Day 1 The Promise Acts 2:14a, 39
“Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say.” Verse 14a, NIV
“The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” Verse 39, NIV
It is impossible to talk about the promise of God and our relationship with God without connecting it to our own relationship with the parents or guardians in our own lives or those whom we parent or guard. Regardless of the structure of the relationship, adult/child relationships are fraught with promises. Maybe we didn’t pinky swear or cross our hearts and hope to die, maybe we didn’t spit into our hands and shake on it, or give a boy scouts hand sign, but promises are made all the time. And the truth is, some promises we keep, some we do not, some we make knowing we can never fulfill, others we spend our entire lives trying to fill. Some promises require great sacrifice, some sacrifices make it too hard to keep the promise.
But regardless of the outcome of the promise made, I would like to believe that every promise is made not out of obligation or expectation, but simply out of love. For it is the same love that God has for you and me and that flows from us to others. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” (Acts 2:39, NRSV) What was that promise? This week we will look at those promises as Peter begins his apostolic ministry preaching the good news of a Resurrected Christ. What we will discover is that all these promises are made possible by the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. These are promises that have never been broken and are still being fulfilled.
Reflection: What promise has God made to you? What promise have you made to others? What can you do this week to be as true to your promise as God has been to God’s promise?
Prayer: Dear Lord, I thank you for keeping your promise of life abundant in Christ and life eternal with Christ. Help me to be as faithful to you and others in keeping my promise to be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ in the world today. Amen.
Day 2 The Promise of the Holy Spirit Acts 2:14-21
“Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” NIV
“Didn’t I tell you that would happen?” Those familiar words in the voice of my grandmother, still echo in my ear. Even though she died when I was 9 years old, her spirit still speaks to me when I need to hear her, and I can see her standing in front of me, hand on hip, finger pointing.
Peter stands before the crowd and reminds them that what they are experiencing is exactly what Jesus said would happen. He promised the disciples that the Holy Spirit would come as Jesus spent his last hours with them. And the promise was kept when he met with them in the upper room as they began their ministry as apostles. Peter also reminds them that Jesus said that while John baptized with water, they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit. And now he must remind them that the promise of the Holy Spirit was part of God’s plan all along in recounting Joel’s prophesy.
And now we have an Advocate, a Friend, a Confidant, a Wise Sage, a Guide to remind us who we are and whose we are, in Christ Jesus.
Reflection: Think about a time when the Holy Spirit was clearly present with you as an Advocate, a Friend, a Confidant, a Wise Sage, or a Guide. What were the circumstances? How was it resolved? Could you have come to that resolution on your own? Why or why not?
Prayer: Dear Lord, Thank you for the gift of your Holy Spirit. As we grow as your disciples, our desire is to increase in our reliance on your Spirit to direct our lives as we share our God stories and reach out to those who still do not know you. Amen.
Day 3 The Promise of Salvation Acts 2: 40-47
“With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, ‘Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.’ Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” NIV
This past Christmas Eve my husband and I were asked to serve communion at a noon day service designed to accompany a Christmas luncheon for the homeless that live in and around the downtown area. Because a large crowd was expected, the church chose to use communion wafers rather than serving baked bread. As we were serving, an older gentleman took the wafer from me, looked at it, smelled it, flicked it with his other hand, shook his head and handed the wafer back to me and walked off. Clearly something that made the server and me both chuckle during the car ride home. This encounter got me thinking about John Wesley’s Sermon 101: The Duty of Constant Communion, where Wesley saw Communion not as an obligation but as an opportunity to “remember” the sacrifice made by Jesus so that we might receive the promise of salvation. In fact, it is our unworthiness and need for salvation that should draw us to the Lord’s table. We all need to be reminded that the Lord’s table is not for the perfect, but for those who accept the promise.
Reflection: Reflect on the service of communion where you worship. Is it truly inviting? To you? To others? What would make it even more inviting?
Prayer: Dear Lord, we are thankful that we are welcome at your table. Help us to make more room, not just at your table, but in our hearts, for those who need to know the promise of salvation. Empower us to not only share our God stories, but to also break bread together in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Day 4 The Promise of Healing and Health Acts 3: 1-10
“One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, ‘Look at us!’ So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them. Then Peter said, ‘Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.’ Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. When all the people saw him walking and praising God they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.” NIV
Perhaps you have heard the old saying from the Spanish philosopher Maimonides, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” I am not much for fishing, but I have come to appreciate that particular saying in light of working with people who are in need. Sometimes they are so in need that they no longer know what they really need. I believe it is for us as disciples of Jesus Christ to be able to discern the real need, through the power of the Holy Spirit, and find a way to address that need.
We encounter Peter and John faced with the same need for discernment. They encounter a man who wanted alms, Peter offered healing so he could support himself. We see this same story at the Pool by the Sheep Gate when Jesus asks the paralyzed man, “Do you want to be made well?” The man wanted to be out in the pool, Jesus wanted to heal the man so he would not have to depend on others again. In both instances, focusing on the long term and not the moment creates an opportunity to point to Jesus Christ and his power to heal. Addressing the real need creates real opportunity for relationship with Jesus Christ, and the promise of healing.
Reflection: Are there situations in your life where you want Jesus to apply a “quick fix,” but Jesus is trying to get you to accept the promise of healing? What do you need to do differently to accept the promise?
Prayer: Dear Lord, help me to seek you for the healing that only you can provide. I accept your promise of healing and pray for courage and strength to move into your promise every day. Amen.
Day 5 The Promise of Repentance Acts 3:17-20
“Now, fellow Israelites, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Messiah would suffer. Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus.” NIV
Many years ago, my brother and I were horsing around in our New York apartment. We were home from school, and clearly we were getting bored. My brother got the bright idea to dress up and pretend to be a sword fighter. He put on a costume that looked more like a pirate than a sword fighter, whatever that is, and he went into the kitchen and came back with my mother’s longest and sharpest knife, reserved for cutting holiday meats. As I sat on the sofa he jumped from chair to sofa to loveseat all the while swinging that knife. Well, one swing too many and my brother managed to cut the lampshade and the window shade behind it in half. Clear that this could not end well, my brother promised me five dollars if I said I stumbled and fell into the table the lamp sat on and caused it to fall over and rip the lampshade, taking the window shade with it. I am guessing you know how this went down…fast forward many hours and my mother is reciting all the chores my brother would have to do over the next two weeks to make up for what he had done. And when she said to him, “You could have cut your sister’s head off!” he just looked at me and said, “But I didn’t!”
Repentance is no small matter for us as children of God. In this text, Peter reminds his “friends” that repentance is important not only to have your “sins wiped out” but also that “times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.” Peter spoke boldly to those who had a hand in Jesus’ death in the hopes that they would repent. Sometimes we need to speak boldly to our own sin and seek to repent; seek to really repent.
Reflection: We all have sins for which we need forgiveness and repentance. Recall a time when repentance was most difficult for you. How did you overcome it?
Prayer: Dear Lord, sin has separated me from you, and repentance has blocked the road to my return. Help me to be ever aware of my sin, and challenge me to live a life of not only forgiveness, but also repentance. In the name of Jesus Christ I pray, Amen.
Day 6 The Promise of Rejection Acts 4:8-13
“Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: ‘Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.’ Jesus is ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.’ When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” NIV
The thought of rejection is crippling. The same is true following through with an act that could lead to rejection. That is why some Christians struggle with sharing the story of Jesus Christ with others. Their first thought is, “What if they do not want to listen? What if they do not like what I say?” Jesus was no stranger to rejection. Rejection is the reason Jesus was killed in the first place. But while our call is to be ‘like’ Christ, there are many things Christ did on which we would rather take a pass. Part of our human development is learning to accept and cope with rejection. It starts when we do not get picked to be on a team for a game of softball, and goes all the way to not getting elected to be President of the United States. Peter accepted rejection, for it confirmed to him that he was walking in Jesus’ path.
Reflection: With such a wonderful role model in Jesus, we should know how to deal with rejection, and the answer to dealing with rejection is not avoidance. We, too, must learn to face the rejection head on, knowing we cannot take it personally. For, what others reject is not our story of how much Jesus loves us. They reject the thought that Jesus could love them just as much!
Prayer: Jesus, you are not only our savior, but you are also our model and our mentor. Help us to tap into the Holy Ghost’s boldness just as your first apostles did, and empower us to be more willing to accept rejection in the hopes that someone will be saved. Amen.
Day 7 The Promise of the Lord’s Coming 2 Peter 3:9
“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” NIV
When I was in my twenties, I thought I had all the time in the world. Now that I am in my fifties, I still think I have all the time in the world, I just want to be way more productive with my time! The truth is, the only one who has all the time in the world is God. And because Jesus does not want any of us to spend eternity dead in sin and not alive with Him, Jesus remains patient, planning his triumphant return to earth, but never wanting to jump the gun. Instead being patient, “not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.” That kind of repentance is challenging to imagine even on our best days.
Reflection: What promises have you made to God? How are you living out those promises as a believer in Jesus Christ and as a disciple for the transformation of the world?
Prayer: Jesus you are the manifestation of God’s promise to us. We thank you that you became flesh and dwelt among us. Help us live transformed lives as we seek to transform lives for you. Empower us to have a holy boldness in sharing our God stories so that others might come to know your saving grace. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
 John 14: 15-17, NIV.
 John 20:19-23, NIV.
 Acts 1:4-5, NIV.
 Acts 2:17-21, NIV.
 John 5:6, NIV.
 Acts 3:19-20, NIV.