity to walk with us, teach us, and provide hope in the midst of sadness and confusion. No matter how confused, no matter how depressed, and no matter how far we run, he is always there, drawing near. 

 

 

 

Luke 23: “The Veil Was Torn”

Have you ever seen those strong men who can tear a phone book in two? It’s pretty cool at face value, but there’s really not much to it when you learn the trick. Don’t get me wrong, you still have to be incredibly strong to tear all those pages, but you don’t necessarily need Herculean strength. It would be cooler if you saw a person tear an iPad in half… now we’re talking!

In our reading today we are confronted with many images that require our attention. Whether its Jesus standing in front of Pilate or Herod, or Simon of Cyrene carrying the cross behind Jesus, we are forced to not simply gloss over these scenes and really think about the power of each moment. One of these powerful moments comes at verse 44 in Luke 23:


Luke 23:44-46 (NLT) 44 By this time it was about noon, and darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. 45 The light from the sun was gone. And suddenly, the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn down the middle. 46 Then Jesus shouted, “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!” And with those words he breathed his last.


All of creation since the beginning of time has awaited this moment. I can’t imagine the very moment when the covenant was fulfilled and the Son of Man died for the sins of the world, but imagine with me the sight and sound of the veil being torn in two in the temple. Continue reading Luke 23: “The Veil Was Torn”

Luke 22: “Trust in God and Keep Your Powder Dry”

Oliver Cromwell before the start of the invasion of Ireland, looked at his men and said, “Trust in God and keep your powder (gun powder) dry.

This is similar to the quote I remember reading from Mark Batterson’s book, Circle Maker, “Pray like it depends on God. Work like it depends on you.”

Both of these quotes lean in the same direction: Trusting in God and having faith are important, but there’s still work to be on our end as well.

As we begin winding down in Luke we find ourselves today in the Upper Room with the disciples. It’s here that Jesus instructs his disciples one last time before moving to a time of prayer in the garden. I have to admit to you, the passage we’re going to look at today was a little foreign to me. I had a, “I’ve read this a thousand times, but I’ve never seen this before, type of moment.

After the meal was over and the disciples were sitting around talking to Jesus, Jesus gives them instructions they’ve never heard before. In fact, it was opposite of the instructions he gave them before sending them out two-by-two.  Continue reading Luke 22: “Trust in God and Keep Your Powder Dry”

Luke 21: “Stand Tall”

High Intensity Discharge Lamps 

One of my favorite gifts for Christmas this year was a set of HID lights for my car. Incase you’re wondering, HID stands for “High Intensity Discharge.” I know, if you’re not a car person that sounds really lame, but I’ve been eyeing these lights for a long time. Still confused by HID light? They’re the headlights that have that slightly blueish tint, you know, the one’s that you hate to see driving towards you or in the rearview mirror behind you. Sorry about that, but if you have them, you know why they’re so great!

I couldn’t wait to get my lights out and install them, in fact, I’ve never been so excited for nightfall so I could see the full effects of my new lights. It’s interesting, even during the day I could see the light shining on the garage, it just wasn’t as bright because of the sunlight. When night finally came, which seemed like forever, then the lights really showed off.

Jesus in Luke 21 is making a very similar point.

With only a few days away from his crucifixion, Jesus is trying to teach is disciples what to expect in the future. In this particular case there’s no reason to wear shades, because the future doesn’t look so bright. Here are the highlights: Continue reading Luke 21: “Stand Tall”

Luke 20: “Stewards, Not Owners”

January 15, 1989

WEST PALM BEACH — FILMING HITS SNAG. Burt Reynolds’ film crew was busy exploding a front lawn for an episode of the B.L. Stryker television series when the home’s angry owner called saying they didn’t have permission to use the property. When Daniel O’Brien of Ardsley, N.Y., learned that Reynolds’ production company was crashing cars in front of his West Palm Beach home and had given his living room the look of a motel, he called, demanding answers. ”They’re blowing up the front lawn. They put carpet down and put new paintings up. They have no permission to do this,” said O’Brien’s son, Kieran, from New York. Neither watched the filming in person. Blue Period Inc. told O’Brien they had permission from his tenants, Ricardo and Laura Gonzalez, who signed an agreement allowing the filming. Mrs. Gonzalez refused to answer questions Friday. Officials of Reynolds’ company said they were under the impression the Gonzalezes owned the three-bedroom house until O’Brien telephoned Friday morning.

Can you imagine sitting in New York and getting a phone call from your neighbor in West Palm Beach? “Ah, Daniel, did you know they’re shooting a T.V. show at your house? Yeah, I’m looking out the window right now…watching the whole thing. I’m pretty sure they just blew up a car on your front lawn.” This story almost sounds too crazy to be true, but you know what they say, “Truth is stranger than fiction.”

In Luke 20, Jesus tells an equally crazy parable that unfortunately was about to become all too true. If you haven’t already, turn to Luke 20:9-16 to get caught up on the Parable of the Evil Farmers.

Could you imagine the audacity of these tenant farmers? Just so we’re clear: Tenant farmers would have worked on land that they rented, not owned. So it would have been crazy for renters to beat up the person who was going to the farm to collect the rent for the owner.

To truly understand this parable, we must identify the characters:                               Owner of the Vineyard         God
The Vineyard                        Israel
The Tenant Farmers            Religious leaders of Israel
Servants of the Owner         The Prophets and Priests
Son/Heir of the Owner         Jesus Christ                                                                                 The Others                            Gentiles

Here’s the simple fact: The religious leaders forgot that they were the stewards, not the owners of religion in Israel. The whole reason why Jesus even tells this parable was ultimately to answer the religious leaders question,“By what authority are you doing these things (20:2)?” Jesus shows that he has authority by pointing to the fact that his father is the owner of the vineyard (Israel) and he is the heir.

Our takeaway for today is simply this: Don’t fall into the same trap as the Pharisees and think that you are the owner when you’re simply the steward. This can apply to multiple areas of your life, take for instance your finances.

We tend to think that we are the owner and the manager of our finances. But the truth is, God is the owner, he owns it all, but God trusts us with what’s his and calls us to steward (manage) it well.

The sooner you can understand that we steward God’s possessions and properties, the sooner he will start trusting us to keep stewarding. Don’t forget what we read earlier this week in Luke 16:10-12 10 “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities. 11 And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven? 12 And if you are not faithful with other people’s things, why should you be trusted with things of your own? 

Luke 19: “Hang On Every Word”

Since I’m a pastor I have to go to church on Mondays. Sure, I could count my time preaching and teaching on Sunday’s as church, but since that’s a time of pouring out for me, I need to find a time to be poured into. So on Mondays, I go to Brooklyn Tabernacle and am taught by my pastor, Jim Cymbala.

Now Pastor Cymbala doesn’t know me, and because I live in Chicago he couldn’t pick me out of a crowed, but faithfully each Monday I stream the message from that Sunday praying his words will pour into me and fill me.

This past summer Pastor Cymbala and the Brooklyn Tabernacle Singers came to my town in Naperville. Literally two miles from my church, Pastor Cymbala, along with Tim Delina, and Michael Durso, came for a conference. Listening to your pastor online is one thing, but when he’s standing ten feet from you, needless to say, I was on the edge of my seat hanging on every word.

I thought for sure today I would cover the story of Zacchaeus in my reflection, but boy did God have other plans.There are two lines of scripture right before Chapter 20 begins that I want to reflect on today. Continue reading Luke 19: “Hang On Every Word”

Luke 18: “Walk By Faith, Not By Sight”

I love my son. He’s a bundle of seven-year-old who sometimes gets so overwhelmed with all that’s going on around him that his head starts to spin and pea soup shoots out his mouth. If you are a parent you know the story I’m about to share.

I’m out working in the garage on a project that somewhat needs a little more of my concentration and attention. Suddenly I’m bombarded with the greatest need ever known to man kind. “Dad, dad, dad…!” “Hold on son.” “Dad, I need you. I really need you.” “Just a second son.” “But dad I really need you right now!” “Okay, what is it?” (Long Pause) “I can’t remember…”

My son needed me so bad, but yet when I asked him what he needed he couldn’t remember. How is this possible? How can you be so desperate yet you can’t remember what it was you needed in the first place? I’m sure there are some gifted child psychologists who can answer this question, but if they did they would just ruin my point.

My point is: When the person who can help you is paying attention, you need to be ready to tell them what you need!

This is just the scenario from our reading today. For time sake I’ll assume you’ve read the passage, but if you haven’t click here to read Luke 18:35-43.


Not by Seeing

It would have been normal for Jesus and the crowd to encounter a blind person sitting on the side of the road just before you enter a city. Matthew recalls this story with two beggars (Matt. 20:30), but Mark mentions there was only one beggar and gives him a name, Bartimaeus (son of Timaeus) (Mark 10:46).

Wouldn’t have been embarrassing if Luke said, ” and he saw the crowd going past…?” I make this joke to help us understand the power of the next point. Bartimaeus is blind, we get that, but his reaction to Jesus just proves he has heard of this man before. In fact, not only is it obvious he’s heard of Jesus, but he calls him, “Son of David,” the official title of the Messiah! Blind Bartimaeus couldn’t rely on his site, but he had to rely on the testimony of the people around him to know who Jesus was. 2 Corinthians 5:7 helps us understand that he could only rely on faith: “for we walk by faith, not by sight (ESV). The crowd however didn’t appreciate Bartimaeus’ attempt at getting Jesus’ attention. 

Shush!

Have you ever been shushed? If you’ve ever seen the DreamWorks movie, “Home,” you know that King Boov walks around with a Shusher Stone and uses it to stop the people from speaking out of turn.

The crowds shushed Bartimaeus, because to them, Bartimaeus was just like every other blind and crippled beggar. They didn’t want Jesus to be slowed down or bothered by an insignificant street beggar.

But isn’t is amazing to read story after story about how Jesus stops!? He stops and he calls to people, or he reaches out a hand, or how he talks to the lowly, but most importantly, he stops!

Now What?

This next part has always been a little comical for me. Blind Bartimaeus is brought to Jesus and Jesus asks him, “What do you want me to do for you?” Seriously Jesus? His name is Blind Bartimaeus; they brought him over to you; the dude’s blind and you ask, “What do you want me to for you?”

Here it is! The moment of truth…literally! The person who can help you is paying attention, you better be ready to know what you need!

Bartimaeus responds, “Lord,” (this is important because it shows Bartimaues acknowledges who Jesus is) he said, “I want to see!” Jesus says, “Receive your sight! Your faith has healed you.” 2 Corinthians 5:7 for we walk by faith, not by sight (ESV).

Exercise For Today

 Picture Jesus looking right into your eyes and allow him to ask you this question: What do you want me to do for you?

Take a minute today and identify five spiritual needs you have. Don’t be general, like, “make me a better Christian.” Be specific. Recognize that Jesus is the Messiah, He is stopping to talk to you, He is asking you, What do you want me to do for you?

Luke 17: “Where Are The Other Nine?”

Found only in the Gospel of Luke stands the story of ten lepers who were healed by Jesus. Before we begin you have to know, ten were healed, but only one was freed.


Luke 17:11-14 (NLT) 11 As Jesus continued on toward Jerusalem, he reached the border between Galilee and Samaria. 12 As he entered a village there, ten lepers stood at a distance, 13 crying out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”

14 He looked at them and said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed of their leprosy.


These lepers understand the rules. They were outside the village like they were supposed to. They kept their distance like they were supposed to; and they understood something about Jesus that most people to this day still miss… He is Master. 

So they didn’t reach out for Jesus, they didn’t touch Jesus, Jesus didn’t even touch them, he simply said, go show yourselves to the priest. Jesus was asking them to step (literally) out on faith and obediently walk towards the Temple. So that’s what they did! Now, in my mind’s eye, I like to picture all ten lepers being healed with step, after obedient step, towards the Temple. If the story stopped here, this would be a good story, but it doesn’t. Continue reading Luke 17: “Where Are The Other Nine?”