God’s Gift Cannot Be Bought

Day 163

1 Kings 9:1-10:29; Acts 8:14-40; Psalm 130:1-8; Proverbs 17:2-3

God’s Gift Cannot Be Bought

Simon the magician has two problems. The first is that he thinks that he has something of equal value to the power of the Holy Spirit with which to buy that power. The second is that he is seeking the power for all the wrong reasons. According to Peter he is in “the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.”

Simon Magus was used to the spotlight, used to amazing the people with his magic manipulations, used to the adulation of the crowds. When Philip came along and those same crowds believed Philip’s message, Simon recognized a greater power than his, was baptized, and followed Philip everywhere! When Peter and John arrived and started to lay hands on people, he was even more amazed. Evidently there had been some external signs of the power of the Holy Spirit as the Spirit fell on those on whom hands had been laid, and Simon wanted to be able to call down this power. Simon had been too long center-stage to give up the limelight; he wanted all the external show and had completely missed the point of the message. His name entered our dictionary to mean the act of trying to purchase spiritual things with money – simony.

The gift was free – no charge – but at great cost. The one who paid the cost was the humble, suffering servant of Isaiah 53, the passage the Ethiopian eunuch was reading on his way home from Jerusalem, and which Philip revealed was about Jesus Christ. The Ethiopian eunuch understands immediately the gift and the sacrifice and asks to be baptized on the spot – and goes on his way rejoicing.

The gift is still free – it cannot be bought. Who will you share the gift with today?

The Rev. Sarah Bronos
Church of the Good Shepherd
Maitland, FL

The Stubbornness of a Cat

Day 162

1 Kings 8:1‐66; Acts 7:51‐8:13; Psalm 129:1‐8; Proverb 17:1

The Stubbornness of a Cat

Have you ever tried to teach your cat to play fetch? Doesn’t work, does it? Sure, a cat will go after a ball, but it will never return it. Cats do what they want to do, and that’s it. But don’t we sometimes do the same thing? In Acts, Stephen charges, “You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit!” While these are harsh words, they are sometimes true. Too often we, too, are stiff-necked, doing what we want to do rather than what God wants.

To be a Jew, a male had to be circumcised. Still, circumcision was more than a physical act. It was a mark on the soul: a promise to obey the law of Moses and a symbol of one’s promise to submit to God. Circumcision was a covenant between man and God. Our Baptism is also a covenant with God. And in our covenant, we vow several things. We promise to renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God, including all sinful desires that draw us from the love of God. We promise to turn to Jesus and accept Him as Lord and Savior. In doing so, we are to put our whole trust in His grace and love. And we promise to follow and obey Him.

At church on Sundays, we hear the Gospel, and through the words of Jesus, we are reminded of our covenant vows. As we receive the Sacraments, we remember all He did for us. And yet, as we walk out the doors of the church, sometimes without realization or even meaning to, we succumb to evil temptations. But here’s some good news: Jesus loves us, and we can always return to Him no matter what. Returning begins with three little words: “Come, Lord Jesus.” And He will.

The Rev. Danielle DuBois Morris
Orlando, FL

God’s Temple

Day 161

1 Kings 7:1‐51; Acts 7:30‐50; Psalm 128:1‐6; Proverbs 16:31‐33

God’s Temple

In the passage from Acts, Stephen is defending himself from lying witnesses who claimed that Stephen spoke against the holy Temple and the law of Moses. Stephen responds with a history of God’s acts of salvation. Moses and the Temple are highlighted in his rendition. Stephen chooses to focus on the establishment of Israel as a worshiping people. Within this context, Moses is a presented as a deliverer, a savior, a type of Christ.

God gave to Israel the tabernacle, according to the plan He revealed to Moses. But Israel turned to a different model for worship: a permanent temple. Stephen declares that “the Most High doesn’t live in temples made by human hands.” He seems to be indicating that the tabernacle, a temporary dwelling that moved with the people, was the preferred way that God had chosen to live among His people. In choosing a temple, Israel had rejected the Spirit of God in Moses.

Stephen concludes that the Jews had continued to choose against God’s Spirit by rejecting Jesus – God’s Son and the promised Deliverer.

We build places for God in our lives. We beautify them with our piety. But God has not chosen to dwell there only. God lives among His people in temples not made by human hands or by human intention. Are we honoring the Lord’s presence in every part of our lives, in every place that we go, in every activity we do? That is where He lives, and where we live through Him.

David Somers, Deacon
St. Matthews Episcopal Church
Orlando, FL