“I am not asking that you take them out of the world, but I ask that you protect them from the evil one.” Jesus prays that his followers will be protected in the world. Do the ministries of the church and Christian sometimes favor pulling us away from the world? Are we called to protect ourselves and our family, or is that God’s job? Where do I see myself pulling away from the world? What does Jesus’ prayer call me to today? – Lord Jesus, who prayed for all who trust in you, help us to trust you as we live for you in this world amongst people who need to trust in you. Amen
“Jesus said, ‘Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find a catch.'” There have been times in my ministry in which I have felt like nothing good was coming from my efforts. Sometimes, I’ve felt a nudge from the Lord to “throw the net” somewhere different, finding fruit elsewhere. Are there places you feel ineffective in ministry these days? How do you decide when to let go and when to be persistent? – Guide us, Holy Spirit, when to stay the course and when to move on?
“Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone their sins, they are forgiven…” Many Christian pastors preach on “keeping the main thing the main thing.” What is the main thing for Jesus as he leaves the disciples in John’s gospel? What is the meaning and the significance of Jesus giving the promised Holy Spirit? How is this connected to the forgiveness of sins and the ministry of Christ’s church/disciples? Do I keep Jesus’ main thing in my life and ministry? – Give us your heart for your world, Lord Jesus.
“When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit.” Jesus tells a parable. The main question: What will those left to steward the owners property do when he comes to collect fruit of his land? All of us have been given a life with all our gifts and abilities, visions, and resources. What am I doing with all that God has entrusted in me and the life he has given? How will I answer when he looks for the fruit of my life? Father, help me to steward well all you have given to me and grant that it may be an honor to you as I lay it at your feet.
“They grumbled saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us…’” “It’s not fair.” I remember my mother hating this parable. Every time she heard it she said, “It’s not fair.” What’s not fair? Equal wages? Equal treatment? Equal love? In what ways do I think God should treat me special? Is all my labor earning me a better grace, a better love, a better reward? Why do I serve and minister as I do? Forgive me for a grumbling heart that seeks special recognition over my brothers and sisters saved by Your grace.
“Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I send you,’…he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” Just a few verses contain a blessing of peace, a commission to ministry, and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to the disciples of Jesus. Why is each of these important to the leadership and ministry of the church? What is the relationship between peace, sending, and empowerment? Breathe on us breath of God; fill us with peace, purpose, and power. Amen.
“Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures…” The content of Jesus’ opening the scriptures included his suffering, dying, and rising on the third day along with repentance and forgiveness of sin proclaimed in his name to all nations. They were called and empowered to be witnesses to “these things.” In our day and age in the church, what are we looking for in the scriptures? Inspiration for life? Leadership principles? Strategies for growing organizations? What does Jesus want to open our minds to in the scriptures? Lord Jesus, open our minds to understand the scriptures. Amen.
“While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’” Following Jesus is often such a romantic, ethereal ideal in our minds. For Stephen, it meant following the Lord, even in his passion, death, and his response to his enemies. Do I really want to follow Jesus? How do I prepare to follow in the tough circumstances during the times of normal life and ministry? Teach me what it means to follow Jesus in everything. Amen.
“They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people, proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead.” The preaching of the early church brought on resistance and persecution, largely because of the claim that Jesus was alive. What made this a foundational truth for Jesus’ followers? Do we proclaim in Jesus the resurrection of the dead today, or are people more disturbed by other things we are talking about? O Holy Spirit, let our proclamation be faithful to true Christian testimony first and foremost.
“But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?” Paul seems convinced in this chapter that something is seriously missing from the Christian faith without the resurrection. What difference does it make whether Jesus rose from the dead? Why does it matter to the church and to Christian leadership? Almighty God, let lingering doubts and unbelief be set to rest as we put our whole faith in the risen Christ. Amen.