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Five Minutes with God

Five Minutes with God is a distinct and exciting approach to daily Bible devotionals. Instead of a lofty goal of going through the entire Bible—or even the New Testament—in one year, Five Minutes with God focuses on shorter passages so that the reader can absorb more of the text and apply it to everyday life. This daily podcast will step you through the Gospel accounts of the life of Christ. Each day’s podcast also ends with a thought for further reflection and a call to prayer. By reading, reflecting, and praying, Five Minutes with God will help you come to know Him, love Him, and follow Him like never before.
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Now displaying: August, 2015
Aug 31, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

As they heard these things, he proceeded to tell a parable, because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. He said therefore, “A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return. Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Engage in business until I come.’ But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’ When he returned, having received the kingdom, he ordered these servants to whom he had given the money to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by doing business. The first came before him, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made ten minas more.’ And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.’ And the second came, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made five minas.’ And he said to him, ‘And you are to be over five cities.’ Then another came, saying, ‘Lord, here is your mina, which I kept laid away in a handkerchief; for I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man. You take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.’ He said to him, ‘I will condemn you with your own words, you wicked servant! You knew that I was a severe man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? Why then did you not put my money in the bank, and at my coming I might have collected it with interest?’ And he said to those who stood by, ‘Take the mina from him, and give it to the one who has the ten minas.’ And they said to him, ‘Lord, he has ten minas!’ ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me.’ ”

This parable is often equated or confused with the parable of the talents (Matthew 25), but it is a separate parable told at a different place and time. It seems this parable was probably told while Jesus was still at the home of Zacchaeus and was likely prompted by Zacchaeus’ vow of repentance. The very similar parable of the talents will be discussed later, so with this text, let’s think about the element of the story that is different. There are enemies of the master in this story who do not want him to rule over them, and who try to undermine his authority and leadership. The enemies obviously represent the Jewish leaders who had refused to accept Jesus as the Messiah and would eventually kill Him in an attempt to prevent Him from ruling. There have always been, and always will be, enemies of God and Christ who will refuse to submit to their rule and will try to thwart their plans. But just as with the Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day, those efforts will be unsuccessful. Jesus reigns, and the day is coming when He will appear in the clouds and when every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that He is, indeed, Lord (Philippians 2:9-10).

What are some reasons people refuse to submit to God?

Don’t forget to pray and have a great day!

Aug 30, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

He entered Jericho and was passing through. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Zacchaeus is a fairly well-known character in the New Testament, mainly due to the children’s song about him. He has an extraordinary story because of the great change that took place in his heart and life as a result of his encounter with Jesus. In the course of these few short verses, Zacchaeus goes from being an unscrupulous tax collector to a benevolent disciple of Christ. He is a true example of repentance. But one of the most remarkable things about this man’s story, in my mind, is the extraordinary effort he put forth in order to see Jesus. His short stature prevented him from seeing Jesus through the crowds, so he ran ahead, found a tree to climb, and positioned himself to be able to see Jesus as He passed by. He was not looking for a miracle or special attention. The text only indicates that he sought to see who Jesus was, but his interest level was great enough to motivate a tremendous effort. It was an effort that Jesus noticed and, calling him by name, showed interest in this man that had shown so much interest in Him. Oh, that we and the world around us could be so interested in Jesus Christ.

Why do you think Zacchaeus was so interested in Jesus?

Don’t forget to pray and have a great day!

Aug 29, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.” And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.” And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way.

“Go your way; your faith has made you well.” These were Jesus’ words to Bartimaeus. I want to focus your thoughts for a moment on the “Go your way” portion of Jesus’ statement. Jesus was giving this man the freedom to go back to a normal life. He was free to go and experience and enjoy the aspects of life that blindness had taken from him. There was no obligation to Jesus, no price to pay, nothing else asked of him. But notice what Bartimaeus did: “And immediately he recovered his sight and followed Him on the way.” He did not take advantage of the opportunity to go his way, to return to a normal life, to celebrate his healing. He did not rush off to let his friends and family know of the wonderful thing that had happened to him. In response to his healing, he chose to follow the One who had restored his sight and, in many ways, his life. Jesus had given him a new lease on life, and he chose to give that life back to Jesus. What a wonderful example of the kind of faith, gratitude, and commitment to Christ we should all have.

What does it mean to follow Jesus today?

Don’t forget to pray and have a great day!

Aug 28, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

 

 

And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.” And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

This is a parallel passage to yesterday’s, but Mark frames the request of James and John with some of the details of the conversation that prompted that request. Jesus is foretelling His coming suffering, death, and resurrection. He is trying to prepare them for the difficult events of the not-too-distant future. James and John (and probably the others also) have trouble seeing or understanding the suffering of Jesus but are wholly focused on His glory. In response to their request, Jesus reminds them that to continue to follow Him will mean that they will have to endure the same sufferings He does. But they fail to grasp the cost of discipleship—the service, the sacrifice, and the suffering that faithfully following Christ will bring into their lives. Likewise, we need to understand the cost of discipleship in our own lives. We may not ever be called upon to suffer as the apostles or other early disciples of Jesus did, but we are called to leave the world behind and to follow after Christ, to choose Him above everything else. That commitment will require us to serve and sacrifice. Are we willing to pay the price?

What kind of sacrifices do Christians have to make today?

 

Don’t forget to pray and have a great day!

Aug 27, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” He said to them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Notoriety. Honor. Authority. They are some of the most sought-after achievements in our world today. We will work and sacrifice, and some will even lie and cheat to have them. But notoriety, honor, and authority are not new ambitions. They have always existed. Even with all of the influence and tutelage that Jesus offered, the apostles still struggled with these worldly pursuits. Even among the closest of Jesus’ followers, James and John (and their mother) wanted to be the greatest. They had not yet learned the vital lesson of servanthood. They did not yet understand what it truly meant to be followers of Christ. In our dog-eat-dog world of corporate ladders and “might makes right” thinking, the value of being a servant is almost non-existent. There is no glory in helping others, no honor in putting others first. But it is still true that God desires for His people to be servants. To be humble and compassionate in our lives is a Christ-like trait that we must aspire to have. Why? Because in the eyes of God, the first truly shall be last and the last first.

What does it mean to be a servant in today’s world?

Don’t forget to pray and have a great day!

Aug 26, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him, but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. So from that day on they made plans to put him to death. Jesus therefore no longer walked openly among the Jews, but went from there to the region near the wilderness, to a town called Ephraim, and there he stayed with the disciples. Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves. They were looking for Jesus and saying to one another as they stood in the temple, “What do you think? That he will not come to the feast at all?” Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where he was, he should let them know, so that they might arrest him.

“So from that day on, they made plans to put Him to death.” The raising of Lazarus was the final straw. Up until this point, the Jews’ attempts to take Jesus had been reactionary and spontaneous. It was this event that sparked the Jewish leaders’ organized plan to kill Him. It is interesting to me that, despite the goodness and power of Jesus, there were some who were always skeptical and suspicious of Him. While many believed in Him because of the raising of Lazarus, the text says that some went and told the Pharisees. They were looking to stir up trouble. They saw Jesus as a threat that had to be dealt with. Interestingly, as you look through the pages of history, there have always been people, governments, groups, and even religions that have followed in the steps of the Pharisees. Despite Jesus’ goodness and power as displayed in God’s Word, they have seen Him as a threat to their power, authority, or “freedom” and have plotted to destroy Jesus and His authority within their own time and realm of influence. It continues to happen today in our own world. May we all be willing to see and believe in Jesus.

Why do you think so many see Jesus as a threat?

Don’t forget to pray and have a great day!

Aug 25, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

As Jesus, and those who were with Him, gathered at the tomb of Lazarus, one thing was sure—Lazarus was dead. It had been four days. He had been wrapped and prepared for burial. He had been placed in a cave as his tomb, and the opening had been sealed. So sure was Martha of her brother’s death that she objected to Jesus’ instruction to remove the stone from the tomb’s opening, concerned about the stench that would surely emanate from Lazarus’ decomposing body. Why does any of this matter? While the power to heal sickness was amazing and unique to Jesus, He had certainly demonstrated His power over physical illness. Those who believed in Him had no trouble believing that He could heal the sick. In this case, both Mary and Martha stated that, if Jesus had been there in time, He could have healed Lazarus. But to raise the dead was another matter completely. It was a challenge to the faith of even the most faithful to believe that Jesus could raise from the dead one who had been dead four days. But once again, and in dramatic fashion, Jesus powerfully proved His authority over physical life, and Lazarus lived.

What encouragement do we gain from Jesus’ raising of Lazarus?

Don’t forget to pray and have a great day!

Aug 24, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”

“Jesus wept.” It is the shortest verse in the Bible and an incredibly simple, matter-of-fact statement. But it is filled to overflowing with meaning and significance. Have you ever wondered why Jesus wept? If He knew that He was going to raise Lazarus and what the final outcome was going to be, why feel sorrow? Why weep? The answer, I believe, is given in v. 33: “When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in His spirit and greatly troubled.” Jesus knew that Lazarus would be raised, but He felt sorrow because His friends felt sorrow. He wept because they wept. His tears were not for Lazarus, but for those who were brokenhearted and overwhelmed with grief. And so it is with us. The Hebrews writer says that Jesus is a high priest who is “touched with the feeling of our infirmity” (Hebrews 4:15 KJV). He hurts with and for us when we hurt. He understands our suffering as only someone who has experienced the same suffering can. He is a compassionate friend and Lord. What a blessing it is to serve Him!

Why is it important that Jesus understands our sufferings?

Don’t forget to pray and have a great day!

Aug 23, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

Today, and for the next couple of days, we will be thinking about the beautiful story of the raising of Lazarus. There are so many lessons in these texts that give us great insights into the mind and heart of God, insights that I believe are relevant to us today. In the beginning of the story, Jesus receives word that His friend Lazarus is sick, but despite Lazarus’ sisters’ plea for help, Jesus tarries two days before making the trip to Bethany. Why? If Jesus had the ability to prevent the death of Lazarus and the overwhelming sorrow that it brought to Mary and Martha, why did He not go immediately? Why did He not speak the word that would have healed Lazarus of his sickness? So often in our own lives, we ask very similar questions: Why isn’t God answering my prayers? Why doesn’t He help me? Doesn’t He understand how urgent my need is? The answer to our questions is found in Jesus’ reason for not going immediately to Lazarus. For both him and us, the Lord works in His own time, knowing that our struggles are sometimes necessary for growth. He not only knows what we need but when we need it, and His timing is always perfect according to His will and purpose.

How can we grow from our struggles?

Don’t forget to pray and have a great day!

Aug 22, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing at first, and there he remained. And many came to him. And they said, “John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” And many believed in him there.

Jesus retreated from the murderous Jews and came to a place that was familiar to Him. It was the place where John had spent so much time teaching and baptizing. People had come to this place in droves to hear John speak about the One who would come after him, the One whose shoes he was not worthy to latch, the One the prophets spoke of, the Messiah. Now many of those same people had come back to this spot, not to hear John, but to see Jesus. As they remembered the words that John had spoken concerning that special One that would come after him, and as they considered the signs that they had seen Jesus perform, they believed in Him. Ironically, Jesus had just rebuked the Jewish leaders, those who were supposedly the most religious among them, the ones who knew the law and prophets best of all, for ignoring the signs that He had done and not believing in Him, even though He did the works of God. What is the lesson for us today? The Bible provides all the evidence that anyone needs to be able to believe in Jesus and follow after Him. May we be like those who remembered what they had been taught and believed.

What evidence does the Bible provide about the truth of Jesus Christ?

Don’t forget to pray and have a great day!

Aug 21, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken— do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands.

Isn’t it interesting how we will so often rest on our own understandings and preconceived ideas and wholly reject something (or someone) without examining the evidence? The Jewish leaders had already made up their minds. Jesus was a blasphemer! He was a man who claimed to be God, and He was worthy of death. That was their belief. There would be no changing their minds. In His defense, Jesus simply tells them to look at His works. “If I am not doing the works of My Father, then do not believe Me; but if I do them...[then] believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father.” It was a simple and straightforward argument. But there would be no convincing them. Their minds were made up. We are often much more like the Jewish leaders than we would like to think. We rest on our traditions and opinions and turn a blind eye to the evidence of Scripture. How much different would the religious world be today if we would all lay aside our preconceived ideas and simply allow the Bible to guide our thoughts and actions? May God help us all to be open to and accepting of His word.

Why do you think we tend to hold so tightly to our traditions and preconceived ideas?

Don’t forget to pray and have a great day!

 

Aug 20, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”

Jesus, in this passage, talks to the Jewish leaders about “His sheep.” His statements here have caused some confusion and even false teaching. In reality, however, they are fairly straight-forward and easy to understand. He tells the Jewish leaders that they are not of His sheep and then adds, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” Some have used these statements to support the doctrine of predestination, but is that what Jesus is teaching? Why are the Jewish leaders not of His sheep? Simply because they have not heard His voice and followed Him, for that is who Jesus says His sheep are. The “knowing them” that Jesus speaks of is an experiential knowing—He knows them because they have followed Him and obeyed His word (see Matthew 7:21-23). The sheepfold of Christ is open to all humanity. We each have the opportunity to be His sheep—to hear Him, follow Him, and be known and cared for by Him. But if we desire to be His sheep, we must, through our faith and obedience, come to Him and enter the fold through Him (see John 10:7-9). What a blessing it is to be sheep of the Good Shepherd.

How do we enter the fold of Christ?

 

Don’t forget to pray and have a great day!

 

Aug 19, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ So the last will be first, and the first last.”

This parable of Jesus paints a beautiful picture of the love and mercy of God toward all those who would enter the heavenly kingdom. The wondrous glory of heaven—rest from labors, freedom from anything that troubles, glorious presence of God—is prepared for all those who have been washed in the blood of Christ, and who have been faithful to Him. Those who are blessed to learn the truth at an early age and enjoy a lifetime of the blessings that come from a faithful relationship with God spend much time anticipating and longing for that heavenly home. Others come to God in midlife, having been convinced of the truth at a later time, and enjoy the security of knowing that their lives are safe in the hands of a loving Savior. Still others do not find the truth until the twilight of their lives and rejoice in knowing that they are finally free from sin and bound for that eternal home. Regardless of when one comes to Christ, the prize is set—the immeasurable glory of an eternity spent in the presence of God, His precious Son, and with all the saints. Thanks be to God for His overwhelming love and mercy!

What do you look forward to most about heaven?

Don’t forget to pray and have a great day!

 

Aug 18, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, 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.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Then Peter said in reply, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.

This teaching of Jesus is not about the evil of riches or worldly things. It is about the hearts of those who would follow after Jesus. He has just finished a conversation with the rich young ruler. You can almost picture that young man walking away with his head bowed down in sorrow as Jesus turns to His disciples and begins to use that occasion to teach them. In that day, the wealthy were considered to be blessed and favored by God. If they could not be saved, then who could? But Jesus’ words are not really about the rich at all, but about their (and our) attitude toward those things. Just as the rich young ruler’s wealth could not buy him salvation, our material things cannot acquire salvation for us. Because we depend on worldly things so much in this life to provide all that we need, it is easy for us to believe that our worldly things might somehow provide for our spiritual needs as well. We may and should do many good and commendable works with our physical things, but none of those things can earn salvation for us. Salvation is only found in a faithful relationship with God through Jesus Christ that puts Him first and above all else in our lives.

What should our attitudes be toward worldly things?

 

Don’t forget to pray and have a great day!

 

Aug 17, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

This is, in my opinion, one of the saddest stories in the New Testament. Sadder still is the fact that it is played out over and over in our world today. The man at the center of this story was a good man, a religious man, a righteous man. He was better than most in his obedience to the law. But that wasn’t enough. He wanted more. He wanted to have eternal life. Not only did he want eternal life, but he came to the right place to find it. He seemed to have all the pieces in place—obedience, desire, submission. He was almost there. But there was a problem. Jesus, knowing the young man’s heart, instructed him to sell all that he had and come follow Him. Though this young man obeyed God’s law, he worshipped his things. They had become his god. If he was to have eternal life, he would have to replace his god (worldly things) with the God of heaven and earth. It is still true today that many are not faithful to God because they worship their things instead. Even many who wear the name of Christ are guilty of serving the god of this world. But just like the rich young ruler, we cannot serve both. We must choose whether we will serve God or things.

Why can we not serve both God and things?

 

Don’t forget to pray and have a great day!

Aug 16, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.

“Children are to be seen and not heard.” Have you ever heard this statement made, or if you haven’t heard it said out loud, you have perhaps seen it played out in the attitudes and actions of people. Children can be restless, active, and distracting at times. And we are often nowhere more intolerant of those qualities than at church. “Why can’t they be quiet?” “Why can’t they sit still?” “Why doesn’t someone take them out?” When we adopt these attitudes, we come dangerously close to the behavior of the disciples who rebuked those bringing children to Jesus. They felt like the children were just getting in the way. Jesus had too many important things to do to be wasting His time with children. They forgot that each one of those children had a soul and was loved by God. Jesus was “indignant” with them and reminded them of the wonderful qualities and hearts that children have that we would all do well to emulate. Let us encourage those who are trying to bring their children to Jesus, and may we all strive to become like little children before God.

What qualities do children have that we should emulate?

 

Don’t forget to pray and have a great day!

Aug 15, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

Now when Jesus had finished these sayings, he went away from Galilee and entered the region of Judea beyond the Jordan. And large crowds followed him, and he healed them there. And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” The disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” But he said to them, “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.”

There is possibly no one issue in the church or in the religious world as a whole that has caused more controversy or trouble than the issue of marriage, divorce, and remarriage. But as we see from this reading, the controversy over this issue is not a new one. Even in Jesus’ day (and in fact long before Jesus’ day), it was a problem among God’s people. The Jews come to Jesus to ask His opinion on the issue. In essence, what Jesus tells them is not to depend on men, whether it be Moses or rabbis of their own day, to guide their thinking on marriage, but rather to look at what God desired and designed when He created marriage in the very beginning. God’s intention and plan for marriage was that it be a lifelong bond between one man and one woman. God creates that bond in marriage, and only God has the right to dissolve it. Oh, how much better our world would be if everyone would respect and abide by God’s plan and design for marriage.

Why do you think faithfulness and commitment in marriage matters to God?

 

Don’t forget to pray and have a great day!

 

Aug 14, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

While yesterday’s reading dealt with the constancy of our prayer lives, today’s deals with the attitude of our prayers. In this parable, Jesus contrasts the prayers and hearts of two men. One of them, a Pharisee (if his description of his life is accurate), had gone above and beyond in devoting his life to righteous living. But while his life was commendable, his attitude was not. He was haughty, arrogant, and self-serving in his prayer. His audience was not God, but those who might hear his prayer and be impressed with his righteousness. The other man, a tax collector, comes before God with a humble and broken spirit, confessing his sinfulness and begging for God’s mercy. What is the lesson in this text for us? We must remember, unlike the Pharisee, that despite our best efforts and all the good that we might accomplish, we are sinners, unworthy of God’s mercy and salvation. As we go to God in prayer, we must go before Him in humility, recognizing our dependence upon Him and His grace and mercy toward us.

Why is our attitude in prayer important?

 

Don’t forget to pray and have a great day!

Aug 13, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’ ” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

Have you ever wondered if praying for the same thing over and over is displeasing to God? Does it show a lack of faith in God that we can’t, or don’t, take our concern or need to Him one time and consider it taken care of, never to be mentioned again? In this parable recorded only by Luke, Jesus gives the answer to those questions, and that answer is far different than the way we often feel. What we often view as a lack of faith or trust, God views as dependence and submission. Just as the widow in the parable goes repeatedly to the judge for help because she realizes that he is her only hope, we take our cares and needs to God in recognition of the fact that it is only in Him that we find our hope. God desires for us to pray to Him and not to cease in seeking His help and care. Of course, as we pray, we must do so in faith, trusting God to care for us in the way that is best for us according to His will. But given that stipulation, God is not bothered or displeased by our continual seeking of His consolation and blessings. His love for us is deep and abiding, and His desire is that we continually seek Him and a closer walk with Him.

Why is it important to God that we pray to Him?

 

Don’t forget to pray and have a great day!

Aug 12, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” And he said to the disciples, “The days are coming when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. And they will say to you, ‘Look, there!’ or ‘Look, here!’ Do not go out or follow them. For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all— so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed. On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it. I tell you, in that night there will be two in one bed. One will be taken and the other left. There will be two women grinding together. One will be taken and the other left.” And they said to him, “Where, Lord?” He said to them, “Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.”

This is a challenging text that has led to many interpretations and even false teachings. It would be impossible, in the few words that this thought allows, to adequately expound on all that has been said or thought about this passage. Nevertheless, the overall meaning of the text is pretty clear and provides a powerful lesson and exhortation for us. However, one might understand the details of Jesus’ words, His message is clearly summed up in two words: Be Prepared! It is easy and natural for us to become comfortable in our lives and in this world and to see both as permanent and reliable. But Jesus reminds us that they are not. One of the central messages of this text and of the entire Bible is that this world is temporary. There is coming a day when Jesus will return, not to live or reign on the earth, but to bring this world to an end and to sit in judgment over all humanity. When that day comes, Jesus warns in this passage, there will be no more time or opportunity for preparation. Our eternal fate will be sealed. Therefore, we must prepare ourselves for that day, being ever watchful for our Lord’s return!

How should we prepare ourselves for Jesus’ return?

 

Don’t forget to pray and have a great day!

Aug 11, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

 

On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”

This text is not as much about the miraculous healing of these ten lepers as it is about their gratitude, or lack thereof. Leprosy was a disease that not only robbed its victims of their health, but of their lives in every sense. With this dreaded disease came the loss of family, community, and every social tie and activity in the leper’s life. In this miracle, these ten men’s lives were restored. Not only was this fatal disease taken from them, but they could return to their families, friends, jobs, and places in society. It was truly a life-changing event. Can you imagine not saying thank you, not making your way back to Jesus to give thanks, honor, and praise to the One who had given you so much? Yet nine of these men did not. Shameful! But have you considered that so many do the same thing today? Jesus has given us so many blessings, the greatest of which is the healing of our souls from sin. We have been saved, rescued, redeemed. But so many never acknowledge the great mercy, grace, and love that God has shown toward us through Jesus. They never return to give thanks, honor, or praise to the One who has given them so much. May God help us to be ever grateful!

How do we show our gratitude to Jesus?

Don’t forget to pray and have a great day!

Aug 10, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. “Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’ ”

“Increase our faith!” It is a commendable request made by the apostles. They desired to be better and stronger in their lives and in their service to the Lord. They wanted to be able to do all the things that Jesus was commanding them. But Jesus, knowing their hearts, warns them against the danger of becoming prideful in their faith and service, lest they begin to think that they, in their goodness, deserve a reward from God for all that they have done. Jesus reminds them, and us, of the role of a servant and the relationship of that servant with the master. We must remember that a servant’s role is to serve. He does not deserve or earn a reward for doing his duty. In our relationship with God, we are His servants. God has called us to serve Him, and we who are His children have answered that call and accepted that responsibility. We must remember that, no matter how much good we do, no matter how much knowledge or faith we have, we are still sinful creatures who have not earned a home in heaven. Our eternal reward is a gift of God’s grace. We must not depend on ourselves, but rather trust in God’s mercy and love for our eternal salvation.

How can we avoid trusting in ourselves for salvation?

Don’t forget to pray and have a great day!

Aug 9, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

And he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin. Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”

God cares deeply for His children. Like an earthly father with his children, God is very protective of and caring toward those who are His. In this world of temptation and sin, God understands it is inevitable that his children will face offense and wrongdoing, but He does not look favorably upon those who are the source of that offense. There are two principles related to this characteristic of God that we need to understand. First, we must be very careful to avoid causing offense to those who are children of God. Through our words or example, we must strive to bring others closer to God, not lead them away. Second, when one causes offense to us, we must be ready and willing to love that person and treat them in such a way that they might recognize their wrong and repent. Then we must be willing to forgive them. It should be our earnest desire that no person face the wrath of God, but that all become His faithful children.

What are some ways that we might work to bring others closer to God?

Don’t forget to pray and have a great day!

Aug 9, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times. “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

Forgiveness. It is something that we all want and need, but something that we often struggle to give others. In this text, Peter asks a question that we might all wonder about sometimes. How often should I forgive a person who continues to do wrong toward me? Peter’s offer of seven times was a very generous one (the Jewish rule of thumb for the day was three times). However, Jesus’ instructions concerning our forgiveness of others were much broader, and much more challenging. “Seventy-seven times” was not meant to pinpoint a specific number of times that we are required to forgive, but rather to teach a principle—forgive as often as is needed. Jesus gives this command based on the nature of God’s forgiveness toward us as demonstrated by Jesus’ parable. Whatever wrong someone might have committed against us, and however often that wrong might have been committed, it cannot compare to the number of times that we have sinned against God. Yet God’s forgiveness is abundant and constantly available. If God is willing to forgive us so often, we ought to extend that forgiveness to others. May God help us to forgive our brother!

Why is it so important that we forgive others?

Don’t forget to pray and have a great day!

Aug 8, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

Conflicts among men are inevitable. Differences in personalities, ideas, and opinions will often lead to disagreements, misunderstandings, and even strife. We are often guilty of hurting or wronging others by our words or actions. But the bigger problem often comes as we try to deal with those situations when we have either hurt or have been hurt by someone. We become defensive, make excuses, hold grudges, or try to get even, and only exasperate the problem by these actions. But God has not left us without counsel and guidance on this issue. He has given us a pattern by which we can and should deal with those who have done harm to us and wrong toward us. As we consider the steps God instructs us to take in dealing with those difficult situations, I want to remind us all of the motivation behind those actions. As we go to our brother, as we try to help him see his wrongdoing, even as we separate ourselves from him when necessary, we must remember that our motivation is or should always be love! Our desire should always be to restore the relationship and help him restore his relationship with God. No other motivation is acceptable to God!

Why do we so often not follow these instructions in dealing with conflict?

Don’t forget to pray and have a great day!

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