“For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against…against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” It is easy to get caught up in political, philosophical, and theological debates demonizing people who think differently than us. Paul’s words here are a reminder that our real enemy is not people different than us, but spiritual powers that work behind the scenes in powerful ways for evil. Help us, Holy Spirit, to put on the full armor of God that we might stand against the deceptions of the devil.
“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore, ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” Jesus never doubts the potential of the harvest; his concern is whether there are workers. We learn quickly in ministry that we cannot harvest alone; the work is endless. Do I have eyes to see those who might join the work of the harvest? Do I pray for and encourage others in the work of the Kingdom? – Lord, send out laborers into your harvest and let us rejoice how you are using each one.
“the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them ahead of him in pairs…” When Jesus sent out people into ministry, he sent them in pairs. There are many dangers in planning and living out ministry alone: security, temptations, accusations, misunderstandings, inflated egos, heresy, discouragement; the list goes on. Ecclesiastes 4:9 says, “Two are better than one…” Jesus seems to agree. Who are you doing ministry with? Who is on your team? Are you trying to live and ministry alone? – God give us the gift of friends and coworkers and the wisdom to minister with others.
“It is not for you to know the times or periods…But you will receive power…” Even after Jesus’ resurrection the disciples still are concerned with things that Jesus sees more as distraction. “Is this when you will restore your kingdom?” Jesus refocuses them on the coming Spirit and the power to be witnesses to Christ in the world. What questions occupy your thoughts? What distracts you from the main purposes of God for your life?” Distracting thoughts and busyness are plentiful for us Lord; deliver us from distraction so we may be a powerful witness to Christ.
“Jesus ordered them to wait there for the promise of the Father.” The book of Acts begins where the Gospel of Luke ends. After staying with and teaching his disciples, before his ascension, Jesus orders, that is commands them, to “wait.” No strategic planning committees, no fund raising campaigns, no busy weekends at church, no dynamic worship music sets or concerts. Only “wait for the promise of the Father.” What does waiting on God imply? What does “not waiting” imply? Are you inclined to do something or wait on God these days? Help us discover you in the waiting Lord.
“Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion. Look, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!” Kings of Jesus’ day would celebrate their conquests with big pompous parades. Jesus enters his kingship on a donkey, as a humble servant of those who came to save. What might this suggest about the way Jesus enters the life of a sinner who needs him? What might it suggest about our approaches to ministry in our day? Let your church O Christ, live humbly, preach humbly, and be like Jesus in announcing his Lordship over all. Amen.
“I try to find common ground with everyone; doing everything I can to save some…to spread the Good News…” This verse has been used to justify many actions and strategies to be “relevant” to different audiences as we share the Gospel. Paul’s point here is really more about sacrificing my understandings and cultural biases in order to put the Gospel first. How might my cultural perspectives, political views, and nationalistic pride get in the way of the message of the Gospel I preach and witness to? Lord, give me a heart to reach across barriers to share your Good News!
“Those who use the things of the world should not become attached to them. For this world as we know it will soon pass away.” It is very easy to become attached and comfortable with the “things” that fill our lives. It is easy to expend great energy to save, hold, and grasp things we feel like we are losing. What am I currently attached to and holding on to that does not matter for the long haul? Lord, free us from our attachments that hold us back from living fully for you.
“Flee from sexual immorality…honor God with your body.” Our bodies are not separate from our spirits. It’s all us. Our bodies give physical expression of our love and faith to God and the people around us. Why do you suppose it is so easy for Christian leaders and people to divorce the body from faith life? Do I honor God with my body? – Father God, in a world so saturated with the physical and a desire to feel good for the moment, help me to honor you with self-control and joy that endures.
“By God’s grace and mighty power, I have been given the privilege of serving him by spreading this Good News.” The Apostle Paul viewed his purpose and vocation as a piece of what God was doing to redeem the world. This big vision kept him focused on God’s heart for the world and a reliance on God’s grace and power to accomplish anything. What will define your purpose, calling, and vocation? How will your life be a part of spreading God’s Good News this year? Mighty God, empower me by your grace to serve faithfully this year. Amen.