Monthly Archives: November 2016

The one who is forgiven much, loves much

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Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven–for she loved much.  But he who is forgiven little, loves little.  Luke 7:47

This verse comes at the end of an account featuring a woman of the city, most likely a prostitute, a Pharisee and Jesus.  The woman washed Jesus’ feet with her hair and her tears.  The Pharisee’s thought was that Jesus didn’t know who she was, for if He did He wouldn’t let this take place.  

Jesus then told the Pharisee a story about a man who owed a lot of money and one who owed a little.  Both of their debts were cancelled.  Jesus asked the Pharisee who would love the moneylender more.  Simon the Pharisee answered the one who owed the most.  Jesus went on to explain that she never stopped  showing her love for Him since He got there and the Pharisee didn’t do much of anything.  Jesus told the woman that her sins were forgiven and that her faith saved her.

In the end, Jesus wants our love.  The more you have been forgiven, the more likely you are to love much.  And if you don’t think you needed much forgiving, the more you’ll be like the Pharisee–distant and aloof from Jesus.  The truth is that both the Pharisee and the prostitute need Jesus because on the inside we are all sinners.  God doesn’t have gradients of sin, so pride is just as offensive to Him as immorality is.  

The key for those of us most like the prostitute or most like the Pharisee is to recognize the depth of our sin. Then we need come to Jesus as the woman did–broken, repentant, pouring out our love.  If you have sinned much, take heart that your sins, which are many, are forgiven.  It is an opportunity for you to love much and revel in God’s grace and mercy.  If you have lived a pretty clean life and are more like the Pharisee, know that God wants your heart and your devotion.  Ask God to show you the depths of your sin and what it cost Jesus to make forgiveness possible.  

Jesus told the woman that her faith saved her.  It takes faith to believe that everything bad that you have done has been washed away by Jesus’ blood.   Come to Jesus with an act of love, devotion and worship.   You have been set free!


Help my unbelief!

Power Verses: Mark 9:22b-24

“But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us. “ And Jesus said to him, “If you can!  All things are possible for one who believes.”  Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”

The man’s son was riddled with the effects of an unclean spirit.  He was desperate for help.  The disciples had tried to heal him, but were unsuccessful.  And then Jesus gave us the words of hope, “All things are possible for one who believes.”  He would say the same thing to us today.  And I would say the same thing the father cried out, “Help my unbelief.”

All things are possible with God, or as Jesus put it in other places: Nothing is impossible with God.  The key here seems to be our faith, our belief.  Do you believe that nothing is impossible when  you put your trust in God?  God is the worker of miracles.  He parted the Red Sea as the Israelites fled Egypt.  He made the sun stand still for an extra day when Joshua was leading them in battle.  God brought back people from the dead, and He hung the stars in place.  Jesus came to show us what God is like.  So when Jesus did miracles, it was what He saw God doing.  

Somehow He gives us this invitation to the supernatural by saying that if we would believe it could happen for us.  What the father said was so honest: “I believe, help my unbelief!”  In other words, there is a part of me that believes, but there is another part that doesn’t.  Help me!  

Help our unbelief God.  Help us to see that you are the God who cares and the God who acts on our behalf.  Open our eyes to see Your greatness, Your power, and Your intervening ability.  Change our prayers from small and weak requests to bold and audacious ones.   Daniel 11:32 applies, “The people who know their God shall stand firm and take action.”

 

“What is impossible with man is possible with God.”  Luke 18:27

 What do you need to faithcry out for today, “I believe, help my unbelief!”?  God is able to do anything, so let’s shout with faith and move forward.

 


So long self

Power Verses: Matthew 16:24-26

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny Himself and take up his cross and follow Me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.  For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?  Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?

The Daily Diet…

This is the call of discipleship.  The prediction here is not one of an easy life once we turn to Jesus.  Our culture is caught up with the opposite of denying self and dying to self.  Most people champion all of the “self’s”:

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Self gratification, self determination, self esteem, self satisfying, self actualizing…the list goes on.  We even have “selfie sticks,” to get better pictures of ourselves.  But the Gospel calls us to something quite different, as Jesus described here.

 

Picture instead the words self denial and self sacrificing.  That’s what Jesus calls us to.  This is life on the narrow road.  Jesus has many promises for those who follow Him, including hope, peace and joy.  He promises that if we seek His kingdom first He will take care of all our needs.  But He also promises that those who follow Him will suffer because of His name.  

Jesus didn’t hide the tough part of following Him.  In fact, He told it right away to the rich young ruler in Luke 18: “Go sell all that you have.”  In Luke 9:57-60 someone came and said “I will follow you wherever You go.”  Instead of Jesus saying, “Great, I can use as many people as possible to get the word out,” He said “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay HIs head.”  He told another, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Jesus would tell us the same thing today.  He bids us to come and die.  If we purpose to be like Jesus, that means that He suffered and so will we.  This life of taking up our cross looks different from person to person, depending on God’s individual call on lives.  The early Christians knew that it meant death, as the cross and beheading were realities for those who preached in the name of Jesus.  In countries where it is illegal to be a Christian or have a Bible, taking up the cross means being willing to suffer and to die for Jesus.  

For us, dying to self can look like being the one that listens instead of talking all of the time, or giving up time and energy to serve in some way.  It means saying ‘no’ to self and ‘yes’ to God and being willing to go where He wants you to go, regardless of the cost.  Are you ready to die?


What is your mind set on?

Power verse: Matthew 16:23

But Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan!  You are a hindrance to me.  For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

Jesus was at the point in His ministry where He knew it was soon time to give up His life on the cross.  He was trying to tell the disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, suffer many things from the religious community there, be killed and then be raised on the third day.

Peter took Jesus aside and rebuked Jesus, telling Him this would never happen.  Can you imagine rebuking Jesus?  That’s what Peter did.  And that’s why Jesus told him, “Get behind me Satan!”  Peter was only thinking of what that would mean to himself and to his friends.  He had a different future in mind, and it certainly didn’t include Jesus leaving them by suffering and dying.  

 

It’s the next line that I find myself thinking about quite a bit:

“You are not setting your mind-set-on-jesus-is-life-and-peacemind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”  How many times do I resist God’s work in my life or in the people around me because I’m only thinking about myself?  And I speak it like it’s truth, resisting and contradicting God’s plan.

How easy it is to set our mind on our own business and not on things above.  If  we’re not in close connection to God through His Word and through listening prayer, we think we’re  right.

 

There are other times when someone else is the one resisting the things of God.  They may be the one who has to control the conversation, keeping the talk to only surface things that aren’t convicting, or going off on a strange tangent just to hear themselves talk.  Why is it?  Perhaps it is because they totally have their minds fixed squarely on themselves.  I’ve never had the courage or bluntness to say, “Get behind me Satan,” but I think it and pray it silently.

Colossians 3:1-3 admonishes us to “set our hearts and minds on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.”  How do we do that?  One way is to guard your time with God soaking in the truths of Scripture and communicating with Him in prayer.  Galatians 5:25 reminds us as well, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.”  Don’t be a hinderance to the things of God!


The Kingdom of Heaven

Power Verses: Matthew 13:44-46

The kingdom of Heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up.  Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.  Again, the kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.

The kingdom of Heaven is something that Jesus talked a lot about.   The kingdom of Heaven is the kingdom that we join when we become Jesus followers.  In Colossians 1:13-14 Paul puts it this way: “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

This kingdom is an invisible one right now.   One day there will be a real kingdom here on earth that is led by Jesus (see Ezekiel 43:7; Revelation 20:2-4).  According to Old Testament prophets, Jesus will sit on the throne in Jerusalem.  This will last for 1000 years and we will be there, in the “kingdom of God.”  

And we find out in today’s verse that being a part of the kingdom of God, or of Heaven,  is a treasure to be prized above all else.  This includes Jesus, our salvation, and the hope of eternal life in Heaven.  It is like a pearl of great price that is worth exchanging everything else in life for.  

Jesus said “Whoever loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me,” in Matthew 10:37.  In Luke 18 the rich young ruler went away from Jesus sad because he prized money more than coming to Jesus.  Jesus calls us to love Him more than anything else and to repent of anything that we value or prize more than Him.   Jesus is of infinite worth and we ought to embrace Him that way.  Jesus is a treasure and when we turn to Him over everything else, He becomes our treasure.  

In the end, it is God who changes our hearts and opens our eyes to see  the great riches of God as something worth giving our lives for.  The guy who found the treasure in the field sold everything to buy the field to gain the treasure because he saw its value where others did not see it.  May you find the immense riches of the kingdom of Heaven today and give up all else to possess them.

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What’s in your heart?

Power Verses: Matthew 12:34b-37

For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.  The good person out of his good hearttreasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.  I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.

Have you ever just sat and listened to people talk?  Some people can’t go a sentence without lacing their speech with profanities.  Others can’t go long without cutting someone else down, usually someone not in the room.  And then there are those who talk on and on either about themselves, or something very surface just to keep control of the conversation.  As you sit and listen, begin to try to guess what that person’s spiritual condition is, based on what they’re saying.  You can tell what is in people’s hearts by what they say for sure.

Now think about yourself.  Do your words reflect that Jesus in in your heart?  Only Jesus can change our hearts by His transforming work.  If you’re looking to see your words changed, call out to Jesus to change your heart.  But there are things we can do in that transformation project.  What we fill our minds with gets stored up in our hearts.  If you fill your mind with Scripture and things that are uplifting, that is what will come out.  But if you watch garbage shows on TV and hang around people who curse everyone and everything, that’s what comes out of your mouth.

The other thing that can get stored up in our hearts is bitterness and resentment.  If you let wrongs that others have done to you sit and stew inside of you, angry and bitter words come out.  Ephesians 4:31 picks up on that, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.”  That means resolve the issues that hang around and pull on you.  Forgive and work through unfinished business, lest the bitterness that gets stored in your heart comes tumbling out of your mouth.

Ephesians 4:29 gives us a challenge: “Let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building others up, according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”  (NIV)  That is a challenge to apply that takes self control to not say things that need not be said.  And then it takes intentionally speaking good things to others, things that will build people up and benefit their needs.  And when you do that, the day that you stand before Jesus and give account for your words will be a proud day.


Better than “My Pillow”

  Matthew 11:28-30

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  Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.

 

Stop and really think about what Jesus is saying here: “Come to Me.  If you’re messed up, worn out, spun around or without hope, don’t give up–come to Me.”  What a marvelous invitation.  You don’t need to try harder, clean up your act, or measure up.  Jesus is gentle and lowly in heart.  He is not mad at you, ready to give you a lecture, or ready to put you in a cast off pile.  Come you hungry and tired souls to the lover of your soul.

Some people get that confused and they come to church, but never come to Jesus.  Or maybe they join a group, or watch a DVD but give up before they really meet Jesus. Some start following a list of rules trying to get to Jesus.  But no, just get to Jesus.   Pretend that you are sitting knee to knee with Jesus and let Him speak these words into your soul.  “I am what you are looking for.”

Check out some of the things Jesus said about what we will find when we finally get to Him:

  • “I am the bread of life.  He who comes to Me will never go hungry, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.”  John 6:35
  • “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink.  Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.”  John 7:37-38
  • “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  John 8:12
  • “I tell you the truth, whoever hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”  John 5:24

To take His yoke doesn’t mean that you just drop your burdens and troubles and walk away empty handed.  It means that you invite Jesus to come alongside of you, like a pair of oxen that has a wooden arch connecting them.  He walks with us in the middle of our yuck and patiently coaches us as we go through the ups and downs of life.  Come to Jesus today.


Two Roads

Power Verse: Matthew 7:13-14

Enter by the narrow gate.  For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.  For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

The Daily Diet…

Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken” ends with this stanza:

“I shall be telling this with a sigh; Somewhere ages and ages hence:                              Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–I took the one less traveled by,                             And that has made all the difference.”

That pretty much sums up to the two roads that lie ahead of all of us.  Proverbs 14:12 reads, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it only leads to death.”  That way that seems right is our own way, the one where Frank Sinatra sang about: “I did it MY way.”  It might sound good in a song, but in life it leads to destruction and an eternity in Hell.  It is a wide road and most of the people in life are on that road.  It is the road that says “no” to God and “yes” to self.  It is the easy road, the road most taken.

In contrast, the second road is the one that leads to Jesus and to eternal life.  It is a narrow path, and few are on it.  There is a contrast between those who follow Jesus and those who take the other road.  It is the many and the few contrast.  It’s all over the Bible, and when it comes to being a Christian, it should be all over our life.  Take the story of Numbers 13 where they sent twelve spies into the Promised Land, the place that God promised and prepared for the Israelites.  Ten gave a bad report because they were chickens.  Just two looked at it with the eyes of faith and said, “Let’s go.”   

It’s always ten to two.  You might look around and find no one on your path.  Get used to it.  You might always be the outsider, the hold out, the loner.  That’s the way the call is designed.  Don’t expect people to stand up and applaud you.  Our choices in life have been narrowly defined by this call of God to something different.  It is the path that leads to eternal life, so hold on.  Our rewards aren’t here and we aren’t going to see the benefits immediately,  they are for Heaven and they are certain.


Ask, Seek, Knock: Repeat

Power Verses:  Matthew 7:7-8

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.

The Daily Diet…

Jesus is talking about prayer here.  In chapter 6 Jesus told His disciples that they shouldn’t be like the religious leaders that were hypocrites.  They stood at the street corner and made a show of praying and giving.  They used a bunch of empty words that they repeated over and over.  Maybe they thought they were reaching God with their prayers, or even impressing Him, but they weren’t.

You don’t have to use fancy words or put on a show, or repeat the Lord’s prayer over and over.  You just need to humbly go to Jesus and ask Him for what you need.  And then you need to trust Him to work out what is best for you.  Sometimes we might think that God isn’t listening, that He doesn’t care, or that it doesn’t matter what we ask.  But it does matter, He is listening, and He does care.  You are a child of God, and He cares for His children.  

If you are lacking money, pray to God and ask Him what to do.  You might be surprised at how His answer usually involves you in the process.  He might want you to get a job.  He’ll give you the courage and the umph to do it.  You might pray and ask God for a friend, and He might ask you to go be a friend.  

God is good, and He only gives good gifts.  He knows what is best for us, and sometimes “no” is His best answer for us.  What we think we absolutely need right praying.jpgnow might not be the best thing for us.  God wants us to trust Him as we pray to Him, believing that He has the power to do what He has promised to do.  Nothing is impossible when you put your trust in God.  There is nothing too difficult for Him.

The great missionary Hudson Taylor said, “Ask great things of God, expect great things from God, and attempt great things for God.”  That’s it in a nutshell!


Kingdom Seekers

Power Verse: Matthew 6:33                                

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

                                                                                  upward call             

This dovetails with our previous devotion about setting your money and your heart on eternal things, where moth and rust does not destroy.  Jesus went on to preach  about not worrying about what we will eat or wear because that won’t add a single hour to our lifespan.  This is what Gentiles, or unbelievers, do.  Worry, fretting and anxiety about money, food or clothes should not be a part of our vocabulary.  We know Jesus and He says He’ll take care of us, and He will do what He promises.  You can take that to the bank.

There is a “but” that precedes this promise.  That condition is that we are to put the kingdom of God first in our lives.  Here are some examples of what that looks like:

  • Starting your day by spending time reading the Bible and praying, connecting with God and getting His marching orders
  • Obeying what God commands, even if it sounds really hard
  • Praying and thinking about ways to serve God and then doing it
  • Going out to find someone who has things worse off than you, and then help them
  • Stopping bad habits that are personally destructive and money wasters
  • Joining in with other Christians in a church that teaches and preaches from the Bible
  • Making it a habit to give time and money to this church, being involved as much as you can

There are many more things we can add to that list, but that is just a beginning.  Simply put, there are two ways to do things: your way or God’s way.  And when you do things God’s way, life works.  If you don’t, you will struggle.  The change in your life might not happen right away, like having all of your problems disappear.  But little by little, Christian disciplines pay off in a life that pleases God and furthers His kingdom.  It doesn’t mean that life will be easy, because following Jesus and going where He leads you can be lonely, difficult and it might even bring ridicule and persecution.  Be prepared for that.  Not everyone is going to stand up and cheer for you, and they might even try to bring you down.

But with God on your side, there is no end to what He can do for you, in you and through you!