Scripture reading for October 30th: John 1-2
The Gospel of John, the beloved disciple, is exciting reading. John was the youngest disciple and one of the “sons of thunder” brothers. James and John were evidently very emotional and yet very likable. These brothers were in the inner circle of three in the company of disciples and John was the one resting his head on Jesus’ chest in the famous picture of the Last Supper. John was also the disciple who Jesus asked from the Cross to take care of His mother. (John 19:26-27) The theme of his Gospel is “Jesus, the Son of God” and John goes back to Genesis as he begins his account.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; and without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of men.” (John 1:1-4)
John starts with a revelation of the Son of God! He is the eternal Word! He was with God in the beginning! Of course, eternity is the realm of God. There is no time in His realm, so there is no beginning from God’s perspective. He always was, is, and will be. The beginning spoken of by John is the beginning of created things. Everything we can see was created by God and by His Word. He is the source and beginning of it all. By speaking His powerful Word in faith He created the visible world and heavens. When we think of how vast and huge these creations are, we are humbled by the power of that Word!
But at the right time, this Word became flesh and dwelt among His people! The word for “dwelt” is the same word used to describe the pitching of a tent. He “tabernacled” with His people! This is what God did when Israel was in the desert after Mt. Sinai. Moses was given instructions to build a special tent and furniture as a place for God to dwell in the midst of His people. This tent was called a “tabernacle”. God’s presence marked His people as separate and blessed above all others on the earth. No enemy could defeat them as they marched with Him, no sickness could attack, and even clothes and shoes did not wear out! (Nehemiah 9:19-21)
Jesus Christ came to His own people, but they did not receive Him! (John 1:11-12) Most rejected Him and ended up crucifying Him. But to those who would and did receive Him, Jesus gave the power to become children of God! They would be “born again” into God’s family! He would send them the Holy Spirit to live in them and they would become “living tabernacles” of God’s presence! What a blessed people are those who receive Him! Why not invite Him to be your Savior today and let Him pitch His tent in you! His powerful Word brings new birth and eternal life!
Scripture reading for October 29th: Luke 22-24
Our theme for our church fellowship for 2009 is found in today’s reading in the last chapter of Luke’s Gospel. It is the story of the two disciples who were walking on the road to Emmaus on Sunday afternoon after the resurrection of Jesus Christ earlier that same day. One was named Cleopas and the other disciple is not named. It is good for us to review this story and renew our commitment to find Jesus Christ in each passage of Scripture we read. We should encounter Christ in every verse and chapter of His holy word!
These two disciples were walking along discussing the events of the Passover week that had just finished. They were disciples of Jesus who were still reeling from their Master’s sudden crucifixion. And now, that morning, the women came and told them that Jesus was risen! (Luke 24:9-12) Peter went and found only the grave clothes lying there by themselves. All were perplexed and wondered what had happened. As they were walking and talking, Jesus joined them on the road and walked with them. They did not initially recognize Him, but He struck up a conversation.
They began to tell Him their experience of the past week as He asked them what had happened. They told Him the whole story about the crucifixion of Jesus and the empty tomb. Jesus then spoke clearly to them from the Law and the Prophets, showing them how the Messiah must suffer and die and enter His glory. I imagine it was an interesting Bible Study on that road that day and the time passed quickly. Suddenly, they were at their destination and they had hardly begun. They invited Jesus to stay and eat with them.
As they sat at the table, Jesus took the bread, and gave thanks, and broke it to give to them. As soon as He did this simple act of fellowship around the table, their eyes were opened and they beheld Him! He then disappeared from their sight! They recognized how their hearts had burned when Jesus had opened the Scriptures and talked with them. (Luke 24:30-32)
This story is heart-warming for us even today! What a gracious Savior we have who would care so dearly for His followers! As we read the Scriptures, we now have the Holy Spirit living in us who will take these words and unveil them in our hearts! (John 16:13-16) He sets our hearts on fire for Him daily! Each time we partake of the “Lord’s Supper”, we have Him revealed to us afresh and in a new way! (Luke 22:17-19) We are so blessed to know Him and enjoy His heart-warming love!
Scripture reading for October 28th: Luke 19-21
“Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away.” “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness, and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you will be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.” Luke 21:33-36
None of us like change, unless it is for the better! According to Scripture, there is nothing in this world that is permanent and lasting. Everything is in a temporary state. It is all decaying or passing away. Change is inevitable in our present world. Even our own bodies are decaying and changing. (2nd Corinthians 4:16a) We are born with a sentence of death because of sin in us and this world. This world is groaning and in it’s present state will ultimately pass away.
Now I am not in some kind of negative mood this morning that all I can think about is change and decay! No, I am encouraged as I read the Word of God that there is something permanent that I can hang on to! God’s Word is permanent and eternal. What God has written for us is ultimate truth and reality! We can be certain of it! We can build our lives on it! We can tell our children about it and pass it on to our friends!
Jesus warned His followers to be careful because of these eternal truths. Heaven and earth would pass away one day. There was a day of judgment like no other day when this would happen. It would come upon those living on the earth suddenly, like a trap catching an unsuspecting animal. (Luke 21:34) Jesus encouraged His followers to be watchful and in prayer because of these unchanging truths. There would be many who would be overcome with a reckless attitude. Some would be drunken and unable to rouse themselves. Others would be overcome with the fears and worries of life. They would not be prepared for that day and it would catch them unaware!
Those who are watching and praying, however, would be able to stand before the Son of Man. They would be trusting in His grace and be ready to meet Him. Let’s be certain today that we are really believing what Jesus taught. A day is coming when the heavens and earth will pass away! His Word will never pass away!
Scripture reading for October 27th: Luke 16-18
“No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” “The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus.” Luke 16:13-14
Jesus spoke very plainly: “You cannot serve both God and Money.” In Christian circles today, there is a popular variation of the Gospel called the “prosperity” teaching. This teaching takes all the verses about God’s blessings and twists them to say that God wants you to be rich and to use your riches as a testimony to the world of the blessings of God’s kingdom. Now God’s word does proclaim blessing on God’s people for obedience and faith. Those who walked in faith were often blessed and obtained great wealth in this world. But God is more concerned about our hearts. He said it is impossible to serve two masters.
The Pharisees of Jesus time had a teaching very similar to this prosperity message of today. They taught that God’s blessing was on the rich and that if a person was poor, he was under a curse. This had some scriptural truth to it from Deuteronomy 28 and other places in the Old Testament. However, Jesus came to help them and us to see things in a different light. He told a story about a rich man and a poor beggar named Lazarus. These two real people lived on earth and both died. At death there was a great reversal. The rich man ended up in the torment of Hell, the place of the departed wicked dead. The poor beggar, Lazarus, ended up in Abraham’s bosom, a place of comfort and blessing. They could see each other but were separated by a great gulf. (Luke 16:22-26)
This in itself struck at the hearts of those who loved “Money”! Jesus went on to tell about the conversation in the underworld between this rich man and Father Abraham. The rich man asked to have Lazarus come and bring a drop of water to comfort him in his torment. This request was refused. It was impossible! This rich man then asked about sending Lazarus back to earth to warn his five brothers so that they would not end up in Hell. This request was also denied. The Law and Prophets provided all the warning that God was offering to them.
We have this Word from Jesus today to warn us as well! He has risen from the dead and is speaking to us with an unchanging Word. Pursue the kingdom of God and His righteousness, not money! Beware of the spirit of the Pharisees, who loved money. Beware of those who preach a false prosperity gospel! Check out your own heart for Jesus Christ is Lord alone!
Scripture reading for October 26th: Luke 13-15
“Now the tax collectors and “sinners” were all gathering around to hear Him (Jesus). But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Luke15:1-2
Are you a person who welcomes sinners? Are you comfortable around those that the culture would consider outcasts or unacceptable? Would those who are “sinners” see you as a person that they would feel comfortable hanging out with? These are interesting questions that get us to thinking about our scripture reading in Luke today.
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to seek and save the “lost” of this world. Of course, we all are lost! No one is really right with God. Sin has come to every man because of Adam (not Eve!). (Romans 5:12-14) But not everyone is ready to recognize and admit that they are “sinners” and “lost”. Satan’s trick of blinding minds through pride and the lies of this world keeps many in bondage. (2nd Corinthians 4:4) Jesus cannot save those who will not willingly come to Him.
When He walked the earth, He sought out people who were open to His message of the Kingdom. It was on one of those occasions that Jesus responded to the muttering of the religious leaders about His hanging around sinners. He told them three parables to help them understand the heart of God for those who were lost. The first parable was about a man who had a hundred sheep and found out that one of them was missing. He left the main flock to go and search for the lost sheep. When he found that lost sheep, he called friends and neighbors together and celebrated! The moral of this story was that there was joy in heaven over one lost person being restored! (Luke 15:7)
Another parable told by Jesus at this time concerned a woman who had lost one of ten silver coins. She searched diligently in her house until finding it and then invited friends to rejoice with her for her restored savings! The same bottom line is emphasized. There is joy in heaven over one sinner who repents! (Luke 15:10)
The final parable concerned a man who had two sons. One wanted his inheritance right now. His father gave him the money and he left to squander it on loose living. He got himself into a mess, even needing to eat with pigs to satisfy his hunger! This lost son decided to go back to his father and beg for mercy. The father was watching for his lost son, saw him coming, and ran to meet him. After a brief apology, the father restored this son and threw a party of celebration! Wow! What a picture of the heart of our Father in heaven!
We truly have a Friend in Jesus Christ. He loves lost people. Our Father in heaven sent Him to help all who will to return home to Father’s House. If you are not “home”, let Him welcome you today! His arms are open wide! Admit you are a “sinner” and His mercy will welcome you.
Dear friends and followers of Jesus Christ,
Greetings on this the Lord’s day! It is another beautiful day to gather with God’s people and worship! Jesus is risen! He is the King of all Kings and Lord of all Lords! He is the ‘first fruits’ from the grave, having conquered death and hell! That great swallower of mankind choked on the King of Life and had to let Him go!
As I reflect back on the readings of this last week, I am again drawn to Mark’s account of the crucifixion and resurrection. Jesus had lived, taught, and performed many outstanding miracles among His own people. When He was arrested in the night by the temple police and brought before the Sanhedrin, the High Priest, Caiaphas, asked Jesus if He was the Christ. Jesus simply said, “I am”. (Mark 14:62a) Before Pilate, Jesus was asked if He was the king of the Jews and He replied, “Yes, it is as you say.” (Mark 15:2) Pilate asked the crowd, what shall I do with the “king of the Jews?” “Crucify Him!” was their reply! (Mark 15:12-13) The sign over his cross read: “The King of the Jews”. (Mark 15:25) The crowd taunted Him on the cross asking this “King of Israel” to demonstrate his power by coming down off the cross. (Mark 15:32)
I can’t seem to get this idea of the King being crucified by His own people out of my mind. How could someone who did only good and demonstrated only love to His people be rejected and treated in such a shameful way? What kind of love is this on the part of this King, that He would be willingly crucified for those who would treat Him so shamefully? How can He now show this love to me when I have also treated Him shamefully? What would I be doing now if He had come down from that cross?
But He stayed on that cross! He died a sacrificial death, demonstrating for all ages the heart of the God we are called to love and serve. He rose from the dead and conquered the grave, death and hell! He now calls each of His disciples to take up their cross and follow Him! We go to our death each day to live in His fullness! We are also victors over death and hell through Him who loved us! What a miracle of love! Help me to understand it better, Lord! Help me to live it out by faith!
In His Love, Pastor John
Scripture reading for October 23rd: Luke 7-9
“Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord’ but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:61-62
Following Jesus Christ seems to be an easy assignment at first. It looks pretty simple and leaving the everyday responsibilities to trust God and walk by faith seems like a glamorous pursuit. In reality, it involves some difficult choices in each individual disciple’s life. The verse I chose from today’s reading had some interesting effects in my own family’s life!
In my own life, I made an initial commitment to follow the Lord when I was in my early teens. I went to an altar in a small country Methodist church and prayed to receive Christ as my Lord and Savior. I learned little about what I had done and was not really a committed follower of the Lord until my late 20’s. By then, I had chosen to follow my father in farming and had studied farm management at the university. My wife and I were youth leaders in our church and I even became a lay preacher in the Methodist church. We were building our family and farming operation while life went on.
We had started farming by raising hogs and had built a big complex of buildings where we conducted our business. This required a lot of borrowed money and sweat equity! God broke into my busy world and renewed His call on my life to serve Him and preach His word! We began to seek the Lord as a family and over the next 10 years worked toward a ministerial license through the Berean School of the Bible. We worked hard on the farm to get out of debt and to re-order our priorities according to Scripture. God worked with us and directed us step by step as my wife and I had asked Him to.
As I completed my study for license, we were finally debt-free and a door opened for ministry in our local church. We carefully followed as God directed. We spent just over another 5 years farming and at the same time serving as a staff pastor in a large city church. After that time, we had clear direction to stop farming and sell all of our equipment. A little later we also tore down our hog buildings and buried the remains. This was like Elisha burning his plow and not looking back! (1st Kings 19:19-21)
It has been an interesting experience to follow Jesus! When we started, we did not know all that it would require. It seemed like a simple matter and in reality it has been! His yoke is easy and His burden is light! We can recall what we have gone through, but we wouldn’t go back for anything! If God has called you to put your hand to His plow, do it with joy! The journey is exciting and the best is yet to come!
Scripture reading for October 22: Luke 3-6
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” “Then He rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on Him, and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Luke 4:18-21
Not much is recorded about the life of Jesus from the time He was twelve until He was baptized by John at the age of thirty. We know that He worked with Joseph for part of that time in their carpenter shop. He took part in normal family life and community life in the town of Nazareth. Can you imagine eating off of a table that Jesus had made? Or using an ox yoke that He had crafted? Just think of the Son of God doing such menial labor for ordinary people! This was all part of His preparation for the ministry of preaching the Good News to the lost of the world!
At the proper time, Jesus went down to the Jordan River to where John the Baptist was baptizing those who would repent. John had spoken of one who would come after him whose sandals he was not worthy to untie. When John saw Jesus, he immediately knew that He was this One! (John 1:29) Jesus was baptized and the heavens opened and the Holy Spirit descended on Him in the form of a dove. A voice from heaven declared: “You are My Son, whom I love; with You I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:21-22) This beautiful anointing following the baptism of Jesus is something to savor and meditate on! God loved His Son and let Him know that very plainly. He was pleased with His Son and told Him so! How much these thoughts should speak to each of us who are adopted into God’s household!
Jesus was then led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil. For forty days, Jesus fasted all food. Satan came to tempt Him and each time, Jesus quoted Scripture to defeat him. The anointing led Jesus and empowered Him with the Word of God! He was successful against the temptations of Satan because of following the anointing.
When he arrived back in Nazareth at His home synagogue, He was invited to read from the scroll of Isaiah61:1-2. He read the words quoted to begin this devotion. The Spirit had anointed Him to preach the Good News and proclaim freedom to all who needed it and would hear. He was anointed to heal and deliver the blind and oppressed. He was to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. This Scripture was fulfilled in the hearing of those present that day in Nazareth! (Luke 4:21)
The anointing of the Holy Spirit indwelling Jesus Christ is for us today! The Holy Spirit will do in our lives the same things and greater things because Jesus has gone to the Father! (John 14:12-13) Think on these things!
Scripture reading for October 21st: Luke 1-2
Godly mothers are a gift from the Lord to their children and to the world. I have a godly mother and am so thankful and blessed! My mother has a close walk with the Lord. She was saved when she was young and sought to live out that faith every day. She was faithful to read her Bible and teach her children. She was the Sunday School superintendent in our church as I grew up. Now 86 years young, she still joyfully serves her family and others by cooking and encouraging. She faithfully calls each of her many children, grandchildren and great grandchildren on their birthdays and sings to them! What a blessing now and to future generations!
In our reading today, Luke tells the story of two godly women who are key players in God’s work of salvation. Elizabeth is older and beyond the time of having children when God breaks into her life with a word from an Angel. This angel came to Zechariah, her husband, as he was offering incense before the Lord. He was told that his wife would have a son and his name was to be “John”. (A great name!) This son would go before the Lord in the spirit and power of Elijah. He would turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and prepare the people for the Lord. (Luke 1:13-17) As the angel predicted, Elizabeth became pregnant and remained in seclusion for five months. Her husband was unable to speak because he had doubted the angel’s prediction.
The second mother-to-be was Mary. She was a virgin, engaged to be married. Gabriel, an angel sent to her by God, announced her favor with God and told her that she would bear a child who would be called the “Son of the Most High.” Mary humbly asked how this could be since she was a virgin. The angel told her that the Holy Spirit would come upon her and she would conceive the child who would be the “Son of God”. Mary’s response was a picture of faith for all of us. “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” (Luke 1:38)
This new mother had the joy of carrying Jesus Christ from conception to birth and then raising Him in her home. I can imagine her joy and excitement, mixed with holy fear at all that had transpired. These women had the privilege of working with God to bring about His plan of salvation. Their faith and obedience was a blessing to their children and families, I am sure. But now that faith has impacted each of us and countless millions around the world! If we could get a grasp of the significance of our faith, it would motivate us to serve with joy in the small things the Lord asks of us. Let’s say with Mary, the mother of Jesus, “I am the Lord’s servant.”