Scripture reading for June 9th: Acts 7:1-29
Luke next records the story of one of the first deacons. Stephen was full of faith and the Holy Spirit and used in miraculous signs and wonders. You would think that this would make him a popular preacher, but there were those religious Jews that did not appreciate his message or miracles. They stirred up some people to testify falsely that he was speaking blasphemy against Moses and God. (Acts 6:11-14) They brought him before the Sanhedrin for questioning. As they looked at him, Stephen’s face took on the characteristics of an angel.
When asked if he were guilty of the charges, Stephen began to speak under the anointing of the Holy Spirit to the elders and leaders he was standing before. He spoke about the Holy Scriptures that Moses had written, showing his knowledge and respect for that written record. He began in Genesis with Abraham and God’s call and quickly took them through the history of the Jewish people up to the time of Moses.
As Stephen mentioned the story of Joseph, he emphasized how the patriarchs were jealous of him and sold him into slavery. Stephen was trying to get these religious leaders to see that their own jealousy of God’s plan and vision through Christ was a problem. (Acts 7:9-10) God raised Joseph up to be ruler over Egypt and the one who would save Israel and the world from a great famine, but he was rejected by his people.
Moses was also raised up by the hand of God and raised in Pharaoh’s household. He was a Jew but given all the wisdom of the Egyptians. At forty years of age, he saw an Israelite being mistreated by an Egyptian and killed him. Moses was surprised to learn that his act was not appreciated by the Israelites! He fled to Midian for forty years and tended sheep while the vision to deliver God’s people went dormant. (Acts 7:20-29)
God was trying to speak to these Jews who were jealous of the power of this follower of Jesus. He was showing them that the Jews had a history of missing what God was doing. He wanted them to listen and learn from the past. These Old Testament stories showed truth. Are you open to learn today? Are you reading God’s word with a teachable heart? God is speaking today!
Scripture reading for April 26th: Luke 22:55-23:10
“When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see Him. From what he had heard about Him, he hoped to see Him perform some miracle. He plied Him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer.” (Luke 23:8-9) This was the Herod who had earlier killed John the Baptist and was the ruler in Galilee. Herod was curious about Jesus. The news of Jesus’ miracles had reached his ears, and he wanted to meet this man. He wanted to see one of the miracles, but not so he could believe on Him! His miracles were not for entertainment or to satisfy someone’s curiosity.
This refusal to answer brought mockery from Herod and those around him. Herod had an elegant robe put on Jesus and they hailed Him as ‘king of the Jews’. Jesus looked like an unlikely ‘king’, as He stood there bruised, accused falsely, and mocked by those in authority and by the religious leaders in Jerusalem. Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate, and these two political leaders who had been enemies, became friends over dealing with Jesus. How sad to think that these who had the opportunity to find truth and eternal life, were oblivious to their own need and to Jesus who could truly help them if they would ask sincerely.
Just previous to this, Jesus had given straight answers to serious questions. When asked by the council of elders if He was the Christ, Jesus answered,”If I tell you, you will not believe Me, and if I asked you, you would not answer. But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.” They then asked point blank, “Are You then the Son of God?” He replied, “You are right in saying I am.” (Luke 22:67-70) Jesus told them truth but they did not want to believe. They had made up their minds. Using Jesus’ answer, they accused Him of blasphemy.
Each person must decide who Jesus is. Do we believe Jesus or not? The religious leaders refused to believe Him after seeing miracles. The rulers Herod and Pilate refused to believe. All rejected truth because of a lack of humility. Today is a day of decision. What will you do with Jesus?
Scripture reading for February 10th: Leviticus 24-27
Do you know that our speech is monitored by God? The Word of God states that we will answer on the day of judgment for every careless word that we speak! By our words we will be either justified or condemned! (Matthew 12:36-37) God cares about our speech and those who would be priests must watch their speech carefully. Better yet, they must watch their hearts, which is the source of speech. The lips of a priest must preserve knowledge and flow with God’s grace and wisdom. (Malachi 2:6-7) He is God’s messenger to instruct men.
A problem arose when the son of an Israelite woman and and Egyptian father got into a fight with an Israelite man. This son cursed the “Name” of God and he was brought before Moses for a judgment. Moses went before the Lord and inquired and God spoke to him concerning the action that was to be taken. This young man was to be taken outside the camp. All who heard him were to lay their hands on his head and then the entire assembly was to stone him. (Leviticus 24:13-16) This was to be an example that anyone, native or foreign, who blasphemed God would be put to death. This was God’s orders.
One of the ten commandments of God was to not take the Name of the Lord in vain. Many people think only of cursing or swearing when looking at this commandment. I believe it goes further than this. When someone claims to follow and know the Lord and then lives in rebellion to Him and His word, he is taking God’s Name in vain. Our profession is useless. “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in darkness.” (1st John 2:9)
Our speech is a good indicator of our heart. What is in our heart will come out. It is interesting that a fight brought blasphemy out of the one son but not out of the Israelite. What do you do when under stress or attack? What kinds of things come out of your mouth? Do others hear you using God’s Name in vain or cursing God by your speech? If you have a problem, confession and repentance are highly recommended! By your words you will be justified or condemned!
Scripture reading for October 15th: Mark 1-3
Mark’s Gospel is concise and active. It is alive with the Good News of God here with us and in love with us. This revelation is found in Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Son of Man! Mark wastes little time with preliminaries of the Jewish history of the Christ and prophesies of His birth. He gets right down to the action of Jesus living among His people and loving and serving them by teaching, healing, and casting out devils. He ate with the people and told them stories that opened up for them the kingdom of heaven and their own need for a relationship with the Father. One story of a healing is the subject of our study today.
As a result of a spectacular healing of a man with leprosy, people were coming from everywhere to find the man who could bring these miraculous results. Crowds gathered wherever Jesus went. He returned to Capernaum where he had done miracles and a crowd quickly gathered. There were so many that people were crowded around the house to hear Him preach the word. A group of men brought a friend who was paralyzed to Jesus for healing. Because of the crowd, there was no way to get him inside, so they carried him up on the roof. They opened a hole big enough to let the man down and lowered him into the room.
When Jesus saw the faith of the friends, He immediately responded to the man by saying: “Son, your sins are forgiven.” (Mark 2:5) This caused some religious leaders who were present to begin to think about how wrong this statement was to come from a mere man. After all, only God could forgive sins! (Mark 2:7)
Jesus had immediate understanding of their thoughts and sought to help them believe. He asked them why they were thinking these things and asked them which was easier to say, “Your sins are forgiven” or “Get up, take up your bed and walk”? In order to remove their objection, he told the man to get up, take up his bed, and walk. This the man did to the amazement of the crowd!
This story should help us to see how faith should motivate us to seek Jesus for answers to whatever problems we face. Jesus honors faith and no problem is too hard for Him. We may not have faith ourselves, but believing friends can also be a great blessing by taking us to Jesus. The obstacles must be pushed or broken through so we are not discouraged or denied! What friend do you know that needs help today to get to Jesus? Take a few minutes of your day to pray for him. As the Lord leads, get another friend or two and go and lift him to Jesus together! What a joy to delight Jesus with your faith! What a blessing faith-filled friends are! Miracles are waiting for those who break through! He truly is God!