Psalm 34:8

Get a fresh taste!

I didn’t point this out in yesterday’s devotional, but Acts 1:8 is the key to seeing the entire book of Acts. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would empower believers to tell people about Him. In today’s Bible reading, we see the beginning of the fulfillment of that promise. Jesus said that his followers would bear witness around the world. How would that be possible for these unschooled, mainly Aramaic-speaking homebodies?

Dr. Luke answers that question as he describes the events of the Day of Pentecost, especially in Acts 2:1-12. Jesus’ followers had spent the past several weeks together in Jerusalem. Together describes more than just their physical proximity. The word is used three times in this one chapter to describe the attitude of the disciples toward each other. They shared everything.

Hands together, making a heart

They would have to share everything because many of them (then and now) would be kicked out of their families and perhaps lose their livelihood for identifying themselves as Christ-followers by being baptized.

As the church grew from 120 to 3120 in one day, and as more were added every day, they would have to rely on each other for their daily needs. The rest of the New Testament records how the believers bore each other’s burdens and met needs. And we see it continuing even now, almost 2000 years later.

As I said in yesterday’s devotional, on the Day of Pentecost, God fulfilled Joel’s prophecy in Joel 2:28-32 where God would pour out His Spirit on all kinds of people. No longer would He speak to only special people; He would now speak to ordinary people. Ordinary people like you and me. The result of God speaking to ordinary people was that three thousand people heard the Gospel spoken in their own language at the same time.

Application

As I said yesterday, if you are one of God’s kids, you have the same Holy Spirit living in you that the Disciples did on the Day of Pentecost. And He can (and will) empower you to tell your story to your friends, family, coworkers, and even complete strangers.

The Disciples that day could have kept their mouths shut. And if they had, thousands — and eventually millions — would have died without knowing Jesus. Will you shut your mouth? Or will you speak up and tell people about Jesus? All you need to do is tell them what Jesus has done in your life. It’s not up to you to convince them to believe; God will handle that part. But you must choose to open your mouth, simply tell your story, and invite them to repent of their sin and trust Him. Just like you did.

Will you?

We begin reading through the book of Acts in our daily Bible reading; today is Acts 1.

When I began my most recent sermon series, I pointed out that Acts 1:26 records the last time in the Bible that anyone “cast lots” to determine God’s will.

A little background: In the Old Testament times, people would “cast lots” to determine God’s will. We see the same term used when we’re told that the soldiers cast lots for Jesus’ clothes during His crucifixion. (Matthew 27:35) So what is it?

Casting lots is basically the same as rolling dice. Proverbs 16:33 tells us that someone may “cast lots”, but God determines the outcome. So how would someone try to determine God’s will by rolling dice?

Well… let me tell you a little of my own story.

Several years ago, I was preparing to attend a retreat on “Worship” and we were reading through the book of Acts in our month-long preparation. I had recently been laid off and I came across this verse in Acts 1. I thought, “Why not roll some dice to see what God wants me to do?”

Our family had a game chest with all kinds of board games, so I grabbed a handful of dice. (More backstory, I had graduated from Seminary, spent five years on a church staff, and due to situations at church, I was wounded and stepped down, telling God that I didn’t want to be hurt like that again. So, I “left the ministry” for several years.)

Like the Disciples in verse 24, I asked God to speak through the results of my roll of the dice: a majority of the dice to be “even” numbers if God wanted me to pursue a ministry position and a majority of the dice to be “odd” numbers if God wanted me to pursue a secular job. I shook fourteen dice in my hand and threw the dice onto the game chest….

What are the odds?

I began to sort the dice into “even” and “odd”. There were seven “odd” dice and seven “even” dice. Bewildered, I did the same thing and came up with the exact same results!

Truly amazed, I began to ask God what this could mean. And then I realized that the reason why this is the last time anyone cast lots to determine God’s will: Acts 2 follows on the heels of Acts 1. As we’ll see in tomorrow’s reading in Acts 2, something very special happened in Acts 2.

I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but God fulfilled His promise that Joel prophesied in Joel 2:28-32 that God’s Spirit would be given in a new, special way — not just to “special” people like prophets, priests, and kings — but to all kinds of “ordinary” people.

A very practical result of this new, special anointing would be that ordinary people would be able to hear God. No longer would ordinary people need to consult with special people like a prophet in order to know God’s will. God would make His will known to ordinary people.

Application

If you are one of God’s kids — an adopted child of the New Covenant — you have the same Holy Spirit living in you that lived in the Disciples. If you are one of God’s kids, you don’t live in Acts 1; you live in Acts 2! You have equal access to your Father and you can learn to hear His voice, too!

Just ask! He’ll begin to speak to you through His Word, His other kids, church leaders, your circumstances, and through an “inward” witness that some people call a “still small voice”.

So spend time in His Word, asking Him to reveal Himself to you. Remember that your purpose in this is not to have some kind of special gift, but to know your Father better and to love Him more.

One thing that jumped out at me from today’s Bible reading in Mark 16 is “But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; you will see him there just as he told you.’” Mark 16:7 (CSB)

After the disastrous events of Judas’ betrayal and Jesus’ Crucifixion, the Disciples may be planning to flee Jerusalem in fear that they might suffer the same fate as Jesus: death by crucifixion. Evidently, they are still in town on Sunday Morning because the angel tells the women to tell the Disciples and Peter that Jesus was going ahead of them and He would meet them in Galilee.

While dealing with the initial shock of hearing that Jesus had been raised from the dead, I’m sure Peter didn’t know what to make of this. When he gets back to Galilee, is Jesus going to “call him to the Principal’s Office” because of his triple denial? What will Jesus say? And how will he respond?

Assuming that they were to go to Nazareth (Jesus’ hometown in the region of Galilee), it would take them about three days to make the 65-mile trip.

That’s a lot of time to attempt to sort out the events and conversations of the previous week. And for Peter, that’s a long time to grieve over his words and behavior on Thursday Night. But Jesus says He will meet them there.

Peter and the other Disciples had a choice: go to Galilee and meet Jesus… or run away somewhere else.

Application

Regardless of the choices you’ve made and how you’ve behaved, know that Jesus will meet you … if you will simply go to Him.

Spend some time talking with Him today. He’s already there, waiting to meet you. When Jesus met Peter there on the beach (John 21:15-19), He didn’t scold him. He simply asked, “Peter, do you love me?” and then Jesus restored Peter.

If you’ll spend some time to meet with Jesus today, you’ll find that He won’t scold you. Like Peter, He’ll restore you, too! But you must go to Him.

Today’s Bible reading is Mark 15. It’s good to read chapters like this and compare what we read with what we believe.

If you’ve been around church very long, you may have seen a Passion play that chronicles the last week of Jesus’ life. Normally the play portrays the masses of people welcoming Jesus on Palm Sunday, waving their palm branches. A few minutes later, the same masses call out for Jesus’ crucifixion.

Is that how it happened? Well, sort of.

In Mark 15:6-8, the people approach Pontius Pilate, requesting that he release one of the Roman prisoners as was his custom for the Passover. Pilate expected them to ask for Jesus to be released; he would gladly release Him because he felt that Jesus was not deserving of death.

However, the Chief Priests whipped up the crowd into a frenzy and the masses actually demanded that a prisoner named Barabbas be released. Barabbas had been convicted of what the Jewish leaders were accusing Jesus of: insurrection.

It’s important to note that when the people came to Pilate, they were hoping that he would release Jesus. But as is too frequently the case, the religious leaders exercised their toxic authority over the very people that God had entrusted to them. A mob mentality resulted and people behaved very differently than they would have otherwise.

Unfortunately, there are still religious leaders today who spiritually abuse the very people that God has entrusted to them. James tells us that God holds leaders to a higher standard (James 3:1). Jesus says that those who have been given more will be held more accountable. (Luke 12:48b)

This higher accountability is just limited to the “ordained”. There are many other “ordinary” people in leadership positions who will have to give an account for their toxic leadership. And there are still others who exercise toxic leadership who don’t have a leadership title.

Application

Now, while God will hold the leaders accountable, isn’t there some accountability to the ordinary people to be careful who they “hitch their wagon to”?

Matthew 7 begins with the famous, “Don’t judge” (Matthew 7:1), but just a few verses later, Jesus cautions his followers to discern (ie, to judge) false teachers in order to avoid them. (Matthew 7:15-16)

Be careful who you “hitch your wagon to”. We all need healthy leaders who can lead us into a healthy relationship with God and other believers. And just because a particular religious leader is very popular doesn’t necessarily mean that they are godly or correct in what they’re teaching.

Be careful of the mob and the mob mentaility. Don’t let them influence you to hitch your wagon to someone you might otherwise know better to avoid.

Even people who don’t believe in Jesus are familiar with the story (or at least the concept) of Judas’ betrayal of Jesus. Peter’s denial of Jesus is also a familiar story to many of us. Both stories are part of today’s Bible reading in Mark 14.

During the story of Peter’s denial of Jesus, we see three encounters with a servant girl of the High Priest. The first time they meet, she suggests that Peter had been with the man from Nazareth. (Mark 14:67) Of course, Peter denies it and he immediately hears a rooster crow.

Sometime later, she sees him and tells some bystanders that Peter was “one of them”. (Mark 14:68) Again, he tells her that she is mistaken.

A third time, she points out that Peter is a Galilean and he swears that he doesn’t know Jesus [think about that: he swears to God that he doesn’t know God!].

Immediately, Peter hears the second crow of a rooster. He remembers that Jesus had told Peter that he would deny Him three times before the rooster crowed twice.

Now, I’m sure he wasn’t wearing his Nazareth High School letter jacket, so how did the servant girl know that Peter was a Galilean?

If you grew up in the South, you can tell when a Northerner says, “Hello.” Maybe it’s the absence of the typical “Hey” greeting. Or maybe it’s the accent. I’m sure Northerners can easily recognize when a Southerner greets them, too. Perhaps they recognize the “Hey” greeting or the multiple-syllable inflection of it. 😉

People from the region of Galilee/Nazareth spoke Aramaic as their native language. Aramaic is a dialect of Hebrew. Perhaps the servant girl recognized his language or his accent as Peter talked with people around the campfire.

My point is, without saying much, Peter clearly told the girl that he did, in fact, come from the region of Galilee and probably did know Jesus.

Application

Do people recognize that your language and accent is a little different? I’m not talking about the “Christianese” that we tend to pick up as we spend time with church people. But believers just tend to talk about things a little differently than nonbelievers.

If you’ve been a believer for very long, and if you’ve grown in your faith very much, your language will tend to represent the One you’ve been spending time with.

Your lips will betray who you are, whether you realize it or not. And if you’re a growing believer, people will know you’re one of His people. And if they don’t recognize that you’re different… well are you? Your lips will betray you regardless.


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