Daily Devotionals after the 17th Week after Pentecost

The devotions for the next few weeks will be focused on the Acts of the Apostles. Acts is the sequel to the Gospel of Luke. A comparison of Luke 1:1-4 and Acts 1:1-4 reminds us that Luke’s focus in both books is to accurately tell us the story of Jesus and then unfold how His life, death, and resurrection led to the Christian church and its outreach to all the nations of the world.

Don’t forget the video message each weekend at www.mlchapel.org. Saturday morning Zoom Bible study continues this week at 10 AM. And, of course, if you are able to come out, we continue our cautious, socially-distanced worship on Saturdays at 5 PM and Sundays at 10 AM. You can find the sign-up for worship also at www.mlchapel.org. Please contact mlcemail2019@gmail.com for the link for the Saturday study.

 
 

                                                Suggestions for Daily Prayers in the Home

Begin, “In the name of the Father and + of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Pray for the Holy Spirit to guide you in this time of devotion. Then read the Scripture selection aloud slowly. Reflect on or discuss its meaning. Then close with the Lord’s Prayer and your own heartfelt prayers. As you pray, confess the sins you know, asking God’s blessing for all His people and for all the world. Remember especially those in great need. Then go about your day in peace and joy.
 
 
 
 
Monday, September 28, 2020            Reading: Acts 2:22–36
 

Pentecost Preaching, Part II

Last Saturday you read the beginning of Peter’s sermon at Pentecost. It continues in today’s reading. After establishing that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Acts 2:21) by quoting from the prophet Joel, Peter now tells us this “Lord” is. He quotes a psalm of David (Ps 16) in which David seems to suggest that he will not die (“you will not abandon me in Hades [the realm of death] or allow your holy one to see decay.”) But David did die and his body decomposed like everyone else’s has after death.

So, concludes Peter, David isn’t speaking of himself personally, but of the promise to him that a descendant of his would rule forever—the “Messiah” himself. The psalm is pointing ahead to the Messiah whom God did not allow to decay in the realm of death, but rose from the dead!

All of this might seem a bit complicated for us, because we’re not used to reading the Old Testament in depth and with the wide understanding equal to that of Peter and the disciples and many Jews of that time. But here’s the simple point. The Old Testament makes promises that are not kept in the Old Testament period. If we take it to heart, we have to see that it is pointing ahead of itself. Where does it point? To Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Descendant of Abraham and of David who perfectly fulfilled the Law of the Old Testament, and fulfilled all of its promises. He conquers death. He is the Lord on whom we call to be saved.
  

Prayer for the day: Paschal Lamb, by God appointed, All our sins on You were laid. By almighty love anointed, You have full atonement made. All Your people are forgiven Through the virtue of Your blood; Opened is the gate of heaven, Reconciled are we with God. Amen.

 

 

Tuesday, September 29, 2020               Reading: Acts 2:27–47
 

Pentecost Preaching: Part III

 As Peter finishes his sermon, we see the reaction. He has just bluntly told the listeners: “God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” What an indictment. And it hit home. People are “cut to the heart.” That’s something to consider. How often does the Word of God cut us to the heart? How often do we see how serious it is? And here what makes it so serious. We crucified Jesus. Yes. We did!

 Don’t scoff. The crowd listening to Peter was not Pontius Pilate who convicted Jesus on trumped up charges, or the Judean leaders who hated Him, or the Roman soldiers who whipped Him and nailed Him to the cross. Nevertheless, they crucified him. He died because of their sins. And He died because of our sins. We crucified him.

    Sadly, that runs off our backs so easily. It’s so easy to deny that I bear direct guilt for Jesus’ death. Cut to the heart? Nah, that barely nicks the skin.

Forgive us, Lord. There is only one reason for Christ’s death. It is human sin—it is the fact that we all are fallen. We all ignore God’s Word more often than we take it to heart.

Peter took it to heart. That message had cut him to the heart. He knew his own denial—his own sin. And he knew the only hope. “Repent. Be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins” (see Acts 2:38-39). Here, he promises, this water washes away sin—for it is God’s washing. Just as he later wrote: “Baptism now saves you (not as the removal of dirt from the body, but as the pledge of a good conscience before God” (1 Peter 3:21).

 

Prayer for the day as I remember my Baptism: My loving Father, here You take me to be henceforth Your child and heir. My faithful Savior, here You make me the Fruit of all Your sorrows share. O Holy Spirit, comfort me when threatening clouds around I see. Amen.
 

 

Wednesday, September 30, 2020           Reading: Acts 3:1–10
 

A Lame Man Healed

            The Acts of the Apostles gets its name because it briefly describes the actions of some of Jesus’ apostles. Here we see two of them, Peter and John, confronted by a lame man. Just as the sick had done so often with Jesus, so also this man calls our to Jesus’ followers, pleading for help. They are not Jesus, so his hope isn’t healing, it is money. (Then as now, when you can’t get what you really want, money can be a great second place prize.)

            On the streets of some American cities we still encounter beggars, making their case for a contribution. People also come to church doors, asking for assistance. In other parts of the world, the number of beggars can be overwhelming. When I traveled in India, my Indian companions continually shooed the beggars away. “Don’t give them anything. We’ll be mobbed.” It was painful to experience that. But the beggars seemed philosophical. Their expressions said: “Maybe the next person will give me something.”

            This beggar seems to be the same. It’s as if he forgets his request to Peter and John as soon as he made it. He must have looked away toward the next people, but Peter called to him. “Look at us.” And then Peter gave him something he never would have expected. He healed him.

            How can that be? The disciples were promised that they would do extraordinary things in Jesus’ name. That was necessary, so that the truthfulness of their eyewitness testimony would be established. And so it is. Their “Acts” are clear reminders that the same Jesus who laid hands on the sick to heal them is also at work in His church, even after having returned to Heaven.

 

Prayer for the day: Lord Jesus, we praise You that Your Spirit empowered the signs that showed the truthfulness of the Apostles. Give us faith to trust Your Word, preserved by them in Holy Scripture. Amen
 

 

Thursday, October 1, 2020                 Reading: Acts 3:11–26
 

From Deeds to Words

After the astonishing miracle that we read about yesterday, when Peter healed a lame man, a crowd gathered. They were in awe and ready to praise the two apostles to high heaven. Peter stops them: “Fellow Israelites, why are you amazed? Why do look at us like we made him walk by our power and righteousness?”

Credit where credit is due! Peter and John, in themselves, are nothing at all and they won’t allow the crowd to miss that. No, all the honor goes to Christ. He is Lord. He heals when and where He wills.

The deed that day goes to serve the message. It’s the message—the Word of Christ—that matters. Christ. Christ. Christ Jesus our Lord. Look at Him, says Peter, not at me or John. In Him, “God fulfilled what He had predicted through the prophets.”

That is the apostolic message. When we confess that we believe in an “apostolic” Church, we telling others (and reminding ourselves) that we stand on the message that the apostles delivered—the old, old story of Jesus and His love. The story of how from Creation God was preparing a way of salvation for the world, all through the long history of Abraham and his descendants, all the way to the most important Descendant: Jesus.

Peter caps off this mini-message with the final piece of the good news. Christ died. He is risen. And now the promise to Abraham is being fulfilled: All the families of the earth will be blessed through Abraham’s Descendant, our Savior Jesus!!!

 

Prayer for the day: Lord God, we praise You for Your faithfulness in keeping the promise to Abraham, that all the earth would be blessed by his Descendant Jesus. Make us confident in faith and strong in love. Amen.
 

 

Friday, October 2, 2020                        Reading: Acts 4:1–12
 

Confrontation

It is a strange fact that the great good news of God’s saving work for all the world is threatening to many. It actually seems that more people reject it than welcome it. The more you read contemporary authors, the more you find such rejection. So few people welcome Christ and His saving mercy.  

That is very contemporary, but also very old. The leaders of Jerusalem are certainly among those who found the Gospel to be offensive. As some people believed, the leaders became even more annoyed. They question the authority of the apostles. It’s as if they are saying, “How dare you tell people that we need to be saved from anything? What gives you the right to say you’re speaking for God? By what authority do you claim to heal someone?” They are more than annoyed. This Jesus stuff enrages them. They thought they’d stamped it out with the crucifixion and can’t stand that the apostles are saying Jesus is alive—risen from the dead—and that He is the Savior the whole world needs!

Notice. The apostles don’t argue. Their act of love toward the lame man was followed up with the fact of Christ Jesus’ resurrection power as the source of the healing. Now, they just repeat it. You want authority? It is Jesus who does all this, not us. Here is the truth: “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved.”

How does that strike you? Is it an offense and a threat, or is it God’s own beautiful promise?

 

Prayer for the day: Lord God, give us Your Holy Spirit so that you great good news always brings joy to our hearts; in Jesus’ name. Amen.
 

 

Saturday, October 3, 2020                  Reading: Acts 4:13–22
 

Boldness

After today’s reading, it is almost hard to imagine that these same disciples are the ones who ran away from Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane at the time of His arrest. They are the same disciples who watched the crucifixion with fear and trembling and were locked into a room after Jesus burial—even after the intrepid women came back from the tomb and said He had risen.

But now the Resurrection has sunk in to them. They had the forty days experience of seeing Jesus time and again. In addition, they have experienced the gift of the Holy Spirit. Boldness has now replaced their prior fear.

Jerusalem’s leaders are also bold. They have the bravery of political power and a squad of soldiers at their beck and call, so they bluntly order the apostles to shut up about this Jesus stuff.

Listen to the response—the calm, quiet courage of the two apostles: “Whether it is right in the sight of God for us to listen to you rather than to God, you decide. We are unable to stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

That same message has been repeated by thousands of other Christians. In word and deed that same courageous message is made clear by brave believers in lands where religious and governmental authorities tell them to be quiet and to stop praising Christ and proclaiming His Gospel. Thank God. 

Prayer for the day: O Lord, let us never obey human authority instead of you, whether it is a government’s order or popular opinion. Keep us faithful and fill our minds and mouths with your Word and our hearts and souls with thanksgiving for all You have done; in Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.