To Show the Way to Heaven

WednesdayDecember 13, 2017Matthew 25:31-46

13Remember when you were very young and foolish and someone older tried to correct you – did you ever push back and say, “You’re not my mother!” Or, did you ever say, “Who died and left you boss?!” How did such replies work for you?

One sleepless night, God showed me that even if I never uttered those defiant words, I have been guilty of that same attitude! How about these words we hear: He’s not my God – (too holy or too demanding, if it works for you okay, but not for me!). It’s not my country – (I don’t agree with the leaders). It’s13s not my problem – (He caused it, he can deal/fix it). It’s not my job – (I’m not paid to do it, let someone else do it). It’s not my gift – (I don’t enjoy it and I’m not good at it).

So many reasons or excuses for not doing anything! (Not living as God asks us) But I think the saddest statement we’ll ever hear is on the day when the sheep are separated from the goats and we hear Him say, “Depart from me, I never knew you.” (Not My child!) God gets the last word here, but we have had ample warning!

Jesus came on that first Christmas day to show us how to find the Father, and how to become His adopted child, and how to live for Him so that we can share in the inheritance set aside for His children. If we study His words and obey His voice, we will never hear those dreadful words, “Not Mine!” This is such good news! Surely we will want to go and tell others how to find Him!

Father, encourage us to listen to you voice and do your will. We are so lost without you and often we do not even realize it. May Your word speak to us or may you send someone to cross our path and show us Your right way. I ask for Your Holy Spirit to be actively guiding my will. Amen.

 

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To Proclaim the Good News

TuesdayDecember 12, 2017Mark 1:35-39

12Jesus is still in Capernaum at the time he says the words which Mark has recorded in the Gospel that bears his name. A lot has happened there with Jesus teaching, casting out an unclean spirit, healing Peter’s mother-in-law, and when the Sabbath was over he healed many of various sicknesses and cast out many demons. All-in-all, Jesus showed His authority in that place. In fact, “authority” seems to have been the buzz word for that time and place. It was seen. It was questioned by some. It was definitely12s used by Jesus.

It is interesting that Jesus got up very early the next morning (Sunday) and found a solitary place where He spent time in prayer. No one else was there but I sure would like to have heard what He was praying that day, wouldn’t you? This happened long before daylight, we are told. Also, it took some searching, but His disciples finally found Him. Their first words were, “Everyone is looking for you.” It sort of sounds to me like they were basking in His glory for all He had done the day before. It also sounds like the people of Capernaum wanted a repeat. However, Jesus had other plans. There were many more towns that needed to hear His message and He was eager to get to them. He needed to get to them because this was His reason for coming to this world in the first place. He was “sent” to share the Kingdom of God and its coming. The people of Capernaum were enthralled by Jesus but His mission was not to fulfill their every wish but to speak of the Kingdom of God.

The Kingdom is near, Jesus kept saying, and, it was necessary for him to share that good news with all. Verse 39 of our scripture portion points out that Jesus went throughout all the towns of Galilee preaching and casting out demons. He had a message about the Kingdom to share and showed His authority through the spiritual work of casting out demons. He was becoming more and more well known. This sharing about the Kingdom of God was His calling and it eventually led to His fulfilling the main reason for Him being sent by God – that of ransoming  people from the power of sin.

We, too, have a part in this mission to tell of the Kingdom so that others might share in the blessing of the ransom Jesus paid. There are many who do not know of the Son of God other than as a swear word. They need to hear and respond as did those of Jesus’ day.

Heavenly Father, help us to share the message of the Kingdom with all whose lives we touch. We will need your help in this task as it is much greater than we can handle. Please give us wisdom and strength. Amen.

 

To Be a Light in the World

MondayDecember 11, 2017John 12:44-46

11The context here is important as it is the midst of several pronouncements by Jesus following His Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. Along with that is the insertion by John the Apostle which includes the scripture for our devotion today. Jesus had previously given some prophecies about what was going to happen in the immediate future, one of which concerned His death by crucifixion.  This led the Jewish leaders to condemn Jesus because their understanding (misunderstanding?) of the prophets about the Messiah was that He would remain forever. To really understand our focus verse for today we need to read from verse 27 to the end of the chapter. This will give us the definition of “light” according to Jesus as being a reflection of God Himself. The point is that Jesus is11s God (in the flesh) and thus shows the light of God to the world and He also speaks of His followers (disciples) as being “sons of light.” This would indicate that they also will be light to the world. We, as light, are meant to point people to God through Jesus. Light shows the way in the darkness. Later on (in verses 44-46) Jesus clarifies that He is talking about Himself as light so that others may believe in Him and not live in darkness. This is not subjective “light” but absolute truth based on the character of God Himself.

In today’s society we often have people disagreeing with truths that have been proven through many centuries to be correct. Today we see people declaring that they alone can decide what truth is for them and for that matter for all others as well. “I feel like…” or “I identify as…”, therefore it is true for me and you had better accept my definition of truth or I will take you to court. Truth, instead of being objective then becomes subjective and thus has no basis in any sort of concrete substance. What has happened in our society is somewhat explained by verses 42-43 in this chapter. Some of the Jewish rulers believed that Jesus was the Messiah (Christ) but would not confess Him before others because “. . . they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.”

Are you walking in the Light of Jesus and reflecting that light as a “son of light” before the whole world? It would be fruitful at this point to read the entire epistle of 1 John but especially the first two chapters. Can others see Jesus in you? Light is a favorite symbol at Christmas. We see lights all around in celebration of this season. Is Jesus your true Light that came into the world? Do you act like it?

Father, not only do we walk in the light of your Son, but we also walk as “sons of light” and contain that light in ourselves as witnesses of that true light so that we may point the way to the One who is the strongest evidence of LIGHT to all in this world. Help us to truly walk/live in the Light that is Jesus. Amen.

 

That We Might Live

SundayDecember 10, 20171 John 4:7-12

7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

So Send I You - Logo - Cover LargeThere is a greater authority in my house that sometimes sends me out on tasks. Maybe it’s to pick up lunch or supper. Maybe a good dose of medicine or ice cream is needed (sometimes they are the same thing). Either way, if my wife sends me on a task, I go. Do I do it because I have to? I could probably say “no” or kindly suggest she do it herself but, to be honest, that doesn’t really sound like a good idea. The reality is that I’m willing to do pretty much whatever she asks because I love her. It’s that simple. It offers me an opportunity to show her that love in a tangible way.

Jesus was sent into this world by the Father on a special mission: to save the world. It wasn’t an easy task – it involved him paying the debt we owed for our sin. He came to die10s on the cross that we might live through Him. It must have taken a lot of love to go on such a mission. At least when I head off to get ice cream for my wife, I get to have ice cream, too! Why would Jesus choose to go on such a mission? I’ll tell you why, it’s because of a crazy little thing called “Love.”

This Advent season we’ve been looking at many of the scriptures that talk about why God sent Jesus as we focus on what Jesus means when he says, “As the Father has sent me, so send I you.” This morning we read where John said that God “sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.” A verse later he says he “sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

In Romans 5:6-8 Paul says, You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

John says something similar to these verses from Romans when he refers to Jesus as an “atoning sacrifice for our sins.” He means that Christ died on our behalf to pay the penalty for our sins. This is a concept with deep roots in the Old Testament. We could start much earlier but, for the sake of brevity, we will start in Exodus 25:17-22 where God says to Moses: 17 “Make an atonement cover of pure gold—two and a half cubits long and a cubit and a half wide. 18 And make two cherubim out of hammered gold at the ends of the cover. 19 Make one cherub on one end and the second cherub on the other; make the cherubim of one piece with the cover, at the two ends. 20 The cherubim are to have their wings spread upward, overshadowing the cover with them. The cherubim are to face each other, looking toward the cover. 21 Place the cover on top of the ark and put in the ark the tablets of the covenant law that I will give you.22 There, above the cover between the two cherubim that are over the ark of the covenant law, I will meet with you and give you all my commands for the Israelites.”

Israel still celebrates Yom Kippur, also known as the Day of Atonement, initiated in Leviticus 16. There it was Aaron, the High Priest, who took two goats and cast lots to choose one to be a scapegoat and one to be sacrificed as a sin offering. The blood of the sacrificed goat is mixed with the bull’s blood, from an earlier sacrifice, and sprinkled seven times on the horns of the altar (previously sprinkled on the atonement cover of the ark). The remaining goat, the scapegoat, has the sins of the people conferred upon its head and is then released into the wilderness to carry those sins. The process of this yearly event is fascinating and meaningful right down to the complete and utter removal of sin from their midst as all sin is removed from the camp and all involved must wash their clothes and bathe before coming back into the camp. Our verse in 1 John, along with others like Romans 3:25 and 1 John 2:2, name Jesus as the sacrifice that atones for our sin – completely and utterly.

There are two reasons that Jesus was sent: that we might live through him and that He would be an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Really they are the same reason. But, throughout our passage, the reason given for the sending ultimately comes down to God’s love for us. Why did God send his Son to be a sacrifice and give us life through Him? He did it to show his love. So this act of love towards us, from God, is to completely remove our sins through the death of Jesus, thus paying the penalty of our sin, which is death, so that we may have life. This, then, is the reason God sent His only Son.

In the beginning I asked why Jesus would choose to go on such a mission, one that involved his death on the Cross? “It’s because of a crazy little thing called love,” I said. Jesus said “yes” to the Father because of Love and a singular Godly will. The Father sent the Son because God is love. We know why God sent Jesus but do you know why we say “yes” to Jesus when He sends us to continue His mission in this world? We say “yes” because we love Him. It’s a love that exists inside of us because God lives inside of us and we live through Him.

 

To Turn Us From Our Sins

SaturdayDecember 9, 2017Acts 3:24-26

9It intrigues me every time I think about the fact that from the beginning God had a plan for our redemption! He knew that sin would enter the world through the choices of Adam and Eve, and even  as he made clothes for them to wear and banished them from the Garden He was already forgiving them and had already made plans for the price to be paid for their awful sin! He looked ahead and knew about the downward spiral of His chosen people. He foresaw the exact right moment when his son would come to earth as a baby – come to set those people free! And He looked ahead as those who believed and accepted and began to follow Jesus would eventually take the same path to destruction that His chosen people had taken. He sent many prophets and intercessors to show the way and stop the rebellion – people like9s Luther, Wesley, D. L. Moody, Billy Graham, to “stem the tide.” But all along He knew! He knew that even in the 21st century there would be declining morals and so few would stay strong in the face of Satan’s attacks.

Even now, today, many are still finding Him for the first time or falling in love with Him all over again. He knew it all along. He knew about you, and He knew about me, and he knew that soon it would be time to send His son back again to wrap things up here and to take His children home to be with Him forever. And as I think about all this, it just excites me to realize that we were always on His mind. From before time, He loved us and planned to care for us and to draw us to Him. He is looking forward to the grand reunion as much as we are! I can hardly wait, can you!?

But even as we rejoice, we realize, that many will be unable to attend that Family Reunion in the Heavens because they have not yet made their reservation.. Oh, let’s pray that this will be the Christmas that their eyes will be drawn to the Christmas Star and they will hasten and find the Child born in Bethlehem! Maybe it will be because you, or I, have told it “on the mountains, over the hills and everywhere!”

Gracious heavenly Father, the time is coming when many on this earth will no longer have an opportunity to discover a relationship with You through Your son Jesus Christ. I pray that You will so fill us with Your Holy spirit that we cannot help but speak of You and your plan for the salvation of many souls. Help us to unmistakably point the way to You. Amen.

 

To Save Sinners

FridayDecember 8, 20171 Timothy 1:15-17

8This devotional title is in reference not only to why Jesus came to this world but also to one of the commands of Jesus found in The Great Commission. We, too, are sent to the sinners of this world not to save them but rather to tell them how they can be saved. Actually, Paul refers to himself and that he was to be a “pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.” With the words “in me first” Paul indicates that other believers are also supposed to be patterns showing Jesus to others by how we live our lives.8s

One of the greatest accolades a believer can receive in this life is for someone to let them know that how they lived their lives pointed them to faith in Jesus Christ. I think most of us have heard it said, “Your actions are speaking so loud I can’t hear the words you are saying.”  This is a truism that cannot be ignored. Another that lives alongside of that is that sometimes you even have to use words to show others the way to Jesus.  Over the years of ministry, I have enjoyed contact with many who have shown by their lives just who they belong to. I really appreciate hearing at the funeral of one of those saints how the way they lived and the things they said always went together and showed someone how to live as well.  What joy there is for loved ones to know that their departed family member made an impact for God. They lived for something. This Christmas season, are you making an impact for God?

As you read those words of the Apostle Paul to young Timothy, did they resonate with you? Verse 16 gives us the reason for Paul and us to obtain mercy from God through salvation in and through Jesus Christ. It was so he and we can become patterns (examples) of what God can do in and through us IF we will allow Him to show His mercy through us. Paul was willing. Are you willing to let God’s mercy be seen in you? Let this be your gift to Christ Jesus.

Heavenly Father, I thank you for offering your salvation to me through Jesus Christ, your Son. As Paul allowed You to do Your will through Your mercy in His life and saw many begin to follow the same pattern he was following in Jesus, I ask that You also work your mercy through me. Amen.

 

To Be a Divider of Men

ThursdayDecember 7, 2017Matthew 10:34-39

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Several things in this chapter are very difficult for us to understand and see applied in our lives and where we live. He sends us “to be a divider of men.” I thought Jesus brings peace, joy, love, unity in the Spirit and other very needful things in any culture but here He seems to be saying something else. We need to understand these words in the context in which they were given. This chapter is all about Jesus sending out his disciples and these are His instructions to them.  You really should read the whole chapter and not just the verses for this devotional.  Jesus did not just willy-nilly send out the disciples. He sent them with authority to preach His message, heal the sick, raise the dead, cast out spirits and heal many diseases. They7s are armed for what is coming. They have the spiritual authority to carry out all Jesus’ instructions as to how and who they were to go to. He sent them to the lost sheep of Israel and not to any other nation of people group. These were their kind of people and of their culture. Later some of the apostles went to Gentile nations and peoples but this was the beginning of their work.

Let me share with you what the Life Application Bible has to say about our focus verses in particular. “Christian commitment may separate friends and loved ones. In saying this, Jesus was not encouraging disobedience to parents or conflict at home. Rather, he was showing that His presence demands a decision. Because some will follow Christ and some won’t, conflict will inevitably arise. As we take our cross and follow him, our different values, morals, goals, and purposes will set us apart from others. Don’t neglect your family, but remember that your commitment to God is more important than they are. God should be your first priority.”

The negative sometimes happens. Even earlier on in this chapter Jesus gives instruction as to where they were to stay in each village they entered (Mt. 10:11-15). He also told them not to take anything with them on this journey (Mt. 10:9-10). He even spoke of what they should do when they were accepted or rejected in each place (Mt. 10:11-14). He mentions persecution and how they should react (Mt. 10:17-26).

Because of Christmas all of us are commanded to share the message of Jesus to the world. This is simply telling our story about what Jesus has done for us. What a great gift to Jesus it would be to tell His story!

Father, the task of sharing about Jesus’ message is ever before the Church. We have a great responsibility but even more importantly, we have a great God Who is always giving us the authority and power to do what He asks of us. I thank You for your provision and your calling. Help me to be a blessing to those You send me to. Amen.

 

To Show Us the Way

WednesdayDecember 6, 2017John 6:32-40

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Sometimes the Holy Spirit’s wisdom and teachings come to me in unexpected ways, and I am trying to always be open to those moments. One night my husband seemed to be searching for something on the side of the bed, even as he appeared to be asleep! I asked him what he was looking for and he said, “I’ve gotta find the edges!” He said later that he was trying to pull up the sheet and blankets because he was cold but he could not find the edges to do it!

Well, as I thought about that, I was “shown” that Jesus6s came to us at Christmas time to “show us the edges.” Remember His words, “This is the way, walk ye in it”? He came to show us the path to the Father – a path that would be narrow and rough, and have dangerous edges where we might trip or fall – but He showed us while He was here how to find the edges and how we can make it safely to “the Father’s House!” We find the edges by listening to and studying God’s Word, by spending time in prayer with Him, by speaking His name when faced with temptations, by spending quality time with His people, and by setting our eyes on Him and heading straight towards Him.

I find it so much easier to accomplish a goal when I can make lists and then set out the parameters (edges or boundaries) to accomplish the goal. I consult these “maps” often and make any corrections necessary to keep my path straight. It is easy to get distracted and be tempted to veer off the path, but there is where I will stumble and lose my way. My goal is to live for Christ and to give Him glory, and to follow his guidelines all the way to a new life and an eternity with Him in Heaven! If I love Him and desire Him as much as I say, then my goal will also include helping friends and neighbors to discover this path that leads to happiness. Jesus was sent to show me the way and he has now sent me to tell others about it! When I say, “Merry Christmas” this year, what I really mean is, “Rejoice in His coming, and in His gift of grace and love to us!”

Dear Lord, my prayer today is that You will continue to show me Your way to walk each day until you come to take all Your children home to live with you. Please also strengthen me so I will not stumble and fall away and so that I may be a beacon light so that others might be led along Your path as well. Amen

 

That They May See

TuesdayDecember 5, 2017 – John 9:31-35

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This whole chapter is a great story of what Jesus can do and the crazy reactions some have regarding Him. A blind man is healed through the intervention of Jesus and is then cast out of their presence and likely from the Temple because he could not and would not keep quiet about what had happened. He was “slammed” by these supposedly learned religious men who actually found they were being corrected and taught by the former blind man about real spiritual truth. This was truth5s they could not accept as if flew in the face of all their teaching. Correction is hard to bear when you think you know it all.

It is amazing how strong this man was in the face of all that was happening to him. He is living proof of the importance your own experience of truth and how it can help you to stand firm even in adversity. Remember, until verse 35 of this chapter he had never seen Jesus yet acted on what Jesus told him to do and thus received his sight. He just could not back down with that kind of experience to draw on. Now one can really argue with your spiritual experience but they will try. Just stand true and you will persevere.

The words of our focus verse follow on the heels the former blind man’s declaration of faith in Jesus as the Son of God followed by worship of Jesus as such. See John 8:14-18. In this passage Jesus clearly states, I judge no man.” Then it says in John 9, “For judgment I have come into this world. . .”, so how are we supposed to take this? Are you confused? No need. Jesus is not yet judging any man in this world but one day He will be the Judge of all. That is when He is seated on “The Great White Throne” (See Revelation 20:11-15). If Jesus as the Truth had not come into this world there would be no basis for judgement. Because he came and shared Truth all people will be judged by how they received or rejected Truth. The final phrase in our focus verse is important as it clarifies for us what He is talking about, “. . . that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.” The interesting thing is that the religious leaders seem to catch on to the fact that they are blind to Truth. They do not want to accept it but it is niggling at them. Jesus is not judging them at this time but at the end of the age Him as Truth will be the Judge.

Lord Jesus, the time is coming when You will be the Judge before whom all who ever lived and died will stand. Your Word which has been given is the basis judgement on that day. Help us all to see and understand the words of truth found in Your Holy Book. Thank You for giving us the Truth. Amen.

 

To Be the Savior of the World

MondayDecember 4, 2017 – John 3:16-18

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So, how does one do another devotional on perhaps the best known scripture portion of all time? All pastors, writers, Bible teacher and even ordinary laymen try to find some new way to express this old truth. Maybe that is the problem. The old truth is still the truth. I distinctly remember this verse being the first memory verse for me. My grandma was a very wise woman who never forced things on us kids. We were grateful to have her on our side after our mother’s death from pneumonia back in 1948. She took three of us on right off the bat and then brought the two youngest back to live with the rest of us about two years later. That was a total of five kids for a woman who had already raised her family of three girls and was also in sorrow over the loss of her daughter. But grandma focused on our needs and helped us through a very difficult time. She was firm, yet gentle, with us. She never forced us to learn but4s encouraged us to memorize Bible verses. John 3:16 was my very first one (probably it was your first also) and all we had back then was the old King James Version, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” This was followed by Romans 3:23; Ephesians 2:8, 9; and John 1:12 and many others over the years. About 2 or three years later, I was ready to accept Jesus as my Savior. Granma would simply ask occasionally if I was ready to accept Jesus as Savior. Finally, at age 10, I said I was ready and so I knelt by her rocking chair on the front porch of the old farmhouse and received Jesus into my heart. I wish I could say that I heard angels rejoicing and bells ringing and all that, but that was not the case. I slowly grew into being the kind of Christian Jesus wanted me to be. Growth in the faith is more of a process that includes “line upon line, precept upon precept.”

This sixteenth verse of John chapter one is John’s version of The Christmas Story. There is a whole lot of Christmas wrapped in these few words. John captured the whole measure of meaning in these few words. We don’t receive here the whole physical story of what transpired at that time. John cuts right to the heart of the matter. GOD LOVED THE WORLD – HE GAVE HIS SON – TO SAVE THOSE WHO BELIEVE! Do we really need more than that? Some have called John 3:16, “The gospel in a nutshell.” The Gift of God to a needy world (you, me, and everyone). All we have to do is accept Him for ourselves as God’s Son who came to save us!

Father God, this seems so simple yet so profound. Help me to really mean the words I have said when I accepted Jesus as my Savior. And Lord, help anyone reading these words to do the same. Amen.