Reading for today: 2 Chronicles 35-36 & 1 Corinthians 1
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33
You might wonder why our focus verse for today is from John when the daily readings are in Chronicles and Corinthians. This week is FUEL, a National Youth Camp in which young people from all over the country gather to learn and grow in their faith. And the theme for the camp this week is ‘hupernikao’ … a Greek word that means ‘overwhelmingly conquer’.
Every day this week, except for today, we will pull from the daily readings as well as the daily FUEL themes, to explore this theme of overcoming or conquering.
Today, I want to focus on the big picture a bit. Overcome what? How?
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33
This verse in John is rich in helping to answer those questions. We might think that Jesus, who is the speaker here, is being kind of a downer if we just look at part of the verse. In this world you will have trouble? Not much of a pep talk, Jesus.
But if you’re anything like me, this is exactly the kind of pep talk you need.
A little aside: A pet peeve of mine is people who sell things who won’t admit that their products have flaws. Their company is the best thing ever, producing the best products ever, which will of course give me the best results ever…Every. Single. Time. Am I the only one who would always be more likely to believe someone who is honest about the limitations of their product line or who is able to admit that while there are great options, there are also some weaker products to avoid? Rant over.
Jesus is laying out the truth here. “You’re a human person living in this world? Yup, you’ll have trouble. Pain. Sorrow. Heartache. Difficulty. Expect that too.”
But he doesn’t leave us there. “Yes, life is hard. Really hard sometimes. … BUT … hold on! You can make it because I have overcome all of it!”
Do you know that in other places in Scripture we’re given specific assurances of overcoming the hard stuff Jesus warned us we would face? Here are a couple of examples:
1 Corinthians 10:13 tells us that God will provide us the means to overcome temptation:
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful, and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape so that you are able to bear it.
And Romans 8:31-39 paints a beautiful and poetic word picture of overcoming a variety of troubles. Spend some time while you read this thinking about what you could use some overcoming in… Are you feeling separated from God’s love? Do you feel pain, even anguish that feels unbearable? Persecuted? Hungry for something but you don’t even know what so you keep going after the wrong thing? Are you in need, bare before Him? Or even feel in danger of slipping out of His grip?
What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He did not even spare His own Son but offered Him up for us all; how will He not also with Him grant us everything? Who can bring an accusation against God’s elect? God is the One who justifies. Who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is the One who died, but even more, has been raised; He also is at the right hand of God and intercedes for us. Who can separate us from the love of Christ? Can affliction or anguish or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: Because of You we are being put to death all day long; we are counted as sheep to be slaughtered. No, in all these things we are more than victorious through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that not even death or life, angels or rulers, things present or things to come, hostile powers, height or depth, or any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!
Jehoshaphat was the fourth king of the Kingdom of Judah. We are told that he “sought the God of his father and followed his commands rather than the practices of Israel.” Jehoshaphat sent out leaders throughout Judah to teach the people from the Book of the Law of the LORD. He was a good king, but we are informed of a couple of mistakes he made in his life. In one instance, he allied himself with Ahab, the evil king of Israel. He even joined forces with Ahab to enter a war even though they were warned by God’s prophet that they would lose that battle. When he returns, he accepts the correction from Jehu the seer. We can learn so much from this.
When we find that we have sinned and realize that we have messed up in our spiritual lives, it is so important for us to repent and offer our situation up to God. He will forgive and restore us. Of course, no one wants to deal with the consequences of sin, but God will also give us the courage and strength to face the consequences as well. Paul assures us that nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Let’s remember:
We are God’s children. (Romans 8:14-17)
God is for us. (Romans 8:31)
God gave up his own son for us so He will graciously give us all that we need. (Romans 8:32)
God has forgiven us. He justifies us, declares us righteous in Christ. Do not doubt, because no one condemns us. We are in Christ. (Romans 8:33)
Christ is interceding for us. (Romans 8:34)
Christ loves us and there is nothing that can separate us from His love. (Romans 8:35-39)
God and Christ will help you overcome. We are told that in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. What does it mean to you to be “more than a conqueror” through him who loves you? Trust Him to lead you to victory!
Imagine the excitement as the very great caravan of the queen of Sheba arrived in Jerusalem. Envision the camels carrying spices, large quantities of gold and precious stones. The queen brought amazing treasures, but she was in search of a different kind of treasure from Solomon. She had questions and she wanted answers. Solomon was able to answer all her questions through the God-given wisdom he possessed. She experienced the blessings that God had given to this king and his people which made her feel overwhelmed. She offered praise to the LORD and understood that God loved Israel. She discovered that out of this love, God had provided the people with a king that could maintain justice and righteousness. Her encounter with Solomon, the people and her time of worship in the temple made a lasting change for this queen.
Even Jesus states that the queen will rise at the judgment with his generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now something greater than Solomon was there. Of course, that something greater was our Lord Christ Jesus. It is great to imagine meeting and talking with this queen in the resurrection. It is incredible to think of the people that have the opportunity to experience this resurrection because of sharing our love and faith in our God. Just as the queen encountered the LORD through the Israelites, we have the opportunity to share how amazing God is with those in our world today. What a celebration that will be when all of us are together at the resurrection!
My last devotional for this week comes out of Proverbs 19:18. It says, “Discipline your son while there is hope, and do not desire his death.” After doing this for a week now, the first portion of this passage made me immediately think about Amon. Remember him? He was that king of Judah that was murdered by his servants after reigning for only 2 years. He did evil in the sight of Yahweh. His father, Manasseh, also did evil in the sight of Yahweh but eventually repented and renewed his status with God. I had commented to myself on paper, thanking God for repentance – as there’s still time for it. What if you don’t have the time like Amon? What if you don’t even know that repentance is an option? This is why we are commissioned! Find those Josiahs and let them know the good news!
Discipline your son while there is hope, and do not desire his death… Why would any good parent desire their child’s death? My studies this week have also led me to some wisdom, I think, regarding the latter portion of this verse in Proverbs. I don’t think I would have understood the latter part if I hadn’t immersed myself in the word for a week. Words mean something. This is a wise, powerful statement that lets us know we DO desire our children’s death if we don’t take action to discipline them. We’ve got a great commission in our own homes if we are parents.
I have been wanting to do a study on child-rearing for a while now. Since I desire that my children live, I started by looking into discipline as it is demonstrated in the word. I found that my idea of discipline was nothing like what discipline actually meant in the bible.
Look at the Old Testament and how God, through Moses, disciplined the children of Israel in comparison to the New Testament and how God, through Jesus disciplined.
Deuteronomy 11:1-13 (NIV)
11 Love the Lord your God and keep his requirements, his decrees, his laws and his commands always. 2 Remember today that your children were not the ones who saw and experienced the discipline of the Lord your God: his majesty, his mighty hand, his outstretched arm; 3 the signs he performed and the things he did in the heart of Egypt, both to Pharaoh king of Egypt and to his whole country; 4 what he did to the Egyptian army, to its horses and chariots, how he overwhelmed them with the waters of the Red Sea[a] as they were pursuing you, and how the Lord brought lasting ruin on them. 5 It was not your children who saw what he did for you in the wilderness until you arrived at this place, 6 and what he did to Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab the Reubenite, when the earth opened its mouth right in the middle of all Israel and swallowed them up with their households, their tents and every living thing that belonged to them. 7 But it was your own eyes that saw all these great things the Lord has done.
8 Observe therefore all the commands I am giving you today, so that you may have the strength to go in and take over the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, 9 and so that you may live long in the land the Lord swore to your ancestors to give to them and their descendants, a land flowing with milk and honey. 10 The land you are entering to take over is not like the land of Egypt, from which you have come, where you planted your seed and irrigated it by foot as in a vegetable garden. 11 But the land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven. 12 It is a land the Lord your God cares for; the eyes of the Lord your God are continually on it from the beginning of the year to its end.
13 So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today—to love the Lord your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul—
Let’s go through this passage carefully. Through Moses, God disciplined the 12 tribes of Israel (the children of Israel). He disciplined them by first showing them his majesty, or who he was (Yahweh God!). Who he was could be recognized by the works he did (e.g., signs, miracles, plagues). He rescued them (from Egypt) and defeated their enemies (Egypt in the red sea). Along their journey to the promised land, he performed miracles to sustain them in the wilderness (e.g., manna, water from a rock). He got rid of the people among them who were insolent and tried to usurp Moses (i.e., Dathan and Abiram; Korah).
He then disciplines the children of Israel by telling them to obey the commandments they were given (i.e., obey the law of Moses) so that they would have strength to enter the promised land. He entices them to obey the law of Moses by describing how wonderful their hope is. In it, they will have long life and it will be well with them. In it, they will have good things (flowing with milk and honey). It is a land they won’t have to tend themselves (like they did in Egypt) to receive the good things in it. The good things will be sustained through heaven. To me, the last verse shows God’s heart. He cares so much about that land that he desires to give to his children.
Now let’s look at the New Testament and the discipline of God through Jesus. He pretty much does the same thing but gives greater honor and authority to Jesus since Jesus literally is the one who rescues the people.
In the New Testament, Jesus disciplined the 12 disciples by showing them who he was (is) (The Son of God! The Messiah – pretty much described throughout the whole book of John). Who he was (the Messiah) could be recognized by the works he did in their presence. There were some pretty distinctive works he did that pointed to himself as the Messiah (i.e., Isaiah 35:5-6a “Then the eyes of the blind will be opened and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped. 6 Then the lame will leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute will shout for joy.).
It is Jesus himself who rescued them from their enemy (sin and death) by his death on the cross. Once seated at the right hand of God in heaven, it is Jesus who sustains them along their journey to the Kingdom of God (KOG). Post resurrection, it’s up to them (and us) to do these final things to enter into the KOG through Jesus. Jesus is the bread of life and he is the rock of our salvation who provides living water. He chastens us by pruning us along our journey (e.g., If your right hand offends you, cut it off – get rid of the people and things in your life that try to usurp Jesus as Lord of your life because they’ll prevent you from entering the KOG).
Jesus disciplines us by telling us to obey the Law of Christ (i.e., Love God and love people like Jesus loved). We need to obey these commandments so that we will have strength (through the receiving of the holy spirit) to enter the KOG.
The love of Christ compels us to obey by enticing us with the good things in the KOG, our hope. In the KOG, we will live forever with Jesus (and eventually with God himself). God will wipe away every tear from our eye; sin and death will be no more (the incorruptible crown; the crown of life). In it, we will be rewarded with good things, positional rewards based on how we built upon the foundation that was laid for us (built upon Jesus) (the crown of rejoicing; the crown of righteousness). If you’re an elder in your church, you’ll receive a crown of glory!
Once there, we won’t have to labor like we do now to enjoy the KOG. There will be a river of the water of life flowing from the throne of God and from the lamb. In it will be the tree of life on either side of the street with 12 kinds of fruit. The leaves of the tree will be for the healing of the nations. I realize that this may not all be literal. All I really know is that it will be unimaginably good and that God and my Lord Jesus will be there, so I’d like to be there too.
And then for my correlation of the last verse. I can only imagine the joy Jesus must have when he thinks about the coming KOG. It is his reward. He’ll be ruling the whole world from the new Jerusalem. I think this was God’s plan all along, with Jesus in mind as the king of his kingdom before the foundation of the world, to a people whose desire is for them whom they love.
Going back to the Old Testament passage, we see that not all of the children of Israel were witnesses to God through Moses. Therefore, he instructs them to discipline their children who were not witnesses. An example of discipling for the children of the children of Israel who were not direct witnesses was laid out for us in Deuteronomy 11.
Similarly, not many of us were direct witnesses to Jesus’ ministry on earth. Therefore, he instructs his disciples to discipline the rest of us who were not direct witnesses. I believe that through the power of the holy spirit however, we too can be called witnesses of Jesus, and are therefore also commissioned to discipline our children and others (the Josiahs). An example of discipling for us is laid out in the new testament, beginning with the gospels.
…the exact truth about the things you have been taught.
1 Chronicles 1-6
The very last class of my undergraduate education taught me something I’ve remembered for years. I was finishing up my minor and taking my last sociology class. I made a statement during a class presentation that earned me a grade that pushed me into a new academic rank that I thought was impossible to achieve. The presentation was on being a voice for change in society. “If we want to bring about societal change, we need to make some noise!”
I’m going to sound a tad irreverent here. I used to cringe every time a modern agent of societal change preached “Fact-check!” My disdain from the message grew with each passing day that the seemingly one-sided social sermon that I immersed myself in on an almost daily basis, was made light. The noise was bringing change but to me, it was not warranted change.
At first, noise is all I ever allowed myself to hear from the opposing side’s communication. My mind went straight to the need for taking the stick out of the opposing side’s eye. There may have been a beam in there too.
I had to turn off the noise and get myself immersed in something else because I wasn’t helping the situation. I was supposed to be the light that brought change, not the opposing societal view. Right around this time, I started digging into the various things Jesus was called. In the quiet I reacquainted myself with The Light of the World.
Through my continued immersion in the word, I did something I had rarely done. I actually took the time to read the genealogies of Jesus, the boring stuff, in the beginning chapters of Mathew and Luke. It dawned on me.
In the quiet, I realized that the words so often skipped over were God’s fact-checks! Through these, he made certain we knew who the Messiah was, the one who would bring about the right change. It was all in there waiting to be discovered. The Messiah is exactly who God said he’d be and exactly who Jesus said he was. There are facts that lead to him in the genealogies, the lineages, the “begats”, the “in the lands of-s”, the “in the times of-s”, through the recordings of kings of kingdoms, in the astronomical signs of the times, etc. All fact-checks leading to Jesus Messiah.
The genealogies of Jesus were written by eyewitnesses of his ministry. I love the beginning of Luke:
“Since many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, 3 it seemed fitting to me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in an orderly sequence, most excellent Theophilus; 4 so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.” -Luke 1:1-4
I took a little more time today reading through the genealogies recorded in 1 Chronicles chapters 1 – 6. They’re fact-checks. They can help us to be prepared with an answer to anyone who questions our faith.
Through this experience, I have begun to listen to the opposing side before opposing them completely. I have come to value the opposing side’s pleas for fact-checking. They are right. We need truth. But we need to fact-check society as a whole – all sides.
I’m still a bit put off by the societal noise and social pressures of our time. Although it may be true that making noise may lead to societal change, it may not be what God wants for us. There were times when Jesus spoke softly and times when Jesus rebuked. There were times when Jesus was offensive and there were times when Jesus remained silent. He always did whatever he heard from his father. If I’m going to be the light of the world like Jesus, desiring to cause societal change, I need to hear Jesus and heed his statements. I need to do it his way. His way is often the unpopular way but it is the only way that’s going to bring about change that matters.
You know the feeling you get when you meet up with a couple of fellow kings, who aren’t really your fellows, but you have a common enemy, so you march on together in friendship and harmony, despite the odds that are against you, when you come to the devastating realization that your combined armies and cattle are on the road to dehydration, so you suggest finding that one prophet dude who can maybe help out in this situation, and the other kings agree, so you find the prophet dude and it miraculously turns out, yes! He, or more accurately God through him, helps you out with your water dilemma, (it’s “but a slight thing in the sight of the LORD) and not only that, but he also says that he’ll assist in the defeat your enemy!! Eeeeek, I’m practically bursting just thinking of it. Unfortunately, I can’t say I’ve actually experienced the aforementioned occurrence, but I have felt the amazing emotion that fills your heart with complete, unmatchable joy when you are assured that the most powerful, capable, fierce, wisest Being in the universe, loves you and has your back.
In 2 Kings 3, this is exactly what we see happening. Jehoram, the king of Israel, comes together with Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, along with the king of Edom, and together they avoid dying of thirst, and totally crush the Moabites. Their epic victory wasn’t of their own works, though. It was God who provided water, and delivered Moab into the hands of the three kings. More often than we ever realize, God works in our lives too. Every single undeserved blessing, every single little victory we celebrate, is our Father’s loving presence. He is continually showing us how much He cares for us, and how deeply He loves us. He demonstrates this love not only in our lives now, but in the amazing promises He’s made to us. Promises of a perfect Kingdom in a beautiful land, where we will live eternally in absolute contentment and happiness with our wholly perfect and wholly good Father.
Notice, however, that Elisha clarified in verse 14 of chapter 3 that he would not even be seeing them if it wasn’t for the presence of the godly and faithful king Jehoshaphat. This king trusted his God, and knew to go to Him in his time of need. Back then, they had to go to God through a prophet, like Elisha, or Elisha’s predecessor, Elijah, but Jesus has since then connected us to our God, bridging the gap as a mediator between God and man. We have the ability to speak directly with God and form the relationship He so desperately wants with us, despite our utter imperfection and His divine perfection. Hold on tight to that gift, never forgetting how awesome it is that we can be so massively loved by such a great God; that He would care for us at all, even in our sin and weakness. Hold on tight to the unimaginable promises He’s made to us, and live everyday aware and thankful for the countless blessings He provides for us.
What a feeling, to know that you have such an awesome God on your side.
Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at Bible Gateway here – 2 Kings 3-4 and Proverbs 6
“The war between the house of Saul and the house of David lasted a long time.” (2 Samuel 3:1). So begins today’s Old Testament reading. The “young” country of Israel was experiencing great turmoil as some remained loyal to Saul’s remaining relatives, and a growing number were excitedly backing the champion David. The commander of Saul’s army, Abner, becomes angered by an accusation made by Saul’s son and heir, Ish-Bosheth. Abner vows to help bring all Israel under David’s kingship. But the army commander under David, Joab, has a lasting feud with Abner, still distrusts him and kills him for revenge. David mourns and instructs Israel to do the same. When 2 thugs kill Ish-Bosheth they expect to be warmly received by David as they have helped clear the way to David’s legitimate rule. Instead, similar to his reaction to the Amelekite who announced the death of Saul, David orders the death of the two murderers. David sought for peace within the young nation and an end to the hostility, bloodshed, revenge, and distrust. He tried to show a better way.
Today there remains great tension and hostility in the land of Israel, and this week it has bubbled again to the surface with the worst outbreak since 2014. Last night after reading the Bible passages for today I read one more email before bed – it happened to be a request for prayer from an organization called Jewish Voice whose goal is to bring salvation to the Jews, that they may believe in Jesus as God’s Promised Messiah. I will include a few quotes from their email…
“Terror groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad have fired more than 1,700 rockets and mortars at major Israeli cities and Israel has responded with more than 700 airstrikes on terrorist targets…
To make matters worse, unexpected riots and clashes between Arab Israelis and Jewish Israelis have broken out in multiple cities across Israel…
Please join me in fervent prayer for Israel and the Jewish people. Pray supernatural peace for Israelis who have been under continual fire for four days and may have to endure more. Pray safety for the IDF personnel as they battle terrorist forces and wisdom of Israel’s military leaders to know the right course of action. Pray for an end to the violence both between Israel and Gaza, and reconciliation between Arab and Jewish Israelis. Finally, let’s pray that these times of trouble would lead the Jewish people to recognize Yeshua (Jesus) as their Messiah.”
As David wrote more than 3,000 years ago – “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem…Pray for the sake of the house of the Lord our God.” Psalm 122:6,9 NIV
In Acts 10 we saw God remove the barrier between Jew and Gentile. Now both could believe in Jesus and be saved. Jews and Gentiles could now remove the hostility between themselves and become brothers and sisters in the family of God! It was unheard of! And it was such an amazing event that Peter explains it all again in Acts 11. The Christians needed to know – the world needed to know. Jews and Gentiles don’t need to live in hatred to one another. Together, they can both be saved. But without the Jesus glue…it falls apart.
Paul would expand upon the prayer of David. “Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved.” (Romans 10:1 NIV). Just peace is not enough. But with Jesus comes salvation which brings brotherly peace even amongst Jews and Gentiles.
And, here we are today – needing the prayers of David and Paul just as much. For the nation of Israel, and for our neighbor across the street. We pray for brotherhood created by the blood of Jesus. We pray for peace. We pray for salvation for us, our families and churches and also salvation for those different from us. We pray for an end to hostility and take steps to love others. We also know that as followers of Jesus we will face many enemies and we pray for wisdom and strength in confronting them. We pray and long for the day when Jesus returns and a lasting peace will reign in New Jerusalem as God’s Kingdom is set up on earth.
Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Samuel 3-4 and Acts 11
The early church was a special time in history. Jesus has just been raised. He has gone up, bodily, into heaven, and has poured out his Spirit upon those who follow him. (Rom. 8:9) In our day discussions about doctrines and divisions about drivel develop daily.
BUT in the EARLY CHURCH, they were passionately pleading for the Pierced. They didn’t argue and debate about the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin (to be fair, no-one has ever really debated that question). We can get so distracted from what was the early church’s singular focus : giving everyone and anyone the message of Jesus, and changing their world with the power of Jesus.
In chapter three, a man who had been begging for years is healed. This is the first of many, many miracles recorded in the book of Acts. The disciples were passionately sharing the message and gift of Jesus with everyone! They tell their fellow Israelites that God healed this man because of his servant Jesus. They tell the Sanhedrin and high priest about Jesus. They count it as a joy when they are persecuted and beaten for Jesus. They know their reward in heaven is great, because the righteous are persecuted by the wicked (Matt. 5:12).
In our lives, are we passionate about the message and work of Jesus then and now? If you aren’t don’t try to be passionate!
Instead, remember your sins, your mistakes, your failures. Remember that for even the smallest, you were separated from God. You were condemned to destruction, because that is the fate of those without God. And remember that God loved you enough to give you Jesus to redeem you. Jesus loved you enough to die in your place. They love you SO MUCH they love you just as you are, and they love you TOO MUCH to let you stay there, and want to make your life better, freer, holier, more and more wonderful.
The early church was passionate because they knew the truth of Christ. We will be passionate when we remember it.
Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 1 Samuel 17-18 and Acts 3
On Sunday, we discovered the message of the early church. This message is two pronged. It is the message from Jesus and the message about Jesus, it is the Kingdom and the King. The message of the church is the message of Jesus himself, “The Kingdom of God has come near! Repent and believe the good news!” The Kingdom of God, the rule and reign of God, is breaking out among his people, and will one day be over the whole earth. The way we enter that kingdom now, and are given the resurrection to eternal life in the Kingdom in the future, is through the King, Jesus the Messiah, who died to take away our sins and make us righteous. If we believe in this good news, we can be saved. That is the message of the church, both the early church and today.
But just what was the mission of the church? We know now what they said, but what did they do? Jesus tells us in Acts 1:8. After being empowered by God’s Spirit they would “… be [Jesus’] witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” That’s seems pretty big. What does it mean? In this case, a witness was one who would tell of the truth of what they had heard and seen. They were to go tell others about the Messiah. Even more than that, they were called to live in accordance with that message as a witness to the Messiah Jesus. And they were to go to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the Earth.
My friends, this is our mission still today, at least in principle. Have you experienced the love of God? Tell others. Have you experienced the forgiveness of God? Show others. Have you found the people of God? Invite others to join! That is what it means to be a witness, to tell, show, invite others to experience what you have. If you are still searching for this love, forgiveness or people, keep searching. But they are there, and I am inviting you in to a God who has changed me. This starts in our own local area. Jerusalem was where the church already was. We need to give the message to our neighbors before we worry about the rest of the world. Does everyone you know know you love Jesus? They should! Once they do, it spreads out to our broader locations. Our state, country, even our enemies. And then, we take it with us to Africa, Asia, South America. But sadly, America is a mission field. We don’t need to go halfway around the world to find large populations who don’t know God. Sometimes, it’s fifteen minutes from our house!
Ask God to lead you in your mission. Be a witness for Jesus today, to your neighbors, your family, your friends. And maybe someday, even today, he will use you to reach the “ends of the Earth!”
Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here –1 Samuel 13-14 and Acts 1
In John 21, Jesus has a number of more appearances to the disciples. After the disciples go fishing, Jesus shows up on a beach, and feeds them. Jesus takes the time to “restore” Peter. After asking him three times if Peter loved him, and hearing Peter’s three replies, he says in 18-19
“Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go.” Now this He said, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me!”
Very often, when we first start following Jesus, we may think “Well, now life will be good!” We may hear preachers say “just pray and believe” and then life will go really well. And Scripture itself says that “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Rom. 8:28) But we need to be careful before thinking this means we won’t have troubles, pains, and even death in spite of, or even CAUSED BY, following Jesus. Jesus himself warned his followers that they would have trouble (See John 16:33; “you will have trouble”). And the early church, especially the lives of the disciples, prove that we will have trouble.
Most of our knowledge of the apostles come from church tradition; we don’t know the following, but it is generally accepted. Simon Peter, Andrew, Philip, Simon the Zealot, and Matthias were all crucified by Rome. James the son of Zebedee and James the son of Alpheus were both killed in Jerusalem by the ruling authorities. Matthew, Thomas, Thaddeus/Jude and Bartholomew/Nathanel were all killed while speaking of their faith. Paul, the thirteenth apostle “to the gentiles” was beheaded after a long time in prison. Only John, as Jesus prophesied, died of old age.
I don’t bring this up to scare you or to make you depressed. I want you to know that a bunch of hillbilly fisherman from the backwoods of a small nation oppressed by an Empire changed the world. The truth of Christianity is proved in these men. They gained no power, no prestige, no wealth, no control by dedicating their lives to the gospel message. They truly believed, to the point of death, that a man named Jesus lived, taught, died, and was raised again. They didn’t go out conquering with armies. They gave their lives so others may find life. They lived knowing that God would work everything out for the good of those who love him; because they were called according to his purpose, they would be raised according to his son.
That is the kind of passion and dedication I want to have for Jesus. I am asking myself “if Jesus sent me to speak his name, would I go? Would I be willing to die to make sure that others could find life?” I want my answer to be yes.
How about you? How would you answer that question? Jesus is turning to you and saying “Follow me!”