Show Me

Today’s Reading: Matthew 21:23-27, 22:15-46, 23:1-12; Mark 11:27-33, 12:13-40; Luke 20:1-8, 20-47

As Jesus’ time on earth shortened, the religious leaders were ramping up their opposition to him, trying to trip him up through the questions they were asking. If they could get him to say the wrong thing, they would have a reason to have him arrested.

Jesus took advantage of this opportunity to teach his followers. His time was short and there was still so much he wanted them to know. Jesus focused on preparing them for how they should live their lives as they wait for his return.

His wisdom is still valid for us today as we wait for the day when Jesus will come back for us. His words are encouraging as we face persecution and opposition for our Christian values. Let’s simply sit at the feet of Jesus this morning and soak in all of the things he felt it was important for his followers to hear before he left them. Let’s start by sincerely praying the words of the psalmist:

Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior and my hope is in you all day long.
– Psalm 25:4-5

1. GIVE: “…give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.” – Matthew 22:21

There’s an element of honesty here. As we live in a community, we cooperate with the government and authorities by giving what is required of us. In the same way, we live a generous and honest life with God, giving the tithe that is required but also responding generously to anything He asks us to give.

2. STUDY: When the Sadducees asked him a question about the resurrection from the dead, Jesus said, “Your mistake is that you don’t know the Scriptures, and you don’t know the power of God” (Matthew 22:29).

By studying God’s word, I increase my knowledge of the Scriptures and gain a clearer understanding of who God is and how incredibly BIG He is! This understanding helps me face any situation before me.

3. LOVE: When the Pharisees tried to trap Jesus with the question of which commandment in the Law of Moses was the most important, Jesus answered: “’You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40).

The Law of Moses can be quite overwhelming. But if we focus on living our lives out of a deep love for God and love for others, the result will be a life marked by holy living.

4. PRACTICE: When we love God with all our heart, soul and mind, we live a life to please only Him rather than focusing on pleasing people. Our religion becomes more than just what we say but how we live. Unlike the Pharisees, we practice what we preach.

“So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach. They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden. Everything they do is for show.” – Matthew 23:3-5a

5. BE HUMBLE: “The greatest among you must be a servant. But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” – Matthew 23:11-12

Lord, give me a servant’s heart. Create in me a heart that only desires what you desire. Lord, I want my life to be honest and generous, demonstrating a love for you and a love for others. Show me YOUR ways. Teach me your word and live through me in such a way that my life brings you glory, Father God. Amen.

Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior and my hope is in you all day long.
– Psalm 25:4-5

At the Feet of Jesus

Today’s Reading: John 12:20-50; Psalm 55

What is on your mind this morning? What decision are you facing or what situation is heavy on your heart? This morning let’s simply sit AT THE FEET OF JESUS and listen to what He has to say. What do I need to hear today? What words of Jesus speak specifically of where I am and what is happening in my life today? Jesus, let your words wash over me fresh and new today.

Follow me…be where I am

Jesus replied, “Now the time has come for the Son of Man to enter into his glory. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels – a plentiful harvest of new lives. Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity. Anyone who wants to be my disciple must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves me.” – John 12:23-26

Walk in the light…put your trust in the light

Jesus replied, “My light will shine for you just a little longer. Walk in the light while you can, so darkness will not over take you. Those who walk in the darkness cannot see where they are going. Put your trust in the light while there is still time; then you will become children of the light.” – John 12:35-36

Jesus shouted to the crowds, “If you trust me, you are trusting not only me, but also God who sent me. For when you see me, you are seeing the one who sent me. I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark.” – John 12:44-46

Do as I have done to you

“I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them.” – John 13:15-17

Love each other

As soon as Judas left the room, Jesus said, “The time has come for the Son of Man to enter into his glory, and God will be glorified because of him. And since God receives glory because of the Son, he will soon give glory to the Son. Dear children, I will be with you only a little longer. And as I told the Jewish leaders, you will search for me, but you can’t come where I am going. So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” – John 13:31-35

Don’t be troubled…trust in me

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know the way to where I am going.” – John 14:1-4

You know me

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is. From now on, you do know him and have seen him!” – John 14:6-7

Ask me for anything and I will do it!

“I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that he Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!” – John 14:12-14

Perhaps today you will walk into a new situation and hear Jesus saying – I know you cannot see what is ahead but put your trust in me. Follow me. Be where I am. Walk in the light. Put your trust in the light. Do as I have done to you: Love each other. Don’t be troubled. Trust in me. You know me. Ask for anything and I will do it! What is He saying that speaks into where you are at or what is ahead for you today?

Morning, noon, and night
I cry out in my distress,
and the Lord hears my voice…

Give your burdens to the Lord,
and he will take care of you.
He will not permit the godly to slip and fall…
I am trusting you to save me.
– Psalm 55:17, 22-23

What Will My Story Be?

Today’s Reading: Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-44; John 12:12-19; Psalm 115

When all the people heard of Jesus’ arrival, they flocked to see him and also to see Lazarus, the man Jesus had raised from the dead. Then the leading priests decided to kill Lazarus, too, for it was because of him that many of the people had deserted them and believed in Jesus. – John 12:9-11

LAZARUS’ STORY BROUGHT JESUS GLORY

Lazarus was making a difference in the lives of so many people because he allowed his story to be shared. Jesus had done something miraculous in his life and he used that miracle to share with others the difference Jesus could make in their lives. Once he was dead, but now he was alive! What Jesus had done for him became his story, but it did not stay Lazarus’ story. His healing was about Jesus; it was HIS story. It was used for Jesus’ glory and to bring others to Jesus, so that they could see for themselves the power of the Messiah.

Many in the crowd had seen Jesus call Lazarus from the tomb, raising him from the dead, and they were telling others about it. That was the reason so many went out to meet him – because they had heard about this miraculous sign. Then the Pharisees said to each other, “There’s nothing we can do. Look, everyone has gone after him!” – John 12:17-19

The town of Bethany was on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives, while Jerusalem was on the western side. So as Jesus was leaving Bethany to head to Jerusalem for the week of Passover, crowds began to form. Word was spreading that Jesus was back (the Jesus who had raised Lazarus from the dead) and lots of people were coming out to give him the triumphant welcome he deserved.

As Jesus and the disciples approached Jerusalem, they came to the town of Bethphage on the Mount of Olives. Jesus sent two of them on ahead. “Go into the village over there,” he said. “As soon as you enter it, you will see a donkey tied there, with its colt beside it. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone asks what you are doing, just say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will immediately let you take them.”

This took place to fulfill the prophecy that said,
“Tell the people of Jerusalem,
‘Look, your King is coming to you.
He is humble, riding on a donkey – riding on a donkey’s colt.’”
– Matthew 21:1-5

NOT FOR THEIR PURPOSES BUT FOR JESUS’ GLORY

The only thing the owners had to hear was that the Lord needed what they had, and their response was to IMMEDIATELY let the disciples take them. They did not get possessive with what they owned or concerned whether they would ever see the animals again. They did not focus on the value of what was theirs but they shared with Jesus without questioning what he had planned. The donkey and its colt were no longer needed for their purposes as much as they were needed for Jesus’ glory. I like to believe that the owners followed the disciples; that they were in the crowd of people that day.

Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their garments over it, and he sat on it.

Many in the crowd spread their garments on the road ahead of him, and others spread leafy branches they had cut in the fields. Jesus was in the center of the procession, and the people all around him were shouting.

“Praise God!
Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessings on the coming Kingdom of our ancestor David!
Praise God in highest heaven!”
– Mark 11:7-10

What an incredible moment in history. Prophecy was being fulfilled and Jesus was receiving glory for all God was doing through him. But the reality was that not all of Jerusalem was ready to receive the Messiah. As Jesus came closer to Jerusalem, he began to weep over the condition of Jerusalem. He had come that all would experience life but he knew what was ahead. He knew this city would not accept their opportunity for salvation (Luke 19:41-44).

Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the people buying and selling animals for sacrifice. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves. He said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My temple will be called a house of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves!” – Matthew 21:12-13

JERUSALEM’S TEMPLE DENIED GOD THE GLORY

The Temple was built to give God’s people a place to worship Him. It was to be a building where God was glorified, but the people had lost their focus. The building was now more about ritual instead of relationship; about profit instead of the Great Prophet.

Jesus’ time on earth was drawing close to an end and the people were still so focused on themselves that they were missing the presence of the Messiah. Jesus’ words to the people held great purpose:

“Now the time has come for the Son of Man to enter into his glory. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels – a plentiful harvest of new lives. Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity. Anyone who wants to be my disciple must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves me.” – John 12:23-26

MY STORY FOR JESUS’ GLORY

That is the desire of my heart this morning – to follow Jesus, to be where He is. I want everything God does in my life to be more than just my story, but to be for Jesus’ glory. I want my possessions to be available for His use and for His glory. I want to be in the crowd welcoming Jesus with garments and palm branches, instead of missing the moment because I am too caught up in the chaos of the Temple. I do not want Jesus to weep when he considers my future, but to be pleased with the plentiful harvest of his power at work in my life. Oh Jesus, this is my prayer!

Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name goes all the glory for your unfailing love and faithfulness. – Psalm 115:1

What Will My Response Be?

Today’s Reading: Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9; John 12:1-11

In chapter 12, John gives account of several different responses to Jesus – these responses remind me of the various responses of people within the church today.

Six days before the Passover celebration began, Jesus arrived in Bethany, the home of Lazarus – the man he had raised from the dead. A dinner was prepared in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, and Lazarus was among those who ate with him. Then Mary took a twelve-ounce jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it, wiping his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance.

But Judas Iscariot, the disciple who would soon betray him, said, “That perfume was worth a year’s wages. It should have been sold and the money given to the poor.” Not that he cared for the poor – he was a thief, and since he was in charge of the disciples’ money, he often stole some for himself. – John 12:1-6

The Passover was only six days away and I am sure there was much that needed to be done for this annual celebration, yet Lazarus and his sisters put aside their preparations in order to throw a dinner party in Jesus’ honor. What a year it had been for them! They recognized how different this Passover celebration would have been if Jesus had not intervened and raised Lazarus from the dead. God had blessed them greatly and they refused to forget His generosity. Instead they chose to be generous in return.

MARTHA’S RESPONSE WAS TO SERVE.

Martha is doing what she does best – serving. It is her love language. Lazarus is soaking in the presence of Jesus, thankful for the opportunity to share a meal together in brotherly fellowship and giving Jesus the gift of his time, probably recognizing that every minute of his life is a gift from Jesus. Martha and Lazarus remind me of my mother-in-law, Bonnie Sherwood. Three times she has been diagnosed with cancer and today she is cancer-free, not saved by human efforts but healed by God. She knows that every day is a gift from God and so she lives out her love language of serving God by serving others and she soaks in every opportunity to worship in Jesus’ presence.

MARY’S RESPONSE WAS TO GIVE SACRIFICIALLY.

Mary’s response to Jesus is beautiful in her own way, perhaps describing her love language – sacrifice. There was nothing too expensive for Jesus, nothing she was unwilling to do in order to express her devotion to the Savior. The house was filled with the fragrance. Mary’s gift and worship had an impact on the entire house, affecting the experience of everyone in her vicinity. When we give our best to God, when we serve and worship Him in reckless abandon, all those around us are impacted by that kind of sacrifice – by that kind of gift.

JUDAS’ RESPONSE WAS ONE OF SELFISHNESS AND GREED.

Judas was thinking only of himself. His concern was first for his own experience, disregarding the heart of Jesus and the needs of others. He had an attitude of possessiveness and entitlement.

These various responses can sadly been seen today among the body of Christ. Consider these examples and ask God to reveal your heart.

– The Church announces a work day. Martha signs up to help, Mary offers to buy the cleaning supplies and Judas says, “I was at the last work day. It is someone else’s turn to clean.”
– A teenager who is rough around the edges, struggling with some addictions and coming from an unchurched family walks in the door. Martha offers him a ride to all future youth group events, Mary offers to pay his way to camp and Judas complains that there are cigarette butts in the Church parking lot now.
– The State posts the abortion statistics for the local community and the lives of 350 babies are reflected in last year’s numbers. Martha volunteers her time and Mary writes a check to the local pregnancy center, while Judas looks the other way and complains if the Church brings up the topic of abortion – after all, it makes everyone uncomfortable.
– A man walks out on his wife and kids, filing for divorce. Martha volunteers to babysit, Mary brings over a week’s worth of groceries, and Judas says, “There’s always two sides to every story – I’m sure she shares some of the fault in their marriage going bad. Pastor, you need to find someone else to teach her Sunday School class.”

WHAT WILL MY RESPONSE BE?

Heavenly Father, reveal to me any “Judas” traits I might have. Forgive me for the times when I have put my own desires ahead of the needs of others, or the times when I have been too busy to honor you. Forgive me for the times when I have judged others instead of showing love. Help me to always see how different my life would be without your intervention and healing.

Lord Jesus, may I never forget your generosity but always be generous towards you. May the fragrance of my devotion to you be a blessing to all those in the house. Grow the “Martha” and “Mary” in me so that my first response is service and generosity. Like Lazarus, thank you for allowing me to experience your presence this morning as I drink my morning coffee.

Invite Them to the Table

Today’s Reading: Matthew 20:1-16; Luke 19:1-10

Jesus told a parable that I believe we often read over and move on too quickly. I think Jesus knew our humanity enough to know we would battle selfishness and jealousy. We would be quick to respond with a feeling of injustice and cry out, “That’s not fair!” But Jesus wanted to transform the hearts of his disciples and he wants to transform our hearts also.

PEOPLE IN THE MARKETPLACE

There once was a landowner who hired workers for his vineyard, agreeing to pay them a normal daily wage. A few hours later, he saw some people standing in the marketplace with nothing to do – no purpose, no plans. He hired them to also work in his vineyard. At noon and then again at 3pm and 5pm, the landowner hired more people from the marketplace, sending them to work in his vineyards.

At the end of the day, the foreman paid the last workers first, giving them each a full day’s wage. When those hired early in the morning came through the line, they also received a full day’s wage. Can you imagine their shock?

“Those people worked only one hour, and yet you’ve paid them just as much as you paid us who worked all day in the scorching heat.”

The landowner responded, “Friends, I haven’t been unfair! Didn’t you agree to work all day for the usual wage? Take your money and go. I wanted to pay this last worker the same as you. Is it against the law for me to do what I want with my money? Should you be jealous because I am kind to others?”

Jesus took this opportunity to make a strong statement to all those listening: “So those who are last now will be first then, and those who are first will be last.” – (Matthew 20:1-16)

The injustice in the eyes of the people is that those who spend the majority of their life producing fruit for the Master could end up with the same reward as those who live a long life of sin, accepting late in life the salvation that comes through Jesus. Too often we focus on how someone has spent a great deal of their life not following Jesus, seeing only the scars of their sins.

PEOPLE IN THE TREETOPS

Or perhaps we get so caught up in working for God that we no longer see those standing in the marketplace with no purpose, no plan. We pass them by in a hurry to get to the vineyard. We no longer look up in the treetops to see who is curious about God from a distance because they do not feel worthy of walking into our fellowship to get to know Christ.

Jesus entered Jericho and made his way through the town. There was a man there named Zacchaeus. He was the chief tax collector in the region, and he had become very rich. – Luke 19:1-2

Although Zacchaeus was a Jew, he worked for Rome collecting taxes from other Jews. The only way a tax collector would gain wealth in this job was to charge Jews a great deal more than he was required to give to Rome. He was dishonest and disloyal, considered a traitor and a cheat.

He tried to get a look at Jesus, but he was too short to see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree beside the road, for Jesus was going to pass that way.

When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. “Zacchaeus!” he said. “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.”

Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy. But the people were displeased. “He has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner,” they grumbled.

Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!”

Jesus responded, “Salvation has come to this house today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.” – Luke 19:3-10

How often do we walk around the “trees” because we despise the sins of others?
How often do we ignore the “trees” and those who are potentially seeking Jesus?
How often do we give up on others, assuming they are too steeped in sin to repent?

PEOPLE AT THE TABLE

In 2015, our family went to Nazarene Youth Conference in Louisville, Kentucky. On Sunday morning, we were challenged by Eric Samuel Timm to see others as Jesus would see them. The Jewish people saw Zacchaeus as wicked but Jesus saw only who Zacchaeus was meant to be. We need to see people differently. We need to see them as Jesus does.

Let’s start looking for people in trees and invite them to the table. Let’s take notice of those standing in the marketplace and invite them to come work in the vineyard. This is not an invitation only country club. All are welcome, for the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.

Lord, give us a burden for the lost that changes the way we see those around us today. Give us EYES TO SEE and HEARTS TO NOTICE the need of salvation in those we come in contact with each day. Amen.

The Unknown

Today’s Reading: John 11:45-57; Mark 10:32-45; Matthew 20:17-19; Psalm 56

Because I can look back on yesterday,
and understand NOW what God was teaching me THEN,
I can trust Him with my TODAY
knowing that God has a plan for my TOMORROW.

In the same way, the disciples did not fully understand everything Jesus was teaching them until after his death and resurrection. Early on in his ministry, Jesus began talking about his death. The disciples were slow to understand but Jesus was preparing them, little by little, for what was ahead. As time went on, he would give them a little more information about the suffering that was coming.

Then Jesus began to tell them that the Son of Man must suffer many terrible things and be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but three days later he would rise from the dead. – Mark 8:31

Jesus replied, “Do wedding guests fast while celebrating with the groom? Of course not. They can’t fast while the groom is with them. But someday the groom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast. – Mark 2:19-20

Consider again what Jesus said to Peter, James and John after the Transfiguration on the mountain.

Then a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son. Listen to him.” Suddenly, when they looked around, Moses and Elijah were gone, and they saw only Jesus with them.

As they went back down the mountain, he told them not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept it to themselves, but they often asked each other what he meant by “rising from the dead.” – Mark 9:7-10

God could have opened up the minds of the disciples and helped them to understand how Scripture was being fulfilled. Jesus could have had a lengthy conversation with His followers, clearly revealing His role and what was about to take place.

SOMETIMES GOD REVEALS THINGS A LITTLE AT A TIME – ALL AS A PART OF HIS LARGER PLAN.

“The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of his enemies. He will be killed, but three days later he will rise from the dead.” They didn’t understand what he was saying, however, and they were afraid to ask him what he meant. – Mark 9:31b-32

They were now on the way up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. The disciples were filled with awe, and the people following behind were overwhelmed with fear. – Mark 10:32a

They did not understand what was about to happen, yet they could feel the enormity of what was coming. They had a choice, yet they continued to follow Jesus. Their love for Jesus and their faith in him was enough to continue moving forward, regardless of their fear or anticipation of the unknown.

The disciples still did not understand what was about to happen – the unknown. As we look over the gospel accounts, we see moments when Jesus spoke so clearly to them about what was about to happen. They heard yet they did not fully understand. Something was about to happen that would forever change them. They could feel the anticipation and fear what was to come, but they still experienced confusion about God’s larger plan that was unfolding. Can you relate to how they were feeling?

SOMETIMES WE CONTINUE MOVING FORWARD REGARDLESS OF THE CONFUSION, FEAR AND ANTICIPATION.

“Listen,” he said, “we’re going up to Jerusalem, where the Son of Man will be betrayed to the leading priests and the teachers of religious law. They will sentence him to die and hand him over to the Romans. They will mock him, spit on him, flog him with a whip, and kill him, but after three days he will rise again.” – Mark 10:33-34

“…Are you able to drink from the bitter cup of suffering I am about to drink? Are you able to be baptized with the baptism of suffering I must be baptized with?…” – Mark 10:38b

“…For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Mark 10:45

Jesus replied, “My light will shine for you just a little longer. Walk in the light while you can, so the darkness will not overtake you. Those who walk in the darkness cannot see where they are going. Put your trust in the light while there is still time; then you will become children of light.” – John 12:35-36a

There have been many times in my life when I was able to look back and see the evidence of how God was preparing me for my current situation. I did not understand at the time, but later God increased my understanding. Looking back, I can see how various experiences in my life were shaping me into the person I needed to be for God’s plan. I can look back and see how God was revealing, little by little, things I needed to learn for a future purpose.

Because I can look back on yesterday, as the disciples did,
and understand NOW what God was teaching me THEN,
I can trust Him with my TODAY
knowing that God has a plan for my TOMORROW.

But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you…
This I know: God is on my side!
I praise God for what he has promised…
I trust in God, so why should I be afraid?
What can mere mortals do to me?
I will fulfill my vows to you, O God, and will offer a sacrifice of thanks for your help.
For you have rescued me from death; you have kept my feet from slipping.
So now I can walk in your presence, O God, in your life-giving light.
– Psalm 56:3, 9-13

And There Was None

Today’s Reading: Matthew 19:3-12, 21:12-17, 28-46 and 22:1-14; Mark 10:2-12, 11:15-19, 12:1-12; Luke 19:45-48, 20:9-19

Jesus went to the fig tree looking for fruit AND THERE WAS NONE.

In the morning, as Jesus was returning to Jerusalem, he was hungry, and he noticed a fig tree beside the road. He went over to see if there were any figs, but there were only leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” And immediately the fig tree withered up. – Matthew 21:18-19

Jesus went to the Temple looking for fruit AND THERE WAS NONE.

Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out all the people buying and selling animals for sacrifice. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves. He said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves!” – Matthew 21:12-13

Jesus considered divorce looking for fruit AND THERE WAS NONE.

“Should a man be allowed to divorce his wife?”

Jesus responded, “…’God made them male and female’ from the beginning of creation. ‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.” – Mark 10:2b, 6-9

What is worse – to say you will NOT bear fruit but then bear fruit, or to say that you WILL bear fruit but then NOT bear fruit?

“But what do you think about this? A man with two sons told the older boy, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ The son answered, ‘No, I won’t go,’ but later he changed his mind and went anyway. Then the father told the other son, ‘You go,’ and he said, ‘Yes, sir, I will.’ But he didn’t go.

“Which of the two obeyed his father?” – Matthew 21:28-31a

Jesus has purchased our salvation and prepared the way for us to bear fruit. He expects us to do what he has called us to do – bear fruit. If we do not make use of this salvation and bear fruit as he intended, what will his response be?

“Now listen to another story. A certain landowner planted a vineyard, built a wall around it, dug a pit for pressing out the grape juice, and built a lookout tower. Then he leased the vineyard to tenant farmers and moved to another country. At the time of the grape harvest, he sent his servants to collect his share of the crop. But the farmers grabbed his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another. So the landowner sent a larger group of his servants to collect for him, but the results were the same.

“Finally, the owner sent his son, thinking, ‘Surely they will respect my son.’

“But when the tenant farmers saw his son coming, they said to one another, ‘Here comes the heir to this estate. Come on, let’s kill him and get the estate for ourselves!’ So they grabbed him, dragged him out of the vineyard, and murdered him.

“When the owner of the vineyard returns,” Jesus asked, “what do you think he will do to those farmers?”

The religious leaders replied, “He will put the wicked men to a horrible death and lease the vineyard to others who will give him his share of the crop after each harvest.”

Then Jesus asked them, “Didn’t you ever read this in Scriptures?
‘The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.
This is the Lord’s doing, and it is wonderful to see.’

“I tell you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation that will produce the proper fruit. Anyone who stumbles over that stone will be broken to pieces, and it will crush anyone it falls on.” – Matthew 21:33-44

If we call ourselves Christians and create an appearance of being Christian, yet our lives do not produce fruit, we are wolves disguised as sheep.

“Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.” – Matthew 7:15-20

Producing fruit is not something I can do on my own. “Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?” I have to allow God to make me into a good tree in order to produce good fruit. I go to God, just as I am, submitting who I am in order to be clothed with who He is.

“The Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a king who prepared a great wedding feast for his son…But when the king came in to meet the guests, he noticed a man who wasn’t wearing the proper clothes for a wedding. ‘Friend,’ he asked, ‘how is it that you are here without wedding clothes?’ But the man had no reply. Then the king said to his aides, ‘Bind his hands and feet and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

“For many are called, but few are chosen.” – Matthew 22:2,11-14

Am I wearing the “proper clothes” today? Am I clothed in the kind of real faith that produces spiritual fruit? Precious Lord, thank you for the gift of salvation and the opportunity to work in your vineyard today. Empty me of my own selfish tendencies, fill me with your Spirit and work through me to produce fruit for you today. Amen.

Pray with Confidence

Today’s Reading: Matthew 20:20-34 and 21:18-22; Mark 10:46-52 and 11:12-14,20-25

What is heavy on your heart? What are you praying for right now? What do you need to see God do? This morning’s study continues where we left off yesterday. Jesus taught us to pray – to bring our requests to God. Jesus also taught us how to pray – with SHAMELESS PERSISTENCE and CONFIDENT BOLDNESS. Jesus taught us to have faith when we pray.

Pray boldly…

Then the mother of James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus with her sons. She knelt respectfully to ask a favor. “What is your request?” he asked.

She replied, “In your Kingdom, please let my two sons sit in places of honor next to you, one on your right and the other on your left.”

But Jesus answered by saying to them, “You don’t know what you are asking! Are you able to drink from the bitter cup of suffering I am about to drink?”

“Oh yes,” they replied, “we are able!” – Matthew 20:20-22

What is your reaction to this confident boldness displayed by James and John? We can learn from their reaction to Jesus’ question when we look at their heart. They were willing to suffer for Christ and they longed to be as close to Jesus as possible, in life and in death.

Pray sacrificially with a heart that is willing to suffer for Christ…

Jesus told them, “You will indeed drink from my bitter cup. But I have no right to say who will sit on my right or on my left. My father has prepared those places for the ones he has chosen.”

When the ten other disciples heard what James and John had asked, they were indignant. But Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Matthew 20:23-28

We learn from Matthew 20 that God wants us to pray with confident boldness that comes a heart of faith – a heart that is willing to suffer for Christ and a heart that is humbly prepared to serve others.

Pray for opportunities to serve and not to be exalted or glorified…

As Jesus and the disciples left the town of Jericho, a large crowd followed behind. Two blind men were sitting beside the road. When they heard that Jesus was coming that way, they began shouting, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” – Matthew 20:29-30

Can you hear the passion in their voices? Can you hear the desperation and the desire to be healed?

Pray with passion…

“Be quiet!” the crowd yelled at them.

But they only shouted louder, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”

When Jesus heard them, he stopped and called, “What do you want me to do for you?”

“Lord,” they said, “we want to see!” – Matthew 20:31-33

Jesus is giving these two men the opportunity to say specifically what they want him to do for them. He knows the desire of their heart and their physical need is obvious, but Jesus allows them the opportunity to define what they want him to do and why. It is in this moment that the crowd sees the faith of two men who desire nothing more than to see the face of Jesus.

Pray specifically. What are you asking Jesus to do for you today?

Jesus felt sorry for them and touched their eyes. Instantly they could see! Then they followed him. – Matthew 20:34

In the morning, as Jesus was returning to Jerusalem, he was hungry, and he noticed a fig tree beside the road. He went over to see if there were any figs, but there were only leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” And immediately the fig tree withered up.

The disciples were amazed when they saw this and asked, “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?” – Matthew 21:18-20

Pray confidently, knowing what Jesus is capable of accomplishing…

Then Jesus told them, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and don’t doubt, you can do things like this and much more. You can even say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. You can pray for anything, and if you have faith, you will receive it.” – Matthew 21:21-22

Perhaps these words of Jesus are hard to receive because you have not experienced the answer your heart desires when you pray. I have definitely been there. This reminder is good for me to hear. I pray God gives me the faith to…

Pray for anything. Pray in faith and without doubt. Pray with persistence and confidence.

Pray…

Pray with Persistence


Today’s Reading: Luke 18 and 11:1-13; Matthew 19:13-30; Mark 10:13-31

Once Jesus was in a certain place praying. As he finished, one of his disciples came to him and said, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”

Jesus said, “This is how you should pray:
Father may your name be kept holy.
May your Kingdom come soon.
Give us each day the food we need,
and forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.
And don’t let us yield to temptation.”

Then, teaching them more about prayer, he used this story: “Suppose you went to a friend’s house at midnight, wanting to borrow three loaves of bread…And suppose he calls out from his bedroom, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is locked for the night and my family and I are all in bed. I can’t help you.’ But I tell you this – though he won’t do it for friendship’s sake, if you KEEP KNOCKING long enough, he will get up and give you whatever you need because of your SHAMELESS PERSISTENCE.

“And so I tell you, KEEP ON asking, and you will receive what you ask for. KEEP ON seeking, and you will find. KEEP ON knocking, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” – Luke 11:1-10

Pray to God persistently…

One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up. “There was a judge in a certain city,” he said, “who neither feared God nor cared about people. A widow of that city came to him REPEATEDLY saying, ‘Give me justice in this dispute with my enemy.’ The judge ignored her for a while, but finally he said to himself, ‘I don’t fear God or care about people, but this woman is driving me crazy. I’m going to see that she gets justice, because she is wearing me out with her CONSTANT REQUESTS!’”

Then the Lord said, “Learn a lesson from this unjust judge. Even he rendered a just decision in the end. So don’t you think God will surely give justice to his chosen people who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will grant justice to them quickly! But when the Son of Man returns, how many will he find on the earth who have faith?” – Luke 18:1-8

Pray to God humbly without self-righteousness and without the attitude that God owes me or that I am more righteous than someone else…

“Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else. For I don’t cheat, I don’t sin, and I don’t commit adultery. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week and I give you a tenth of my income.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful on me, for I am a sinner.’ I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” – Luke 18:10-14

Pray to God with a child’s heart…

“Let the little children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” – Luke 18:16-17

Pray to God with empty hands…

Once a religious leader asked Jesus this question: “Good teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?”

“Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked him. “Only God is truly good. But to answer your question, you know the commandments: ‘You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. Honor your father and mother.’”

The man replied, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young.”

When Jesus heard his answer, he said, “There is still one thing you haven’t done. Sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

But when the man heard this he became very sad, for he was very rich.

When Jesus saw this, he said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God! In fact, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!”

Those who heard this said, “Then who in the world can be saved?” – Luke 18:18-26

Pray in faith, knowing that nothing is impossible for God…

He replied, “What is impossible for people is possible with God.”

Peter said, “We’ve left our homes to follow you.”

“Yes,” Jesus replied, “and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the Kingdom of God, will be repaid many times over in this life, and will have eternal life in the world to come.” – Luke 18:27-30

Pray…

The Cost of Service

Today’s Reading: Luke 17

How much does this seat cost? How much does this search cost? How much does this life cost? For the last three days we have asked ourselves some tough questions. We have asked God to expose our heart regarding our priorities and the use of our resources. Today, we consider another tough question – How would you like that served?

That is one of my favorite questions because it is usually asked after I have ordered a delicious steak. “Medium, please.” Yum, my mouth is watering just thinking about having a deliciously prepared steak served up on a beautiful platter and placed in front of me. But today’s scripture is not about how I am served, but how I serve God.

SERVE GOD GENEROUSLY

Luke chapter 16 speaks strongly of how we should serve God generously with our time, resources and money. In Luke 17, Jesus calls us to serve God faithfully, as a servant would serve his master. To serve God faithfully requires obedient submission to Jesus and His commands. We serve God faithfully, not looking for applause or thanks but simply out of obedience and dedication to our Master.

SERVE GOD FAITHFULLY

“When a servant comes in from plowing or taking care of the sheep, does his master say, ‘Come in and eat with me’? No, he says, ‘Prepare my meal, put on your apron, and serve me while I eat. Then you can eat later.’ And does the master thank the servant for doing what he was told to do? Of course not. In the same way, when you obey me you should say, ‘We are unworthy servants who have simply done our duty.’” – Luke 17:7-10

We know that God blesses His children, but do I serve Him in order to obtain those blessings or am I content in simply knowing that I have obeyed and knowing that my Master is pleased with my faithfulness?

SERVE GOD OBEDIENTLY

As he entered a village there, ten lepers stood at a distance, crying out, “Jesus, Master have mercy on us!”

He looked at them and said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed of their leprosy. – Luke 17:12-14

Jesus could have touched them and healed them immediately but instead, he gave them a command. Their response was immediate obedience. Before they even completed the task Jesus asked of them, they had received their healing.

SERVE GOD THANKFULLY

One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, “Praise God!” He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done. This man was a Samaritan.

Jesus asked, “Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” And Jesus said to the man, “Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you.” – Luke 17:15-19

SERVE GOD FOR HIS GLORY

When we take the time to thank God for all He is doing for us, we are taking the glory of the good in our lives and giving that glory to God. NO assuming God knows we are thankful. NO wondering if our blessings are circumstantial. God gets the credit. Not a result of my own doing or righteousness, but out of His grace and mercy, God gets the glory!

SERVE GOD PATIENTLY WAITING FOR HIS COMING

Then he said to his disciples, “The time is coming when the Son of Man returns, but you won’t see it. People will tell you, ‘Look, there is the Son of Man,’ or ‘Here he is,’ but don’t go out and follow them. For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other, so it will be on the day when the Son of Man comes. But first the Son of Man must suffer terribly and be rejected by this generation.

“When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. In those days, the people enjoyed banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat and the flood came and destroyed them all.

“And the world will be as it was in the days of Lot. People went about their daily business – eating and drinking, buying and selling, farming and building – until the morning Lot left Sodom. Then fire and burning sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. Yes, it will be ‘business as usual right up to the day when the Son of Man is revealed. On that day a person out on the deck of the roof must not go down into the house to pack. A person out in the field must not return home. Remember what happened to Lot’s wife! If you cling to your life, you will lose it, and if you let your life go, you will save it. That night two people will be asleep in one bed; one will be taken, the other left. Two women will be grinding flour together at the mill; one will be taken, the other left.” – Luke 17:22-36

Lord, today may you be pleased with our service to You. May you find us generous, faithful, obedient, and thankful. To YOU be the glory for all the good things in our lives yesterday, today and tomorrow. As we patiently wait for your return, we will go about whatever business you daily call us to. We are Your servants and You are our Master. Our eyes are fixed on You. Thank you for Your grace and for Your mercy. We love You, precious Father! Amen.