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Daily Courage

Courage Under Fire

A daily devotional through the writings and sayings of Peter.

Day 1 — When You Are Beat Up By the World

…strangers in the world…Grace and peace be yours in abundance. (1 Peter 1:1-2)

Reading: 1 Peter 1:1-2

By the end of the hit movie, Rocky, the boxer’s face was about to fall apart. He received powerful punches and jabs to his eyes and his mouth. His face was cut, bruised, bloody, and beaten. Do you feel like that sometimes? Has the world so laughed at you, mocked you, and opposed you, such that you feel tired and beat up? Do your neighbors, spouse, family, friends, or boss oppose because of your Christian faith?

The ancient Christians to whom Peter the apostle wrote felt like that. They so much felt “out of place” in this present world with its customs, religions, and morals, that the Christians experienced great opposition. Peter even refers to them as “strangers” who have been “scattered,” using the same name for the Jews who were exiled to pagan countries in the 6th century, B.C. To the rest of the world, God’s people seem strange and out of place, like the mild Mister Rogers in the middle of a Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang – he is bound to be beat up.

If you feel “out of place” in this world, then you are not alone. If you are a believer, you are part of a growing family of people just like you, but scattered around the world.

Do not lose hope. You have not been forgotten. Peter even said that you have been specially “chosen,” the “elect,” preserved, and cleansed by God through Jesus Christ. His presence is so real, His kindness so overflowing, and His peace so still, even during times of suffering, that Peter confidently promises this to you: “Grace and peace be yours in abundance.

Prayer

Dear Father in heaven, during the times when I feel that the world is against me, and opposition is all around me, give me the abundance of your grace and peace. Calm me, O Lord, in the stormy times of my life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Day 2 — How to Find Joy in the Midst of Trial

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. (1 Peter 1:6)

Reading: 1 Peter 1:3-12

A Protestant man in the 1500’s was caught by the French Government worshiping illegally in the wheat fields. As his punishment he was sent to the galley of a naval ship, where he would spend the rest of his life on a bench, rowing a long oar every day. If that were you, how would you find joy? How do you find joy in other trials such as a failed marriage, rebellious children, prison, financial failure, or the temptation of drugs and alcohol?

You must first understand that the secret to joy lies not in the absence of pain, but in the condition of the soul. If you do not understand this, you may only be cutting weeds without pulling the roots. To Peter, the answer to suffering consists of the divine transformation of your soul: “for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (v. 9)

Simply eliminating your affliction is like simply swallowing aspirin for your flu. The tablet eliminates much of the discomfort and the symptoms, but not the flu itself. You might feel better, but you know you are still sick.

But when you put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ, He so transforms your soul that you grow in the assurance that the Lord is working all things out for your complete deliverance. You can rejoice over your new birth (3), your new inheritance (4), God’s protection (5), even the trials that build up your faith (6-7). Although the world seems to be caving in around you, you can yet rejoice because you trust you are safe in His arms.

I overheard a teenager talking on the phone to a girl he liked. She simply said, “Okay, I love you.” The boy put down the phone, then jumped up and yelled, “Yessss! Yessss! Woo-hoo! She loves me.” Such is the Christian’s joy. When you know that God so loved you that He sent Jesus to die for your sins, you become filled with a joy that overpowers the darkness of the world around you.

Prayer

Dear Lord, in my darkest hours, deepen my faith and trust in You. Help me rejoice over the salvation that You have given me through Jesus Christ. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Day 3 — The Pursuit of Holiness

…so be holy in all you do… (1 Peter 1:15)

Reading: 1 Peter 1:13 – 2:3

A shallow brook twists and turns down a gentle slope with the shape of a figure-S. To the right and to the left it goes, around every rock, avoiding every bump, and changing directions at every tree stump. So is the Christian during his time of trial. Like a weakened stream of water, he takes the path of least resistance against the world.

Do you sometimes feel like giving up on the Christian life? Have you thought about surrendering to the ways of the world? Like the readers of the apostle Peter’s letter, perhaps you too are tired of living the Christian life. It’s easier to go back to those old, familiar ways.

Yet there are reasons to keep pursuing the Christian life. You would never pay $1,000 to buy a dog from the pound just to release him into the streets again. So also God would never redeem you from sin just to release you back to the world and its corruption. God, through Jesus’ own blood, bought you and freed you in order to keep you as His very own. Peter explains, “For you know that it was not with perishable things… that you were redeemed from the empty way of life… but with the precious blood of Christ…” You have a mansion. So do not live in the streets.

Prayer

Dear Father in heaven, sometimes the path of holy living is too difficult for me. Help me to fix my eyes on Jesus, so that I may find the strength to resist the temptation to fall back into the sinful habits I used to have. In Christ’s name, Amen.

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Day 4 — When the World Treats You Like Dirt

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9)

Reading: 1 Peter 2:4-10

Like a mother who wipes off dirt from a child’s face, so the world would sometimes like to wipe away the Christian. Have you been passed up for a promotion, passed by for the really fun parties, or teased and mocked just because you live as a Christian? Are you disappointed that you have lost old friends, or passed up easy money because of your faith? Then beware. This tension between you and the world, and the hardship you face, will tempt you to give up on the Christian life.

This was Peter’s concern. In this Bible passage, he gives his answer. You, a believer, may be dirt in the world’s eyes, but you hold a high position in God’s eyes because of Christ. First, you are part of an indestructible “building.” You are all like Lego blocks, being molded after the master block, Jesus Christ. Then God locks all of us blocks in place to form a rock-solid building that He glues together with His own hand. This building, which you are part of, will stand up against the heaviest winds of the world – the winds of adversity, persecution, opposition, and loss. So do not be afraid. Do not give into the world. Trust in the one who overcomes the world.

Second, Jesus earned for you those “status symbols” that you now wear: “chosen people, holy nation, royal priesthood” through His death on the cross for you. Because of this high status, God won’t let the world wipe you away. You will not be destroyed. You are like the Hope diamond mixed in with a bed of dirty river rock. God knows who you are and where you are. He has not forgotten you. Keep shining.

Prayer

O Lord, You have not forgotten me. Remind me of Your presence and of the inheritance that You have given me, so that I may not give up living to the glory of Your name. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Day 5 — The Secret Strength of Submission

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men… (1 Peter 2:13)

Reading: 1 Peter 2:11-20

One day in fifth grade, I was walking home from school, when I saw three boys throwing rocks into someone’s backyard. I passed closer to the house, and the boys ran away. Then an old man came out of the house, saw only me, and yelled at me for something I didn’t do. It was unfair. But do not be surprised. Parents, teachers, bosses, customers, government, police, and even church leaders sometimes treat people unfairly. So how does God expect Christians to act, when powerful people are unfair?

Don’t “diss” them back. Respect the president even if he has sinned, and even if you didn’t vote for him. Don’t call police “pigs.” While your criticism is sometimes helpful and necessary, disrespecting authority never is.

But when you submit, it is like an escape artist in a straight jacket. If he twists, turns, and jerks, he stays stuck in the jacket. If he relaxes his arms so they become like noodles, he easily slides out of the jacket. So is the Christian who submits to authority. You exert a God-powered influence upon those in authority.

There is the story of a Pastor Soon during the Korean War. A communist soldier killed his two sons. The pastor, moved by Christ’s love, adopted the soldier as his own son. The soldier was so moved that he broke down in tears, his heart changed, and gave his life to serve the Lord. See, authorities take notice of the power behind your submission. You earn their favor like no one else could. You please God like no one else could.

Prayer

Dear Father, give me strength to control my anger. Chip away at my pride, so that I may better respect the authorities that You have placed over me. Let me live in a way such that they notice You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Day 6 — The Power of Submission

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men… (1 Peter 2:13)

Reading: 1 Peter 2:21 – 3:12

As I rose from kneeling on the floor, I bumped my head on a window sill. My immediate reaction was to bang my fist on that window sill. It cracked off. Then I thought, “Y’know, how pointless.” Such is our natural drive for retaliation. It seems automatic for many of us although it is not constructive nor solves any problems. Your automatic desire is to retaliate against the spouse, friends, or neighbors who hurt you. But it solves nothing.

Instead, God commands you to submit. This is Biblical submission: the art of abandoning your own agenda and seeking the good of others. For the Christian, the good of others is the most important goal in life next to glorifying God.

This act of submission is so powerful that it influences those close to you (v. 1, 2). For example, a lady came to tell me that she planned to divorce her husband. She said, “I want to go to church, and he won’t. I want to tithe, and he won’t. I like to pray, and he won’t. He just won’t change.” Then I told her, to her surprise, “Now, try submitting to your husband.” She went away disappointed in my advice. Then her husband got into a serious car accident and was laid up in the hospital for several days. She submissively knelt by his bedside and began singing Christian praise songs to him. Later, when I visited him, I asked, “What shall I pray for?” He answered, “Pastor, pray that I would someday have faith like my dear wife.” I told his wife what he had told me. She broke out in tears of joy.

Prayer

Dear Lord, submission is difficult for me. I just feel like getting revenge. Help me be more like Jesus, helping me trust in You more. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Day 7 — How to Witness to a Hostile World

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect… (1 Peter 3:15)

Reading: 1 Peter 3:13-22

Switch on a 300w lamp at 4:00 in the morning while someone else is sleeping. The rudely awakened friend will groan, shield his hurting eyes, and mutter, “Hey, shut off that light!” So is the reaction of the world when the light from a Christian shines in its eyes. The world is so accustomed to darkness that it will hate the Christian.

Then Peter presents the key to influencing such a hostile world: Look to Christ. Says Peter, “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.” This means that when you are confronted by the world, look to Jesus as your Master.

When you look at Christ, you will not be afraid of the world. You become like a good tightrope walker – He does not look down. His eyes are fixed on a firm, steady rock ahead. The wind may blow and a fall may be fatal. But you focus. Your rock is Christ. Look to Him. Do not look at the insults and mockery that the world gives to you. Set apart Christ as Lord.

When you look to Christ, you will discover you become like Him. So that when you defend your faith to the world, you will do it with Christ-like gentleness and respect. Your answer in a quiet voice. Those who set apart Christ as Lord do not answer the world by bombing abortion clinics, beating up homosexuals, or spray Jesus graffiti. Make your words bold, but your actions gentle.

Prayer

Sometimes, O Father, the mockery and insults of others tempt me to stumble in my walk with You. So help me focus on Jesus my Savior, so that my actions and my words may win others to Christ. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Day 8 — How to Grow From Religious Opposition

So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good. (1 Peter 4:19)

Reading: 1 Peter 4

The Christian has a secret weapon: opposition. When the world opposes your faith and Christian way of life, it is like surgically fixing a metal plate and bolts on a weak ankle. It is painful at first. But it makes the ankle stronger.

So it is with the Christian. Some of God’s servants did their most powerful work only after the world cast stones upon them. In the 1500’s Martin Luther translated the entire Bible into a modern language for people to read only after the religious opposition sought to kill him. In the same century, John Calvin wrote his Institutes of the Christian Religion only after he fled from his persecutors to save his life. Even the apostle Paul said, “…I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12:10) The world does not yet know that when it beats a Christian, he comes back stronger.

God uses opposition to build you up. It makes you more godly (v. 1-9). He gives you more strength (v. 10-11). You glorify Him more (v. 11). He purifies the church (v. 12-19). So expose your Christianity. Come out into the open. Don’t let persecution defeat you – let it DRIVE you.

Prayer

Dear Lord, when I feel like hiding from the world, let me hide in You. When I have been weakened by the world, make me strong. Let me not be defeated by the Enemy. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Day 9 — Your Reward for Humble Service

Be shepherds of God’s flock… and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. (1 Peter 5:2)

Reading: 1 Peter 5:1-4

The dog who growls the loudest and bares the longest fangs is the one who gets the bone. The other dogs look on, whimpering and hunching over their empty bellies. Such is the heavy-handed leader in the church. He is loud, intimidating with his knowledge of Scripture, and gets his way. While the younger Christians, the flock, don’t get enough to eat and don’t grow in the Christian life.

That is why God commands church leaders to serve humbly. They are to be “shepherds” over the flock, “willing,” “eager to serve,” being “examples” to the other brothers and sisters, not overbearing and bossy. This is the way God wants leaders to feed the flock.

Feed them, and they will come. I once laid out a bowl of milk for a stray kitten. Then another kitten jumped down from a fence and joined in. Another one climbed out from under the bushes, and another came out from the shadows. The crowd grew to eight kittens. I brought out another bowl of milk. And they jumped up for it before I could set it down. This is what God’s shepherd does. He feeds the flock with God’s Word and by being an example to them. No wonder why Jesus told Peter three times to feed and care for His sheep (cf. John 21:15-17).

Do you feed your brothers and sisters in Christ like a shepherd, or do you drive them like a cattle rancher? Do people follow you because you nurture them with God’s Word and with your exemplary lifestyle, or because of your exciting personality and popularity? Do you serve humbly, or do you insist on your own way? If you serve humbly, you may never become a celebrity, but you will have a reward from God.

Prayer

Dear Lord, help me to be humble. Help me to be a shepherd, not eager to insist on my authority, but always ready to feed others so that they may grow in Christ. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Day 10 — More About Humility in the Church

All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives race to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5)

Reading: 1 Peter 5:5-11

Only the smallest of birds sing sweetly. The turkey gobbles, and eagle shrieks, and the owl “hoos.” But the tiny canary sings the beautiful song of spring. So it is with the Christian. The sweetest music comes from those who are small in their own eyes and before the Lord.

According to Peter, the humble Christian is clothed with grace. God “gives grace to the humble” (v. 5). He “lifts” them up (v. 6). He “cares” for them (v. 7). He “restores” them, and makes them “strong, firm, and steadfast” (v. 10). That is why Peter instructs the young men to submit to those who are older, and for everyone to act humbly toward each other.

As Christians were persecuted in Peter’s day, it was tempting to lash out in retaliation to their tormentors. But this is not the way of Jesus. You win this hostile world to Christ as you would quiet a growling dog – you slowly offer your hand, pat it gently on the head, and say truthful yet gentle words. If you are a Christian, there is no need for you to lash back at those who hurt you. Do not be so concerned about what people think of you. Be concerned about what people think about the Lord.

Prayer

Once again, Lord, please humble me, and let me not think of myself more highly than I ought. For You alone deserve honor and glory. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Day 11 — A Dying Prophet’s Last Words to You

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. (2 Peter 1:3)

Reading: 2 Peter 1:1-4

As you read this passage, remember that Peter is in his last days. He is old and expects to die soon, according to the Lord Jesus’ prophecy (cf. 2 Peter 1:13-14, John 21:18-19). This is his farewell address to the Christian world at the time. They are his most important words. Ancient Christians bent over, and strained to hear these last, precious words from a man who walked with Jesus. Now, God uses these words to speak an urgent message to you today.

You must be godly. This is Peter’s urgent message. Godliness must be your most important goal in life. Perhaps you sing in the choir, raise money for the church, help set up chairs, even win many souls to Christ, or accomplish the impossible. But godliness – that is most important right now.

True godliness starts with knowing God (v. 3-4). You cannot be loving, peaceful, joyful, truthful, or kind for more than a few weeks unless you know the Lord. My niece at six years old didn’t crave soda when she was thirsty because she had never tasted it – until now. Now, since she knows soda, that’s all she wants. Plain water has lost its appeal. The same with knowing God. When you finally know Him, the world becomes less appealing, and He becomes the new desire of your heart. You can know God only by reading more or listening more to His Word. Sundays are not enough. Talk less. Know more. You will become more godly.

Prayer

Dear Lord, my most important goal in life is to be godly. Out of my gratitude for the salvation that You have so freely given to me, I commit my life’s goals to You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Day 12 — Growing God’s Way

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness… and to brotherly kindness, love. (2 Peter 1:5)

Reading: 2 Peter 2:5-11

I once made a large pot of beef stew that I burned. It looked fine, but there was that burnt taste that made me say “yuck” and squint my eyes. I added more water, more salt, more seasoning. I added more vegetables, more of everything. But the burnt taste would not go away. Then I realized there was only one solution: start over.

It is the same with the Christian life. You cannot simply take your old life and add a sprinkle of religion, and expect it to become godly. It must be done right, according to God’s way. For example, no matter how much religion you sprinkle over a selfish man, he will never be godly. God must start over.

So He begins by giving you faith in Jesus Christ. There is no other foundation for growth (cf. John 20:31, Gal. 3:1-5, Heb. 11:6). Upon this, God makes you strive for the many virtues of Jesus Christ (cf. Phil. 1:6) such as goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, and brotherly kindness. Then, God ties all of these virtues with a common purpose – love. This is God’s way, the only way. All other human strategies for life change are futile: subliminal tapes, mind techniques, will power, religious work, charity. These may be sometimes helpful, but the plan of God is far superior.

Prayer

Grow me, dear Lord, according to your perfect plan. Help me grow strong in the faith and deepen my love for You. Transform my life from head to toe. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Day 13 — The Secret to Steady Faith (1)

So I will always remind you of these things, even through you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. (2 Peter 1:12)

Reading: 2 Peter 1:12-21

Remember when Hurricane Bonnie hit the United States in 1998? Tidal waves ripped the shores. They tossed ships like toy boats in a bathtub – up and down, back and forth, slamming the ships ashore, then scattering them out to the ocean again.

Like these ships, some Christians “wash” in and out of the church too. They come and they go. They serve then stop. They are on fire for the Lord, and then they grow cold. Their faith is tossed back and forth with the tidal waves of the world.

Is this you? Then what you need are anchors for a rock-solid, steady faith. For the rest of this chapter, which we will read for the next three days, Peter gives you three such anchors.

The first anchor is that you receive frequent reminding of Christian truth. This is not the same as mindless repetition. Regular church attendance, daily Bible reading, weekly Bible study groups, the studying of a book of the Bible for a second or third time – these are some of the ways you receive frequent reminding of Christian truth. This reminding is so important to the Christian life that Peter would spend the rest of his life to “remind you of these things” (v. 12), “refresh your memory” (13), and “make every effort to see that… you will always be able to remember these things.” (15)

Biblical truth to your memory is like a coat of paint to a house – one application is not enough. Your memory of the Sunday sermon might fade away by Tuesday. Therefore, you need many coats of paint.

Prayer

Help me, dear God, to always remember Your truths. Forgive me when I choose not to remember your ways. Impress your ways upon me again and again, so that I will be firmly established in the faith. In Jesus name, Amen.

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Day 14 — The Secret to Steady Faith (2)

We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, But we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. (2 Peter 1:16)

Reading: 2 Peter 1:16-18

When you were a child, perhaps you imagined ugly monsters under your bed and in your closet at night. Because you were frightened, your mother came into the room to calm you. She then switched on the lights, and you saw that the space under your bed was really empty, and that your closet was really safe. You saw that the monsters were imagined, and the safety was real. Then you fell into a peaceful sleep.

In the same way, when the glory and power of Jesus Christ is real to you, you have an anchor for steady faith. Peter so much knew the necessity of this anchor, that in this passage he emphasized his own testimony of Jesus’ power as he saw it in the Transfiguration in order to convince you of its reality.

There are many reasons why people go to church – friendship, intellectual exercise, emotional stimulation, music, fun, activity, feelings, the security of traditions, something good for their children. But if these are the reasons for your faith in Christ, then your faith will not last. Only those who are convinced that Jesus’ death on the cross powerfully delivered them from the misery of sin, and who cling to that cross as the only real security in life – only they will develop a rock-steady faith, no matter what the circumstances in life are.

So, my friend, why are YOU a Christian? Is it because Christianity merely makes you feel good, or is it because Jesus is real?

Prayer

Dear Lord, when the world challenges the existence of God and the truth of Your Word, strengthen my heart, and place within me a deep-seated conviction and certainty of all Your acts and mighty deeds. As a result, may You nurture my faith in You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Day 15 — The Secret of Steady Faith (3)

And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. (2 Peter 1:19)

Reading: 2 Peter 1:19-21

This is the third anchor for steady faith: Scripture. Peter urged the believers to study and listen to Scripture.

If you do not study the Scriptures, you are like a seagull who picks at scraps left over by other people: a few Christian TV programs, a crusade or two, a few catchy bumper stickers, billboards, radio sound bites, and some clever slogans on T-shirts. But your faith will not grow steady and strong on this kind of diet. Only the Scriptures will provide the wholesome food you need. Those who have grown strong in the Lord have learned to prepare a variety of meals out of this staple food. They memorize the Scriptures, make outlines, discuss it in groups, and ask questions. When trouble comes into their life, they have the answers.

The great evangelist Billy Graham knew the value of studying the Scriptures and once said, “One of my regrets is that I have not studied enough. I wish I had studied more, and preached less. People have pressured me into speaking to groups when I should have been studying and preparing. I’m trying to make it up.”

In China, it is common for a hundred people to crowd into a room over one handwritten copy of the book of John. In the United States, where Bibles are available at the local Wal-Mart for a couple of dollars, people do not study it. I suppose they are like Southern California residents who have never been to Disneyland because they know they can visit it any time. Not so with the growing believer. Those who grow, study.

Prayer

Dear Lord, Your Word is a lamp unto my feet. So discipline me to study Your Word, so that I may be fully prepared and trained for serving You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Day 16 — How to Resist the Seductive Power of False Teachers (1)

But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. (2 Peter 2:1)

Reading: 2 Peter 2

There is a colorful red-green flower in the shape of a pitcher. At the bottom of the pitcher, in the sac of the flower, there is what looks like sweet nectar. Thirsty insects fly to the flower, as if the colors and the shine were like precious jewels. But when they walk into the pitcher, they get caught in stiff porcupine-like hairs. These hairs point down, stabbing the bug if it were to back out, and forcing it to walk down further towards the nectar. When the bug reaches the nectar, it finds that the nectar is really digestive acid. So the bug becomes trapped, it dies, and it is slowly liquefied by the burning acid. So it is with pastors and teachers. They are like flowers in a large field. And a few of them will devour you.

In this passage, Peter foretells that there will be false teachers who will endanger Christians. Other parts of the Bible make this clear too. 1 John 4:1 “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” Matthew 7:15 – “Watch out for false prophets…” 1 Timothy 1:3 – “Command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer…” 2 John 7 – “Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world…

Why should you be concerned about false teachers? Because anyone can become an ordained “minister” today. For example, there was a family who sent $15 and their dog’s name, “Sadie,” to a so-called church in San Rafael, CA. The received her certificate of ordination in the mail the next week. A similar church has been known to have ordained over 250,000 people by mail. You see, anyone can become a “Reverend” today. That title can mean anything, from a godly Billy Graham to a sex-crazed drug addict who thinks he’s Jesus.

The Scriptures show that God detests false teachers and prophets as being particularly destructive to the church and to you. Today, be on your guard as you listen to the radio, read religious magazines, and watch TV. Tomorrow, you will examine the marks by which you can recognize the false teacher.

Prayer

Dear Jesus, give me a watchful and discerning eye to distinguish between truth and error. Help me to resist the seductive and attractive religious teachings of man in this world today, so that I may always stand firmly in the life-giving truth of Your gospel. In Christ’s name, Amen.

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Day 17 — How to Resist the Seductive Power of False Teachers (2)

They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them – bringing swift destruction on themselves. (2 Peter 2:1)

Reading: 2 Peter 2

A pastor once said that as long as you say the words “glory,” “Jesus,” “holiness unto the Lord,” and “the Bible says,” you can introduce any weird idea into the church. And that is how false teachers creep into the Christian church, and into your life. The false teacher will impress you with his religious exterior, his charismatic personality, his dynamic delivery, enthusiasm, and the Christian buzz-words. But like an archer who is one degree off, and misses the target completely, so the false teacher’s subtle error results in great destruction to the church. So Peter writes, “They will secretly introduce destructive heresies…” (1)

Because false teachers are hard to detect with the naked eye, Peter then directs Christians to look for the tell-tale signs: False teachers pull Christians away from the church (1b). They deny basic truths about Jesus such as the divinity of Christ (1c). They eventually fail and fall (1d). The win a large following (2a). They have questionable lifestyles (2b). They are greedy (3a, 14). They teach what is new and innovative, claiming to know something that no other church will teach (3b). They despise authority (10-11). They love to “shmooze” you, being friendly to you because they want something from you (13). They prey upon the weak and needy (14). They appeal to your sinful desires (18).

A little boy summarized these marks well. A Sunday School teacher asked, “What is false doctrine?” Then a boy, thinking she said “false doctorin’,” answered, “It is when a doctor gives the wrong medicine to people who are sick.” The boy misunderstood the question, but his answer was still right. So be on your guard, check the content of the message, and the lifestyle of the messenger, before you take his medicine.

Prayer

Dear Father, with the many cults and false teachings in the world and tempting Christians today, give me a keen eye to recognize what is false, so that I may stand firm my faith in Christ. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Day 18 — How to Resist the Seductive Power of False Teachers (3)

If this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly me from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment. (2 Peter 2:9)

Reading: 2 Peter 2:4-10, 20-22

A man was working on a thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle. Then a little boy tried to help and said, “Here’s some more.” And the boy dumped hundreds of other pieces of another puzzle into the man’s pile of pieces. And the mixed pieces all looked the same! The man was furious, and shouted, “Now look what you’ve done. Nevertheless, I will have to keep both the good pieces and the bad pieces together, until I finish my puzzle.”

In the same way, the church is also a mix of good and bad, the righteous and the wicked. Within this mixture is also what the Bible considers as the most dangerous of spiritual imposters – the false teacher.

Perhaps you may have been burned over spiritual leaders who simply don’t act like Christian leaders. Perhaps you’ve witnessed sexual sin, explosive anger, luxurious and greedy living, abuse of power, false doctrine. Do not be distressed, for God has promised to rescue you who are true believers in Christ. His track record proves that He is that kind of God. Just as I sort my mail each day by keeping some and throwing the rest in the trash, so God keeps the righteous, and throws the wicked into the fire of punishment. So you need not be alarmed. God already knew it would happen. His hand is still upon you. Your faith and walk with Jesus will still grow. Do not give up. The hand of God is still upon you.

Prayer

Dear heavenly Father, protect me and Your church from the many false teachers in the world today. Raise up godly teachers who speak the truth, so that I and Your church may be built up and edified. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Day 19 — What You Need to Know About Unbelievers

First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. (2 Peter 3:3)

Reading: 2 Peter 3:1-7

There was a ten-year old cat who was sick. He stopped eating for a month. The veterinarian did not know why. Mysteriously, the cat then curled up in a warm corner of the room and died. I wish the cat could talk. If only I knew what was going on inside of him.

Do you ever wonder what is going on inside of people who mock and ridicule your faith? Why won’t they listen? Why do they hate Christians? Peter knows, and he tells you in this passage.

Those who scoff at Christ, says Peter, are driven by “evil desires.” (v. 3) These desires, not logical and rational decision-making, are the primary inner motives of the unbeliever. Although he may give many reasons for rejecting Christ, and for hating you, there is really a secret ungodly desire that the unbeliever is struggling hard to preserve. In short, the one who argues the loudest against Christ is the one who has the most to hide.

Do not be afraid of them. They will argue that your faith in Jesus Christ is as silly as the Easter bunny. But remember that there is nothing wrong with what you believe in. They are the ones with the problem, and that problem is their bondage to sin. Only Jesus can fix that. Therefore, you must do more than try to argue them into the faith. You must pray for them, live an exemplary lifestyle before them, be ready to tell them about Jesus and Him crucified, and watch for God that He may transform them.

Prayer

Dear Lord, give me insight into the hearts of those who oppose my faith. Help me to be a witness to them, and give me the words to speak, so that they might someday repent and turn to You, Jesus Christ. In Jesus name, Amen.

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Day 20 — Why So Long, O Lord?

He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

Reading: 2 Peter 3:8-9

It has been nearly 2,000 years since Jesus foretold His Second coming. That seems like a long time, especially since God’s people only had to wait for 400 years to be delivered from Egypt, and about 700 years between Isaiah’s prophecy and Jesus’ first coming. No wonder why the world laughs at us. No wonder why cult leaders keep setting dates for Christ’s return. It’s just been so long. We can hardly wait any longer.

So just when some Christians might be re-thinking their beliefs in Jesus, God, and the Bible, Peter lets them in on a secret to encourage them to stay firm in the faith. There is a reason for this long wait, which, by the way, is not long to God. This is the secret – He’s not finished with us yet. Peter says, “He is patient with you…” He is patiently working on bringing Christians to repentance and His lost sheep to faith in Jesus Christ. In other words, there are more people that need to be rescued, before Christ will return. No wonder why Paul says elsewhere, “Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.” (Romans 11:25) When that full number has been reached, then the end will come.

So do not think that you are waiting long for God. He is “waiting” long for you, while He works to bring you to a more genuine repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.

Prayer

Dear Lord Jesus, while I wait for Your return, shape me and mold me towards greater humility and faith in You. Give me patience as I wait for Your plan to unfold in my life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Day 21 — Ready for His Return

You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. (2 Peter 3:11)

Reading: 2 Peter 3:10-14

People are already getting reading for Halloween in August. People get ready for Christmas shopping in September. People plan their summer vacations in January. But few people are ready for the Second Coming.

That is why Peter wrote these words, urging you to action. There is going to be great destruction on the earth. Your car, your house, your job, your clothes – they will all be consumed by fire. Yet for the Christian, there will be a new heaven, a new earth, a new body, and a new universal order. It will be a glorious day. It is as if you were moving into a new mansion – you do not spend too much money redecorating the old house. Think of what you may bring into the new place: your faith, godliness, righteousness, love, joy, peace, your Christian friends and family. Work on these. You must leave behind the rest.

People are too concerned with the temporary; not enough with the eternal. A married couple fights over money. A teen skips out on church to work a job just to keep up with fashion. A pastor worries about the size of his church. And when they finally make their riches, wear the latest fashion, become admired by all their friends, build the largest church or a successful business, even climb the tallest mountain, they will soon come to this sinking feeling and say, “Is this it? I’ve worked my tail off for this?” I have been there. The temporary things of this world are not worth worrying over.

What is really important in life? Isn’t it to please God and glorify His name? So be godly.

Prayer

Dear Lord, prepare me for Your return by making me godly. Shield me from the lure of worldly things that consume my time and attention. Instead, give me the things that last, like godliness, love, joy, faith, and peace. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Day 22 — The Transfiguration, the Sign of Hope

“This is My Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased. Listen to Him!” (Matthew 17:5)

Reading: Matthew 17:1-13

There is a saying that goes, “Where there is no faith for the future, there is no work in the present.” Without hope, in other words, a man curls up in a corner of a room, gives up and dies.

So it is with the Christian life. Unless Christ gives you a peek at the future, you will stumble at every stone along the way of the life, and you lose the will to go on. When you come under the pressure of the world, you will want to give up on trying to be a loving Christian husband, a giving father, a supportive wife, a caring mother, an obedient teenager, a hard-working employee, or an honest business person. Your worldly pressures are not new. When the disciples faced the torture rack, they too might have been tempted to ask, “Is this really worth it?” It is to this kind of hardship that Jesus Christ encourages all Christian by giving us a glimpse of His glorious future.

In this passage, Peter and two other disciples witnessed the transformation of Jesus’ body. He became a blinding light, just like the sun when it is in your eyes while you are driving. He showed them what the Second Coming would be like, for “as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” (Matt. 24:27) This experience became such a source of hope in Peter’s life, that he would refer to it again when he was old (cf. 2 Peter 1:16-18).

Perhaps you are in your darkest hour right now. Perhaps you feel like a prisoner with no hope of release. Listen to this. No matter how bleak your circumstances seem to be, Christ will come in great glory. Things are going to change. You now have a sneak preview.

Prayer

Dear Lord Jesus, thank You for giving me a glimpse of Your glory. Give me hope when things seen bleak. Give me strength when I am weak. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Day 23 — The Real Church

And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build My church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. (Matthew 16:18)

Reading: Matthew 16:13-20

There is an amusement park ride where several people sit in a car. In front of the car is a movie screen that makes the riders visualize themselves riding through storms, flying through dinosaurs’ mouths, and blasting into outer space. The car, meanwhile, twists, vibrates, rolls, and shakes, making the riders think they are riding a high-speed flying car. But in reality, the car is going nowhere.

Sometimes, religious gatherings are like that. There is much activity and noise. There is the appearance of progress. There are big budgets, ornate buildings, and a cheering audience. But in reality, some religious organizations are going nowhere.

The true church is different. It is not a humanitarian organization, a charity, or a social club. Rather, it is a divinely appointed community of people. It has a peculiar strength and resiliency to withstand great obstacles and opposition – it will never die. It also moves throughout the world, seeking its lost sheep and adding them to its fold. It brings together believers from every race and nation and calls them “brothers” and “sisters.” It is an army that brings hope to the destitute, love to the unlovable, and strength to the weary. Where people have faith in Christ, and where the Word is taught, there is this church. There may be no elaborate organization, or slick advertising, but there is the church. All other organizations and empires of man will rise and fall, but the church will always survive and flourish, until it meets its bridegroom, Jesus Christ in the end.

Prayer

When I am discouraged about Your church, O Lord, give me patience. For I know You are still shaping it, growing it, and moving it. May Your church give You glory as it does its work of finding the lost and discipling them to maturity. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Day 24 — Peter and the Open Door

No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are. (Acts 15:11)

Reading: Acts 15:1-35

A master teased his dog. He held up a dog biscuit and said “Here boy!” The dog jumped, and almost nipped it, but the man raised the biscuit an inch. The man said again, “C’mon boy!” The dog jumped higher, but the man raised the biscuit again. The man said again, “Here boy!” The dog jumped his highest, but the cruel man pulled the biscuit away. The dog gave up and went away sad.

Such is man-made religion. Do this. Do that. Not this. Not that. There are pages of rules, traditions, and regulations, that keep the pioneers in and the homesteaders out. And when the newcomers are about to make it in, more rules are added to keep them out. I know a rock musician, for example, who responded to the invitation of the preacher to come forward to the front of the room, repent and profess his faith in Jesus Christ for the first time. But some church members stopped him, and charged him to cut his hair first.

So Peter rightly proclaimed that salvation is a gift – granted to ALL who believe, even to those with long hair! The Bible says, “There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom. 3:23) You all come to salvation the same way, through faith in Christ Jesus. There are no hoops that you must jump through. No mountains you must first climb, no certificates you must first earn, no chants you must first memorize. By simply believing in the works and claims of Jesus to save you from sin, you immediately join the worldwide family of God, where both king and servant are your brothers.

Prayer

Thank, Lord Jesus, for Your gift of salvation by Your grace. I could not earn this gift on my own. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Day 25 — God’s Sovereignty: The Heart of Thanksgiving

They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. (Acts 4:28)

Reading: Acts 4:23-31

Peter and John had just come back from jail. Yet the people praise God! Why? Why is that some people complain about their hardships, and these early believers say, “Sovereign Lord”? Why is it that in the face of adversity, some say with bitterness, “Thanks for nothing!” while others joyfully say “Thank you Lord, my hope and my trust”? Simply said, why are some people always bitter, and some always happy?

This is the answer — the sovereignty of God. No, it has nothing to do with one’s circumstances. It has everything to do with what you believe. Those who believe in the sovereignty of God have the deep-seated assurance that nothing happens by accident. Everything happens by divine design. Therefore, the early believers glorified God by recounting the events that happen under His control: the creation (24), the giving of past prophecy (25), the persecution of Jesus (26), the conspiracy and cruelty of Herod and Pontius Pilate (27), and the opposition of the people of Israel and the Gentiles against them (27). With a prayer like this, there is no room for bitterness.

Perhaps you are having a Thanksgiving dinner today. Are you really thankful? Have you ever thanked God for the “unchangeable” circumstances of your life that often seem out of your control? Have you thanked Him for your race, your height, your eyes, your family background, birth defects, the way your parents are, the way your spouse treats you, the way your children behave, the job you’re stuck with? Once you do, you will have truly understood the words, “Sovereign Lord.”

Prayer

Sovereign Lord, You are in control of all things. Nothing happens by accident. Even my past, my background, and the unchangeable circumstances of my life are there by Your design. Though I do not always understand your reasons, help me to accept what I cannot change, so that I may live with thanksgiving and joy forever in my heart. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Day 26 — Promise Breakers

“Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” (Matthew 26:75)

Reading: Matthew 26:69-75

Promises are like pie crusts – easily made, easily broken. How many times have you said, “This time I really promise. I just need one more chance. You’ve got to trust me. I give you my word. It won’t happen again. Cross my heart, hope to die…”? And yet you fall into the same habit again? From the child who promises to be good to Santa Claus, to the drug addict who promises to quit, you are not able to keep the promises you make. It is the same with the promises you make to God. Left to your own effort, you are unable to fully keep the commitments you make to Jesus Christ.

Jesus knew this about Peter. He was a man so zealous for God that he would impulsively cut the ear off of a guard who would later try to arrest Jesus. Yet his zealous promise to forever follow Jesus would tumble like a house of cards when the winds of fear would blow around in his heart. Such is our heart. With every altar call, and every guilty feeling, we promise to follow Him again and again.

Put your trust, therefore, not in your ability to keep promises, but in God’s ability to keep promises. His promises are always true: “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion…” (Phil. 1:6) “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts.” (Heb. 8:10) In short, your ability to keep promises depends on your faith in Jesus, who promised to give you that ability. Look to Jesus, not your own will power.

Prayer

Dear Lord, I have made many promises and commitments to follow You. When I fall away, embolden my faith in Jesus to restore me and set me firmly on the path to follow You. In Christ, Amen.

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Day 27 — Racism Among Christians

…God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear Him and do what is right. (Acts 10:34-35)

Reading: Acts 10:1-48

I, a Chinese man, once walked into an all-Dutch church. At the end of the service, the congregation got up and mingled in the narthex, and visitors were greeted warmly. One man stared at me through the corner of his eye. When I made eye contact and smiled at him, he quickly turned his head, hoping that I wouldn’t notice him staring at me. Three more members of the congregation did this. Then I walked back to my car, never having spoken to anyone.

Christians have not always done well in crossing racial barriers. There are separate African-American churches, Anglo churches, Chinese churches, Korean churches, and Hispanic churches. Although we do need specialized churches, I fear that we have instead created segregated churches.

Such a barrier existed in Peter’s day. His Jewish background taught him to keep away from non-Jews. He would not even eat with them. The problem is that this tradition, if never challenged, would prevent Peter’s message of salvation from spreading to the world.

It took a special revelation from God to break this tradition, and to teach Peter that God does not favor one race over another. Neither does He reject any race. To God, there is only one race – a “chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9) made up of believers from every tribe and tongue.

Christians tend to share Jesus Christ with those who are most like them. Asians witness to Asians. Latinos witness to Latinos. But when you share the message of Jesus Christ with one from another land, just think. You may be setting off a spark that may set another country on fire for the Lord. Remember that it was a Jew (Peter) who brought the gospel to Caesarea, a Caesarean who took it to Rome, a Roman who took it to France, a Frenchman who took it to Scandinavia, a Scandinavian who took it to Ireland, an Irishman who took it to Scotland. No people have ever received the gospel except at the hands of an alien.

Prayer

Dear Lord, make me a servant to those who are different from me. Use me to share Christ’s love to those who have unfamiliar ways and customs. Make us one through our common faith in Jesus Christ. In Christ’s name, Amen.

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Day 28 — God’s Timing

Now I know without a doubt that the Lord sent His angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches… (Acts 12:11)

Reading: Acts 12:1-19

Why does God let evil happen for so long before doing anything about it? Perhaps this was your question as you read about Peter being thrown into prison. Perhaps you are going through adversity yourself and are asking this question now.

This story shows how God is like an expert fisherman. In order to catch certain kinds of fish, a fisherman lets the fish take the bait and run away with it for twenty, thirty, sometimes fifty feet. As the fish swims away, it takes the time to swallow the hook, so that the hook is lodged deep into the flesh of the fish. Then, just at the right time, the fisherman jerks up on the rod, further planting the hook securely into the fish. The fish cannot escape. The fisherman then reels the big fish into his boat.

In the same way, God allowed Herod to commit awful crimes before rescuing Peter. He permitted Herod to kill James, arrest Peter, throw him into prison, and bind him with chains, with believers agonizing in prayer, as Herod continued to persecute other Christians. Then, just when it seemed impossible for Peter to escape, God miraculously sent an angel to free him. There – God just jerked up on the line, hooking us believers for good. The people of God could not help but to be “astonished” (v. 16). Did this story “hook” you too, holding your faith and allegiance captive? God intended for you readers to be astonished along with those early Christians, praising Him and acknowledging His awesome power.

If the 5,000 followers of Jesus had not hungered, they would have never noticed the miracle of the five loaves and two fish. If there was no storm, the disciples would have never noticed Jesus miraculously calming the sea. In the same way, if there were no adversity, you would never notice the presence of God protecting your life.

Prayer

Rescue me, O Lord, according to Your timing. Help me to see your powerful hand when You come. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Day 29 — Feed My Lambs

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love You.” Jesus said, “Feed My lambs.” (John 21:15)

Reading: John 21:15-19

I know a little boy who wanted to be a preacher. He dressed up in a suit. He set out chairs side by side to look like pews. He sat his two sisters down and filled the rest of the chairs with their dolls. He served him little cups of grape juice and saltine crackers. Then he gave a “sermon,” telling his sisters what to do with their lives. Like the little boy, adult Christians also seek to be church leaders. They like to put on the special clothes and say the special words.

There is more to the Christian leadership, however, than outer appearance and natural talent. There is more to preaching than giving a moving speech. There is more to serving God than giving volunteer help. There is more to teaching than imparting knowledge. There is more to leadership than wielding authority.

The true Christian leader is one who lays his life down for the sake of the sheep. This was Jesus’ point to Peter. Peter had previously denied Jesus three times in order to avoid death. But now after experiencing Jesus’ death and the power of His resurrection, Peter’s heart was prepared to enter the difficult journey of true Christian leadership – to feed the sheep even unto death. Leadership is not about building religious empires, or making a name for oneself, but about feeding the sheep. That is, feeding the sheep with the Word of God, so that they becomes strong and faithful.

Do you seek to be a spiritual leader? If so, why? You understand true leadership when your prime motives are to find and feed the sheep.

Prayer

Dear Lord, help me to lead others to Christ by feeding them God’s Word. Help me to lead my children, my parents, my neighbors, and my friends, in the way of the shepherd. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Day 30 — The Unstoppable Good News

For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard. (Acts 4:20)

Reading: Acts 4:1-22

Have you ever playfully run away from the waves during a rising tide on an ocean beach? You scream and laugh, and get plenty wet, as you run up to the ocean, then run away from the wave as it rushes in to wash the entire beach with its froth. Nobody can stop a wave. People just run from it, or run into it. Such is the Word of God. Since the day of Pentecost in Acts 2, the Word of God spread like an unstoppable wave, with the result that the Scriptures have now been translated into over 3,000 languages.

The Holy Spirit makes God’s Word spread this way. Peter should have been shaking like a twig in a storm, especially in front of those powerful religious authorities. Instead, he BECAME the storm. He was filled with the Holy Spirit (v. 8), and spoke those forbidden words that hit the Sanhedrin like a tidal wave: “It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth…

There was one a man who had just become a Christian. He was baptized. And as he rose up out of the waters, he was so filled with joy that he shouted, “Hot dog, hot dog, hot dog! I’m saved!” And he went on to tell his friends about his Savior.

If you have been filled with the Holy Spirit, and your salvation from Jesus Christ is a wonderful reality to you, you cannot help but speak up. Never taken a speech class? Don’t worry. Peter was only an “unschooled” fisherman (v. 13). Through His Holy Spirit, God gives you the words, as well as the nerve.

Prayer

O Lord, will Your Word spread through me? Then fill me with Your Spirit, Lord, so that I could face the world and be bold and courageous in proclaiming Your truth. For Jesus’ sake, Amen.

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Randal Young

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