Acts 1:1-11

            Today is the recognition and celebration of the Ascension of our Lord.  Each year the Church Calendar marks the fortieth day after Easter when Jesus ascended to heaven in full view of the disciples’ wide eyes.  Unlike Christmas and Easter, the Ascension is quite often overlooked by the church.  Yet, it has profound theological significance and is a redemptive event as much as any in the life of Christ.
 
            The Ascension of our Lord means that Jesus is indeed King over all creation, exalted above the earth and its inhabitants.  Since Jesus is ascended, glorified, and exalted, Christians have the confident hope that he will return and that they will experience bodily resurrection along with him.  During the interim, our Lord is busy interceding for us at the right hand of the Father, attentive to our prayers and our earthly situation.  We are neither alone, nor without help.
 
            Christ’s Ascension also means that Pentecost is right around the corner, when the power of our risen Lord will come upon every believer for service and living the Christian life.    The appropriate response to this special day is to rejoice and to submit; we can celebrate the reality that King Jesus is Lord of all, and we can humbly give our hearts to Christ’s gracious and benevolent rule in our lives.  So, we continue to pray that God’s kingdom will come and his will be done here and now because Jesus Christ has ascended to heaven.
            King Jesus, I recognize and celebrate your powerful and merciful rule over your creation.  Help me to so know your gracious leadership that in everything I say and do Jesus is exalted and glorified.  Thank you for this great grace to me in making it possible to participate with you in your kingdom.  Amen.

Acts 2:42-47

            “And all who believed were together and had all things in common.”  Peter had preached a powerful sermon to his fellow Jews with the result that thousands converted to Christ.  But it did not end there.  These new Christ followers experienced new life in Jesus.  The description of this newness is clearly corporate and communal; not only personal and private.
 
            It is more than a growing trend today for many individuals to forsake meeting corporately together as a church.  They do not desire the politics and pettiness of church life.  I get it.  Church is often messy and sometimes a poor representation of Christ.  However, just as with love, if we cut ourselves off from relationships in order to avoid hurt and a broken heart, we, at the very same time, sever any chance at the joy and necessity of giving and receiving love.
 
            The early believers in Jesus devoted themselves to life together – a life with Jesus as his Body, the Church.  Worship at the Temple together, and gathering together in homes were the spiritual environment in which they thrived.  We would do well to emulate their example of reciprocal Christian living.
            Gracious God, thank you for sending your Son who came not to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many.  As I let others into my life, may our reciprocal relationships form us into your faithful followers through the organizing and energizing power of your Spirit.  Amen.

Acts 2:14-24

            In the Gospels, the Apostle Peter was a flake.  He sometimes got it, and sometimes didn’t.  Peter could discern Jesus was Messiah, but then turn around and refuse that Christ had to die on a cross.  He would get bold and walk on water, but end up falling short and needing help from drowning.  Peter stood tall for Jesus, and then denied him three times.
 
            In the book of Acts, however, Peter is a completely changed man.  He gets it.  He is brave.  He confesses Christ.  And all the while he does not falter, flinch, or back down.  What is the difference between the Gospels and Acts?  The Holy Spirit comes upon him and he is never the same again.  Everything falls into place for Peter, who preaches in such a way that thousands repent of their sin and believe Jesus is the hope of the world.
 
            “God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death,” Peter proclaimed about Jesus, “because it was not possible for him to be held by it.”  Let that one seep into your soul.  If it was impossible for death to keep its grip on Jesus, then there is absolutely nothing that can deter Jesus or hold him back from accomplishing what he wants to accomplish.  Flaky believers are not going to frustrate Jesus or upset his plans; he’ll just send the Holy Spirit. 
 
            We too often imprison ourselves in self-made spiritual jail cells, flaking-out in the Christian life, sometimes getting it right and once-in-a-while hitting upon some right combination we can’t explain, like a golfer who hits an amazing shot but can’t reproduce it no matter how hard he tries.  The truth is:  Jesus has conquered sin, death, and hell.  By faith, we have forgiveness of sins in him and have the way opened to a new life in the Spirit.  It isn’t a secret; it is a new reality.
 
            The season of Lent is a time of remembering those things that hinder us in our walk with Jesus, and repenting of our sins so that we can live anew.  As we quickly approach Holy Week, the golf clubs of vulnerability, confession and prayer will keep us in God’s fairway and allow us to shoot par.
            Gracious God, who raised Jesus from the dead, may the same power reside in me so that I can do your will in every situation through the power and presence of your Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Acts 11:1-18

            Grace trumps everything.  One of the most scandalous truths of Christianity is that God graces common ordinary people who seem as dead as a bowling ball with the Holy Spirit and gives them life.  The Apostle Peter had to learn this with some difficulty, but he embraced the work of God among the non-Jewish Gentiles.  “The Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning” is Peter’s plain account and confession of the reality that God grants repentance that leads to life for all kinds of people no matter what their race, ethnicity, class, or background.  It is a wondrous and astounding spiritual truth that God’s gracious concern is not limited to a certain type of person.
 
            Along with Peter and the other believers so long ago, let us rejoice in the work of God that brings deliverance and transformation.  Grace is and ought to be the guiding factor in how we interact with people.  Losing sight of grace leads to being critical and defensive.  Embracing grace leads to the humility to see the image of God in people very different from ourselves.  Grace tears down barriers and causes us to do away with unnecessary distinctions between others.  Our appropriate response to such a grace is to glorify God for his marvelous and amazing work.  Let it be so.
            Gracious God, just as you saved people from ancient times and gifted them with your Holy Spirit, so today continue your mighty work of transformation in the hearts of people I share the good news of Jesus with.  Amen.