I saw a post this week where a fellow said that he was looking forward to seeing more blood-bought, red-hot, fired-up, soul-redeeming, devil-stomping, Spirit-filled, sin-hating, Bible-believing churches appearing. Churches brought about not by our might or poser, but by His Spirit.
This sounds great on the surface, but the more I thought about it, something wasn’t setting well with me. It took a few days but I finally figured it out. He never mentioned love.
Y’all, I spent some time in my youth in a church that gave the appearance of having all of the attributes the guy said he was looking forward to seeing. None of those attributes helped me when I was drifting. In fact, they drove me away from trying to develop a personal relationship with Jesus because they made me feel that God could only love me if I did all of the “right” things and never sinned. They didn’t teach me about the love that God had for me, they taught me a list of rules and made me believe that if I didn’t follow those rules that I was unlovable by God.
For many years, I wasn’t able to believe that God loved me warts and all so I had no inclination to work on removing the warts.
This is why I preach far more on love than I do about sin. Until we really get it through our thick skulls and scar-tissue wrapped hearts that God LOVES us period, the rest of it doesn’t matter.
Sunday, November 13
19 Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews. 20 Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. 21 The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.
Thank you, Lord, for giving us your word. In it, we learn of the early church and how it grew because people were willing to speak Jesus. Following your will and living into the call you place on our lives can be frightening but doing that is the only way we can truly be your people. Help us, Lord, place your hand on us. Still not only our fears but our own will. In the name of Jesus, we pray, Amen.
Monday, November 14
22 News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. 24 He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.
Father God, thank you for your Spirit that calls and directs us! We see from your word that if we are true to you, people will see and accept your grace. Even in a place such as Antioch, when the disciples spoke Jesus, people listened and turned to you. And because they did, your Holy Spirit convicted them, and they themselves became disciples. Fill us with your Spirit and make us ever mindful of Him. In Jesus’ name, we pray, Amen.
Tuesday, November 15
25 Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.
Father, thank you for your Spirit that continuously calls us to repentance. It is only through your Spirit that we can learn your truth. It is only through your Spirit that our Spirits receive soothing and calmness in troubled times. Help us hear and respond to your Spirit when He calls us to a life with you. In Jesus’ name, we pray, Amen.
Wednesday, November 16
27 During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.)
Lord, thank you for your prophets who, through your Spirit, give us warnings and instructions from you. Through your same Spirit, we are able to discern truth from lies when we listen. Help us listen so intently that we discover your will. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen
Thursday, November 17
29 The disciples, as each one was able, decided to provide help for the brothers and sisters living in Judea. 30 This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.
Father, through your Spirit, we have a connection to you, Jesus, and our brothers and sisters across the globe. As we are able and as we are called, Lord, let us help those in need not as a replacement for speaking Jesus but in addition to speaking Jesus. In His name, we pray, Amen
Friday, November 18
12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Father God, we are not so different from the early church. We are surrounded by people that need you, but to reach them, we must listen to you and put aside the biases and fears that prevent us from sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Sometimes, Lord, we are foolish enough to think we control who you welcome into your Kingdom, forgetting that “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” But everyone can’t hear about Jesus if we don’t speak Jesus. In the name of Christ alone, Amen
Saturday, November 19
Father, we join with your people across the earth to praise you! Your love for us is vast, and you are faithful even when we are not. (Psalm 117) Clear our minds of any worries or fears that interfere with us hearing your Spirit. Open our hearts and minds to hear and receive your Spirit. Please lead us to respond to the call you place on our lives. We lift up our Sunday School teachers and the workers in your church, and we thank you for them. We lift up our preachers as they prepare to bring your word. In Jesus’ name, we pray, Amen.