December 19 – Through Faith

Romans 4:13-25

No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. (Romans 4:20, 21 ESV)

Abraham trusted God’s promise. He wasn’t the only one. There are numerous examples in scripture of God leading his people toward something, and them putting their faith in Him.

Faith in Jesus is a powerful thing. It is the foundation of hope, and the cradle of belief. It is precious. It is up-lifting. It is life-giving and life-changing.

Abraham’s faith was potent, not because of his mental capacity to understand, or his soulful yearning to believe. Abraham had a complete faith, in that his faith influenced his behavior. Faith caused him to do stuff.

It is through our faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior that we find freedom from sin and death. This faith is demonstrated by our actions and reactions. It informs and influences the initiative we take to help others, and the way we respond to how we are treated. Faith carries us through hard times, but it’s also through faith that we will know everlasting peace and assurance.

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December 17 – Who Are You?

Acts 19:11-20

But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” (Acts 19:15 ESV)

The powers of darkness might know your name. They knew Jesus, they were with him in eternity past before being tossed out of heaven during their attempted coup. They recognized Paul. He had made such an impact for the Kingdom that they had taken notice. Word had spread throughout the demon ranks about the preacher Paul.

Are you on their radar? When your life takes you into contact with a new group of people do the spirits of darkness there get nervous? I think they should.

Jesus told Peter that his church would be an advancing church. We don’t just sit back and wait for people to come to us, that’s fool hardy and pointless. No, we need to step up, step out, and step into enemy territory.

Maybe the enemy will know your name. Maybe not. But when you step into the role that God has for you you will wear the adopted identity of the name above all other names, Jesus. Who are you? You are his!

December 14 – Jesus: Christ & King

Read: Acts 17:1-9

And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” (Acts 17:2, 3 ESV)

Jesus died. But he didn’t stay dead. He returned to life. He ascended, bodily, into Heaven. He went before us into death, and then into resurrected eternity, to prepare the path that who belong to the kingdom of God will one day travel.

Upon his conversion Saul of Tarsus, an infamous persecutor, became an enthusiastic proclaimer of Jesus. He often went into Jewish Synagogues to teach about Jesus, no doubt hoping to bring the truth to his people. He was articulate, and intelligent, persuading a great many people to open their hearts to Jesus—the Christ and King.

It was Jesus’ role as Christ which infuriated the Jews; but it was his role as King which the legality of persecution stemmed from. Salvation can come from no source but Jesus. That hasn’t stopped a multitude of people from attempting to save themselves, but it is folly.

Just as errant is the rejection of Jesus Christ as King. People often refuse to acknowledge any authority that is not of their own making. They want the throne of their lives left alone. We like to play King, Jesus is both Christ the Savior and the King of kings.

December 13 – To Be Saved

Read: Acts 16:16-40

And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” (Acts 16:31 ESV)

Salvation is a simple thing. But bad religion has sometimes confused the subject. Silly, incorrect, and dangerous requirements, prerequisites, and conditions have crept in to something that was always intended to be incredibly simple.

People worry about what prayer to pray, what lingo to use, what physical demonstrations are required in order to be saved. But all of that is nonsense. They are distractions.

When the Philippian jailer wanted to know how he could be saved, Paul told it to him short and straight. “Believe in The Lord Jesus.” It isn’t magic. It isn’t even hard. It’s a simple change in the posture of your heart. And it makes the most important difference you could ever experience.

December 11 – Approved Persecution

Acts 12:1-5

About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. (Acts 12:1 ESV)

James was John’s brother. He was one of the first disciples. He was also one of the first martyrs.

Herod arrested a few leaders from the young church. He saw how it pleased the jealous Jews and so he smelled blood in the water. He began a campaign of terror against the Christians, seeking to gain approval from the countrymen that had shunned his family’s rule for so long.

It had little to do with beliefs. It wasn’t about money, not for Herod. It was about popularity. It was about political power.

The wheels of opinion have long since shifted in America. Once secularist ideas have become commonly held world views. Things that shocked and stunned a few decades ago, are now embraced, promoted, and legitimized. As this trend continues there may come a day, some would argue that it is already here, when Christians are outright persecuted. It may happen simply so a politician can gain, or keep, the spotlight.

The possibility of persecution will not thwart the authentic followers of Jesus. It will instead galvanize the Bride of Christ to shine with the true love of Jesus. It will shine bright. It will draw people away from darkness and into the family of God.

December 10 – Gentiles & Jesus

Read: Acts 10:34-48

And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. (Acts 10:45 ESV)

If you’re reading this then chances are pretty good that you can be classified as a gentile. No, not gentle—well maybe, but a gentile. A person of non-Jewish heritage.

Christianity began with Jews. Jesus was Jewish. He came from a Jewish family, as a descendant of a Jewish King, as an answer to a promise given to the Jewish patriarch Abraham. However, his penultimate charge to his followers was to spread the Gospel to the world. The plan was always that Jesus would redeem all of humanity! All people groups! Not just the Jews.

God does not discriminate. He loves all people, in all places, in all circumstances. He longs for them to return to Him. Instead of being surprised by the differences of the people who come to Him, we should enthusiastically embrace the opportunities for diversity that the Kingdom of God affords our church family.

December 9 – From Persecutor to Proclaimer

Read: Acts 9:20-25

And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” (Acts 9:20 ESV)

The story of Saul of Tarsus is incredible. He first came onto the scene of scripture as a persecutor of Christ’s first generation of followers. But after a roadside experience with the resurrected Jesus—Saul was irrevocably ruined as a Pharisee.

No longer could he stomach the jealous hatred that drove his order to dog the early church. He began immediately to demonstrate a powerful understanding for the scriptures from the Prophets and other Old Testament writings. He used his established position as a Pharisee to leverage opportunity to speak in the local synagogues, where he declared Jesus to be the Son of God.

Saul the persecutor became Paul the Apostle. His conversion is even cited as one of the largely held evidences supporting the historical truth of the resurrection of Jesus. He would go on to write the majority of the New Testament, and his disciple Luke would write most of the rest. Not everyone makes the impact in life that he made, but when Jesus saves us we do change.