Read (Acts 1-4) – The highest recorded number of true disciples in Jesus’s ministry was a little more than 500 disciples (1 Cor 15.6). There could have been a lot more but it’s not documented in the Scriptures. And sure, Jesus fed 5000 and 4000 but these were probably not true converts (Jn 6.26-27, 65-66) So when Peter leads 3000 people to Christ after his first sermon (Act 2.41) and 5000 after his second (Act 4.4) it seems pretty spectacular and it is. I don’t want to take anything away from Peter’s ministry but one could start getting the idea that Peter was more successful than Jesus (and the rest of the Apostles for that matter). But consider what Jesus said as the founder of the movement;I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have come into their labor.” (Read Jn 4.35-38)Truly, truly I say to you, the one who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I am going to the Father. (Read Jn 14.11-14)Truly, truly I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. (Read Jn 12.24)It was the catalytic ministry of the Savior that set the stage for the great harvest after Peter’s sermons. It was by Jesus’s aggressive proclamation of the gospel of the kingdom throughout the whole region, His brutal execution, and His pouring out of the Holy Spirit that lit the fuse for the explosive growth experienced in Acts 2-4. The movement began with Jesus and will always belong to Jesus no matter what stage of growth it may be in at any given season. Are we taking credit for what Jesus is doing? Are we feeling short changed because we are not seeing what others may see as “success?” Are we joyful at the prospect of being a part of the greatest enterprise known to man? (Mt 28.18-20)
Read (Mt 28.1-8, Mk 16.1-11, Lk 24.1-11, Jn 20.1-2) – One of the benefits of reading the Harmony of the Gospels is that you pick up on different emotions. For instance, when the women return from the tomb of our risen Savior, they experience a whirlwind of emotions; “So they departed quickly and ran from the tomb. Trembling, astonishment, and great joy overwhelmed them.” (Sync) Wow! Can you imagine feeling all these things at once? And yet it gives us a clearer picture of the story. Emotions bring the story to life and pull us in a little closer as we identify with the characters. While reading the Scriptures, make sure you identify all the emotions. Meditate on them. Are we reading the Word like a text book or a personal letter? Are we walking with these real life characters in such a way that it transforms our lives?
Read (Mt 27.45-56, Mk 15.33-41, Lk 23.44-49, Jn 19.28-37) – Jesus, not only showed us how to live, but He showed us how to die. Listen to the testimony of His executioners; “When the centurion and those with him were standing opposite of Jesus and keeping watch over Him, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, and the way he breathed his last, they were terrified and said, “Truly this man was the Son of God! The centurion began to glorify God, saying, “This man really was righteous!”” (Sync) Will our lives be so saturated with Jesus and His gospel that when we die people will glorify God? Will our deaths proclaim the good news just as much as our lives? I’m praying for such a miracle in my passage from here into eternity.
Read (Mt 27.33-44, Mk 15.22-32, Lk 23.33-43, Jn 19.16b-27) – I am amazed when I contrast the reactions of the two criminals crucified with Jesus. The first criminal, even in his pain and impending death, he arrogantly mocks the Savior. I guess he wanted to go out in a blaze of glory showing that he was still in control. No respect and no remorse. On the other hand you have the epitome of brokenness and humility. The second criminal acknowledges his own guilt and then pleads with the Savior and King; “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” This simple act of contrition, repentance, and faith receives this amazing response from the Messiah; “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” So simple and yet powerful (and eternal!). Have you come before Jesus in this simple way of acknowledging your failure and His right to judge or forgive? Are you telling others about this amazing King?
Read Mt 27.11-14, Mk 15.2-5, Lk 23.1-7, Jn 18.28-38 – I’m a big Sci-Fi fan, Especially when it comes to space travel. My curiosity is peaked by what could be out there among the stars. But what I usually watch in movies and read in books is a total fabrication of the mind. It’s just not true or conjecture at best. But another thing that intrigues me is the Kingdom of God. And that’s true! Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” What waits for us beyond the here and now? What truths and adventures hide behind the curtains of this physical existence? I don’t know about you but I can’t wait to explore this kingdom of God’s!
Read Mt 20.17-19, Mk 10.32-34, Lk 18.31-34 – Can you imagine knowing how you were going to die? Knowing the exact day and method your enemies would kill you? I have to be honest, it would probably paralyze me and I would try to avoid it if at all possible. And if I couldn’t avoid my demise, I’d want to send my last days surrounded by family in quiet solitude. But Jesus marches straight into His destiny with resolve and confidence in His Father. And He spends those last fleeting days with 12 men that He had chosen to advance His kingdom when He was gone. He was faithful to His mission as the sacrifice for man’s depravity and ensuring His legacy would carry on through His disciples. He not only knew the end, He was faithful to the end. Are we resolved to finish well? Will the kingdom, not comfort, be our chief end to the end?
Read Ps 119.97 – Why am I writing these daily devos? Really two reasons; first and foremost, it’s because it helps me meditate (think with a purpose) on what I just read. And secondly, maybe it will have some benefit to you. 🙂 But the art of meditation is so important. It’s what helps us digest the Word of God so that it goes from the Head, to the Heart, and eventually to the Hands. Let me make my point with a question; Have you ever finished reading something and then wondered what you just read? It’s like we were on auto pilot and cruised through the text but have no recollection of the journey. That’s why I highlight, underline, write a small prayer in the margin of my Bible, or cook up a short devotional for Facebook. It forces me to go back a meditate on what I just read. Are we digesting the Word when we read or listen? Are we 4th Soil People everyday when we meditate on the seed that just fell on us?
Read Lk 15.11-32 – I have been studying the gospels looking for the motivations for association. In other words, why the people wanted to hangout with Jesus and why Jesus wanted to hangout with them. I’ve found a bunch of reasons why people wanted to associate with Jesus; Healing, Eternal Life, Forgiveness, See Miracles, Hear His Teaching, Get Free Food, Be in the Cool Crowd, and the list goes on. But this morning I think I found the #1 reason Jesus wanted to hangout with the people; He loved them. In the parable of the Prodigal Son, the son comes to his senses when his stomach starts growling. He decides to repent but only because he’s hungry. On the other hand, what was the father’s motivation for receiving his son back? Pure love, plain and simple. Why do we want to hangout with Jesus? Why do people want to hangout with us?
Read Lk 12-14 – Have you ever heard the saying, “They’re so heavenly minded, they’re no earthly good?” It’s cute but I’m not sure it’s accurate. Jesus reminds us over and over again about looking to our future in heaven with Him. And He does this by drawing our attention to the fact that our actions on earth have direct consequences to our rewards in heaven. Things like, don’t fear, store up treasure in heaven, put the kingdom first, don’t worry, be on the alert for His return, love the marginalized, etc… You can see that this list of earthly “dos” will directly impact our eternal rewards. I’m not talking about getting into heaven (Salvation), that is by grace and grace alone. I’m talking about our treasure in heaven. Does the prospect of reward in heaven motivate our day to day activities? Are we teaching people about heaven the way Jesus did?
Read Lk 9.52-56 – When Jesus passed through Samaria on the way to Jerusalem he was shunned. His men, being offended, took it personal and wanted to nuke the village. Jesus rebuked them and shows us a side of leadership that all leaders need to heed; Not everyone is going to be a big fan of what you’re doing. In fact, good leaders do the hard thing but great leaders do the hard thing even when people will not endorse what they are doing. These leaders have a sense of timing, they are patient, they see down the road, and can take it on the chin when they’re decisions aren’t popular with everyone [and without retribution]. Can we bless those who curse us? Can we allow our reputation to be sullied for the sake of the kingdom.