Devotions for March 28—April 3, 2016
Monday, March 28, 2016
“After his suffering he presented himself to them by many convincing proofs” (Acts 1:3a).
There is a skeptic in each one of us. Some people don’t believe that God is powerful enough to create the universe with a Big Bang and evolution. Members of the “Flat Earth Society” question the idea that the earth is a sphere. There are people who don’t believe that the United States landed men on the moon and several members of congress have stated that they don’t believe in global warming.
Jesus had his skeptics, too, and he did many things to remove their doubts. Jesus appeared to Mary on Easter Sunday morning. He walked with two disciples to Emmaus and taught them the scripture. Jesus appeared to the disciples in the upper room and had Thomas touch his wounds. Another time Jesus ate a fish breakfast with the disciples on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Paul wrote that Jesus appeared to over five hundred people. Still some didn’t believe that Jesus rose from the dead.
For over two thousand years Christians have proclaimed that Jesus lives. This is more than a theological doctrine. It is an experience. Jesus has answered our prayers. He has provided comfort in times of grief, courage in the face of uncertainty and love in the midst of anger and hatred. Many people see and believe, but there are those who still are a bit skeptical.
Living Lord, Thank you for eyes to see and hearts to believe that you live. Move within us that this reality might shape our lives. Amen.
Tuesday, March 29, 2016
“Speaking about the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3b).
Connor had grown up in the church. His parents had brought him to Sunday school and he survived a rigorous two-year confirmation program. Since he affirmed his baptism, though, Connor has not participated in any further Christian education. He is living in the fast-changing modern world with an eighth grade education. It is becoming more confusing for Connor every day. Connor is discovering that what he knows and believes is inadequate to address the issues of gay rights, racism, undocumented immigrants, gun violence and diversity.
After his resurrection, Jesus spoke to the disciples about his kingdom. There was a lot that the disciples still needed to learn even though they had walked with Jesus for three years. The disciples had always been slow learners and Jesus knew that they needed to understand more in order to carry out Jesus’ mission in the world. After Jesus ascended, part of the Holy Spirit’s ministry in the lives of Jesus’ followers would be to teach them.
The walk of faith is a life long journey of learning and discovery. In order to meet the challenges of the modern world, it is necessary for us to wrestle with our faith and the issues. An ongoing Christian education that provides us with knowledge and understanding is vital to this process. It’s time for us to stop cutting classes, sit up and pay attention.
All knowing God, open our hearts and minds. Teach us so that we can better serve you in the world in which we live. Amen.
Wednesday, March 30, 2016
“Wait for the promise of the father” (Acts 14).
There is a lot of waiting in life. We wait at traffic lights and in the stop and go traffic of rush hour. We wait to be seated at a restaurant, for our kids to finish their practices and for our friends to get ready for our time together. There isn’t a day, perhaps even an hour, that isn’t filled with waiting.
We shouldn’t be surprised that Jesus told his disciples to wait. We’re not sure why they had to wait. In God’s view of things, the timing might not have been right. So the disciples waited. They went back to the room where they had been staying. They prayed and discussed all that had happened in the past few weeks. Eventually the disciples’ waiting proved fruitful and they received the Holy Spirit.
As disciples of Jesus, we too wait. We wait for our prayers to be answered and for visions to become realities. Since waiting comprises so much of our lives, it is important how we wait. The disciples didn’t just “kill time.” They used their waiting constructively and so should we. We can pray, worship, study and serve. We wait knowing that God will answer our prayers and that the Holy Spirit will move in a mighty way in our lives.
Gracious Lord, give us patience to wait upon you with hope and expectation. Amen.
Thursday, March 31, 2016
“It is not for you to know the time” (Acts 1:7).
The Fisher family was driving up the Pacific Coast Highway to see the grandparents in San Mateo. Usually they drove Interstate 5, but they wanted the trip to be more leisurely and take in some sightseeing. About one hundred miles into the trip Mr. and Mrs. Fisher wondered if they had made the right decision. The scenery was gorgeous, but their grade schooler and middle schooler were already asking how much longer it would be before they’d arrive at their destination. Their obsession with time kept them from enjoying the beauty and wonder of the drive.
Like the Fisher children, the disciples wanted to know when Jesus would return. They were more concerned about the future than they were about the present. Jesus insisted that the disciples focus on the present and let God take care of the future.
We share that same curiosity where we are more interested in what might happen than what is happening. Jesus’ words to the disciples are words to us. We are to concentrate on the present, be aware of people’s needs and be creative in how we might meet those needs. God will take care of the future. God is in control and we have nothing to worry about.
Patient Lord, open our eyes to see the needs and open our ears to hear your calling so that we may serve you in the present. Amen.
Friday, April 1, 2016
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:8a).
Sometimes Christians believe that the Holy Spirit was given for our personal benefit. We think that the gift of tongues is simply to enrich our prayer lives or to allow us to “show off” during worship services. Some believe that the Holy Spirit’s role is to make us into good people so that we will be admired and respected—and our witness will be more effective. Jesus, however, always ties the gift of the Holy Spirit with mission and ministry.
The disciples had quite a challenge ahead of them. They were to be Jesus’ witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth—a daunting task. They would face rejection and persecution. The disciples would not have been able to accomplish their callings on their own. They needed the strength of the Spirit and other gifts that the Spirit might bestow upon them.
From the time of our baptism, we have been indwelt by the Holy Spirit. God is present in us. At our baptism we received the commission to, “Let your light shine before others ….” Like the disciples and other saints of old we cannot fulfill our calling without God’s Spirit moving within and through us. God’s Spirit equips us for ministry.
O Holy Spirit, fill us with your presence and use us as conduits of God’s love and grace. Amen.
Saturday, April 2, 2016
“You will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8b).
Two cars collided at a busy intersection. While the passengers of the vehicles were being treated for their injuries, police officers combed the crowd which had gathered, in order to find witnesses to the accident. When the police found a witness that person was simply asked to recount what he or she saw happen. The witnesses were not asked to justify what they said, nor were they asked to pass judgment as to who he or she thought was guilty. The police were only interested in what the people saw and heard.
As disciples of Jesus, we are called to be Jesus’ witnesses. This doesn’t mean that we need to debate or argue. We are not charged to convince other people to believe. The Lord is wise in what God has called us to do. Most people are not interested in theological arguments. What they want to know is how our faith in a resurrected Christ makes a difference in our lives today. If God makes a difference in our lives, then God might make a difference in their lives.
Loving Lord, enable us to be both loving and bold as we share what you have done and are doing in our lives with those around us. Amen.
Sunday, April 3, 2016
“In Jerusalem, in all of Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8c).
As disciples of Jesus, we have received the commission to be Jesus’ witnesses in the world. This commission is not meant to be a “got to.” For example, we have to go even if we don’t want to, and witness to what God has done through Jesus and what God is doing now in our lives. Rather, it is a “get to.” Walking in a new relationship with God and being blessed with an abundant life is exciting. Our lives have been enriched and changed because of what God has done. We have been so richly blessed that we want others—especially those we love—to experience what we have experienced.
In our commission, we are first to start in the Jerusalem of our lives. We are not required to go great distances in order to accomplish what God’s asks of us. Our main mission field is our family, friends, neighbors and co-workers; people with whom we bump shoulders every day. We don’t need to cram our faith and religious views down their throats. Instead we are called to be loving, serving and forgiving as we share God’s love and grace with them.
Another piece of good news in our commission is that the new relationships that we have experienced with God is for everyone. We are to go to the very ends of the earth in order to make sure that everyone hears what God has done in Jesus. No group or individual is excluded. We have been commissioned with an awesome task and given an awesome privilege.
Lord of All, fuel us up that our lights may shine brightly so that people may see our good works and give glory to you. Amen.