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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: September, 2015
Sep 30, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

“We wish to see Jesus.” What a wonderful attitude and powerful request. The language indicates that these God-fearing Greeks wanted to do more than simply to see Him; they wanted to speak with Him, to get to know Him. They had heard about Jesus and wanted to know the Messiah. Jesus’ response was not to these men specifically, but to the entire crowd in general. Throughout Jesus’ ministry, He had often said that His time had not yet come. His purpose on the earth was not complete, and the time for His atoning death had not come yet. But the coming of these Greek men is another indication that things have changed. Jesus’ time has now come. He has accomplished all that was needed with the exception of the shedding of His blood for the sins of the world. It was time for God’s saving grace to be extended to all nations and people. It was time for sin’s power to be vanquished and Satan’s hold to be broken. Jesus’ death was imminent, and the world would never be the same. It was time.

What do you think v. 25 means?

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

Sep 29, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

“But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” And every day he was teaching in the temple, but at night he went out and lodged on the mount called Olivet. And early in the morning all the people came to him in the temple to hear him.

As I read this passage, my eye is immediately drawn to the phrase, “Lest your hearts be weighed down.” Jesus, still speaking about the end of time and His return, is warning His listeners not to become distracted by the things of this world so that they are not prepared for His coming. But this phrase indicates that Jesus was warning about more than just a simple lack of awareness or watchfulness. He was warning about the danger of allowing the cares and temptations of life to fill up their hearts and keep them from being devoted to God. Once again, the focus of Jesus’ teaching is on the heart. It may be that we don’t often see how participating in the pleasures of life can be detrimental to our spiritual well-being. We make a distinction between the physical and spiritual and don’t understand the close connection. But as Jesus teaches, the physical things that we participate in and make a part of our lives have an indelible impact on our hearts. What we do affects where our hearts are, and where our hearts are define our lives and relationship with God.

How can the cares of life “weigh down” our hearts?

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

Sep 28, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

“But the exact day and hour? No one knows that, not even heaven’s angels, not even the Son. Only the Father. So keep a sharp lookout, for you don’t know the timetable. It’s like a man who takes a trip, leaving home and putting his servants in charge, each assigned a task, and commanding the gatekeeper to stand watch. So, stay at your post, watching. You have no idea when the homeowner is returning, whether evening, midnight, cockcrow, or morning. You don’t want him showing up unannounced, with you asleep on the job. I say it to you, and I’m saying it to all: Stay at your post. Keep watch.”

This, of course, is the same conversation that we read of from Matthew’s account yesterday. In his account, Mark alludes to the stewardship principle that Jesus so often focuses on in His teaching. Jesus’ return is tantamount to the return of the master to take account of the things that his servants have been left in charge of during his absence. In this present age, while we await the return of our Lord, we are indeed stewards of His kingdom, the church. We are responsible for using our things, our talents, and our time in a way that will allow us to be pleasing to Him and that will allow His church to fulfill its purpose and mission in this world. In caring for the Lord’s kingdom, we must remember that His return is imminent. Our goal and aim must be to be pleasing to Him and to be faithful stewards of those things that He has entrusted to us. And knowing that His return will be without warning, we must work to be ready for that great event.

Why has God given us the responsibility of being stewards?

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

Sep 27, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

“But the exact day and hour? No one knows that, not even heaven’s angels, not even the Son. Only the Father knows. “The Arrival of the Son of Man will take place in times like Noah’s. Before the great flood everyone was carrying on as usual, having a good time right up to the day Noah boarded the ark. They knew nothing—until the flood hit and swept everything away. “The Son of Man’s Arrival will be like that: Two men will be working in the field—one will be taken, one left behind; two women will be grinding at the mill—one will be taken, one left behind. So stay awake, alert. You have no idea what day your Master will show up. But you do know this: You know that if the homeowner had known what time of night the burglar would arrive, he would have been there with his dogs to prevent the break-in. Be vigilant just like that. You have no idea when the Son of Man is going to show up.

When will the Lord return? For centuries, men have searched for the answer to this question. Many have theorized, some have predicted, but none have been successful. Jesus clearly teaches that the time of His return is appointed by the Father and is only known to Him. There will be no signs or precursors. Until that day, the world will continue to function, and life will go on as it always has. People will work, rest, play, and carry on relationships. All will be as normal until the moment when Jesus returns to judge the world and to deliver His church up to the Father. So considering the unknown time of Jesus’ return, what is His advice? “Stay awake” and “be ready.” To “stay awake” simply means to be aware and conscious of the possibility of His return at any moment. Don’t be caught off-guard. To “be ready” means just what it says—to constantly be in a state of preparedness to meet the Lord. We may not know when the Lord is going to return, but we have certainly been told how to be prepared for that great event. May God help us all to watch and be ready!

Why do you think God has not told us when His Son would return?

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

Sep 26, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

“Take a lesson from the fig tree. From the moment you notice its buds form, the merest hint of green, you know summer’s just around the corner. And so it is with you. When you see all these things, you know he is at the door. Don’t take this lightly. I’m not just saying this for some future generation, but for this one, too—these things will happen. Sky and earth will wear out; my words won’t wear out.

After reminding them of what is truly important, Jesus returns to the physical circumstances the disciples face. The physical destruction of Jerusalem is coming. It will take place during their lives. They must ready themselves and be prepared. They must watch for the signs and know when it is time to act. As this text concludes, there is the reminder of the sovereignty of God’s will. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.” It was God’s will and purpose that Jerusalem be destroyed. Though it may have been hard for many of that day to understand, there was a grander purpose and plan in place. God’s desire, as it always has been, was for the salvation of His people, the church. Through the events of history, God would providentially cause the spread of the gospel and the growth of His church. What a wonderful thing it is to worship and serve a God Whose will rules the universe and Whose word will never pass away.

Why is it important that God’s Word will never pass away?

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

Sep 25, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

“But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

In the minds of the Jews, there was no worse fate to consider than the destruction of the temple and holy city. But in this part of the text, Jesus turns His attention to a much more final destruction, the true end of time. While a physical invasion from an earthly army might have power to kill and destroy, that power is only limited and temporary. However, Jesus foretells a time when He will appear to bring an end to all things for all time. He will send His angels to gather together those who belong to Him and to bring the world to judgment. What is His purpose? Maybe to bring perspective to this situation, to remind His disciples that there are things that are more important than this world and its cares, to remind them of what it is that they are truly living and fighting for. There are times when we all need perspective, to remind us of what is truly important. Just as Jesus did on this occasion, God constantly through His word gives us those important reminders.

How does God remind us of what is truly important?

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

Sep 24, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

“But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where he ought not to be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let the one who is on the housetop not go down, nor enter his house, to take anything out, and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! Pray that it may not happen in winter. For in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, and never will be. And if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days. And then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand.

The prophet Daniel had foretold a progression of kingdoms and empires that would come, conquering and possessing the land. It was a foregone conclusion that Jerusalem would be invaded and destroyed. Beginning in the mid 60s A.D., the city was partially surrounded and was ultimately completely overrun and destroyed in A.D. 70. It is this event that Jesus is warning about in this text. He gives His disciples (who will be Christians at the time of the invasion) instructions of what to do in order to survive: don’t take time to gather your things and flee the city. Jesus’ sole interest is in the preservation of His people. That was true of the destruction of Jerusalem, and it is true today. The New Testament warns us of an enemy with a mission of destroying us. It is not a physical enemy but a spiritual one. But Jesus gives us instructions concerning how to survive the attacks, just as He did for those living in His own day. If we will listen to His teaching and follow His precepts, we will survive and stand victorious in the end.

What has Jesus instructed us to do to survive our enemies’ attacks?

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

Sep 23, 2015

Host: Ron House

Sponsor: Start2Finish

And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” And as he sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?” And Jesus began to say to them, “See that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains. “But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them. And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations. And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. And brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death. And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

For the Jews, the city of Jerusalem (and the temple in particular), was a great source of pride. It was seen as a permanent and untouchable symbol of their glory as God’s chosen people. But in just a few short years, it would be completely destroyed. However, for Jesus’ disciples, there were even greater challenges that lay ahead. The path of faithfulness was going to prove to be a very difficult one, riddled with false teachers, persecution, and betrayal. They were not going to be alone, for the Holy Spirit would be with them to guide them. But their faithfulness would require commitment and endurance. Two thousand years have passed since Jesus spoke those words, yet they are just as true today as they ever were. Faithful discipleship is still a difficult path that demands commitment and endurance. It requires that our love for Christ be greater than our love for anything else. But at the end of that difficult road, there is a great prize. Jesus’ promise is a great one, and one that is sure: “But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”

Why is the Christian life often a difficult one?

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

Sep 22, 2015

Host: Ron House

Sponsor: Start2Finish

And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

How does God judge the things that we give to Him, and the way in which we give those things? This observation made by Jesus as He watches people put money into the treasury gives us some insight into the answers to those questions. First of all, Jesus does not judge or condemn the giving of those who gave out of their abundance. They had been greatly blessed with many things and gave a portion of those things that the gospel writer describes as “much.” But because of their wealth, their giving was not necessarily sacrificial. In contrast, the poor widow that Jesus points out had given “her whole livelihood.” In a great act of devotion and faith, she had given to God literally all that she had from a monetary standpoint. Though it was a minuscule amount of money, Jesus commends her as giving more than all others who had given to the treasury. This text reiterates the point that it is our hearts that God desires more than anything else. As we give to God of our time, talents, or things, whether we can give much or only a little, He desires for us to give with a whole-hearted devotion and faith.

Why is God concerned with the heart with which we give?


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

Sep 21, 2015

Host: Ron House

Sponsor: Start2Finish

How beautiful, and yet how sad, are the words of Jesus as He looks over the city of Jerusalem and mourns over her rejection of Him and His Father. In this short statement, we catch a glimpse of the heart of God—how badly He wants to be a Father to His people, to care for them, protect them, provide for them, and love them. But in Jesus’ words, they “were not willing.” They had chosen another path, other ways, and other gods. They had devoted themselves to their traditions, to earthly powers, and to their own selfish desires instead of being devoted to God. They were not willing to submit to God and put themselves under His care. They were not willing to put Him above all else. So God, with sadness in His heart, allowed them to follow the path that they had chosen. He had removed His protective and benevolent care from them and had removed them from their place as His special people. It was not His choice but theirs. God’s desire for us is the same—to protect, provide for, care for, and love us as His dear children. We must decide whether we are willing to be His children. The choice is ours. May we choose God!

What is involved in choosing to be children of God?

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

Sep 20, 2015

 

Host: Ron House

Sponsor: Start2Finish

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.

How ironic is the statement of the scribes and Pharisees that Jesus highlights in this condemnation. The Jewish leaders speak against their forefathers who persecuted the prophets, saying that they never would have done what those of old did. But they have already in their hearts made the decision to put to death the Messiah, the Son of God. That atrocious event is only days away, and Jesus brings to light the murder that is in their hearts and foretells of their persecution and murder of many servants of God. They are in fact worse than their fathers, and Jesus warns them that the blood of all the faithful servants of God who have ever been slain is on their hands. What a sobering charge this was that Jesus made against them. But as the scribes and Pharisees heard these words proclaimed by Jesus, they knew in their heart of hearts that He spoke the truth. They knew their intent and their plans. Though they no doubt kept up a pretense of righteousness before the people, they were well aware of the malice and hatred that had taken over their hearts. Their course had been laid, and their fates sealed.

How do you think the scribes and Pharisees justified their hypocrisy?

 

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

Sep 19, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel! “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

These condemnations of the scribes and Pharisees all deal with the outward actions vs. the inward attitudes. God is certainly concerned about our outward lives—the things that we teach, practice, say, and do. He desires that our actions be godly and obedient. But there is more to being what God would have us to be than just the outward actions. God also cares about where those actions come from—the heart. He cares about our attitudes, motives, and thoughts. He wants the outward man to be a reflection of what the inside looks like. How often do we read in the New Testament about the importance of having both the proper heart and actions involved in our worship (John 4:24), teaching (Ephesians 4:15), and lives (1 Peter 1:22)? It is easy for us, like the scribes and Pharisees, to become so consumed with maintaining the outward appearance of righteousness that we can neglect the heart and spirit that is to motivate our Christian lives. May we ever strive to have hearts that are filled with love and faith and that motivate lives of obedience and service.

Why is the heart so important to God?

 

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

 

Sep 18, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred? And you say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? So whoever swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. And whoever swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it. And whoever swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who sits upon it.

After warning His listeners not to follow the example of the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus turns His attention to the Jewish leaders as He speaks to them directly. “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” Consider the seriousness of the accusation that Jesus levies against them in this text. They have shut up the kingdom of heaven. For those who were in leadership positions among God’s people, those who were to be examples of righteousness and spiritual leaders among the Jews, their responsibility was to lead the people toward God and salvation through obedience to the Law of Moses. But by their actions and example, they had actually done the opposite. There were leading people away from God and denying them entrance into the kingdom of heaven. For a leader of God’s people, could there be any worse testimony given against him than that he has shut up the kingdom of heaven to the very ones that he is supposed to be leading into that kingdom? What a difficult accusation it must have been for the scribes and Pharisees to hear and consider.

Can we shut up the kingdom of heaven for people today? If so, how?

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

Sep 17, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

In this text, Jesus never calls the scribes and Pharisees “hypocrites” (though He will several times in the next few verses), but He does describe their actions and, in so doing, certainly characterizes them as truly hypocritical. Do as they command, He teaches, because they sit in positions of authority, but do not follow their example because they do not even follow their own teaching. The actions of the scribes and Pharisees were not motivated by their deep love for God or their firm devotion to God’s law, but rather by their love of praise and notoriety and by their cravings for power and authority. Though they exalted themselves and claimed to be closer to God than the average man, they were in fact very far from what God wanted them to be. As we live our lives in Christ, we must be careful not to fall into the path of the Pharisees, practicing religion for the sake of appearances, and exalting ourselves in the eyes of men. We must instead humble ourselves, understanding that we are all sinners redeemed by the blood of Christ and saved only by the grace of God.

How can we avoid following in the ways of the Pharisees?

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

Sep 16, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

 

And as Jesus taught in the temple, he said, “How can the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David? David himself, in the Holy Spirit, declared, “ ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet.” ’ David himself calls him Lord. So how is he his son?” And the great throng heard him gladly.

This is the same event that we considered in yesterday’s reading, but Mark adds a different dimension to it. While Matthew (writing to the Jews) focuses on the Jewish reaction to Jesus’ statements, Mark (writing to a Gentile audience) chooses to focus on the reaction of “the common people.” These common people were the poor of society, the ones without wealth, notoriety, or position. They lacked the level of education or understanding of the Law of Moses that the Pharisees and Scribes enjoyed, but they understood the teaching of Jesus. Not only did they understand it, they received it “gladly.” They rejoiced in knowing that the prophecies had been fulfilled, the Messiah had come, and that He stood before them in the person of Jesus. Though their lives were simpler and their education inferior, their faith was stronger, and their hearts were open to receiving Jesus as the Son of God. They, and not the religious elites of the day, stand as patterns and examples for our lives today.

Why do you think “the common people” were more willing to believe?

 

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

Sep 15, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, “ ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet” ’? If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

This text demonstrates the misunderstanding and ignorance of the Jewish leaders concerning the prophesied Messiah. This time, it is Jesus who questions the Pharisees asking them, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He?” They correctly answered, “the Son of David.” Ironically, Jesus’ followers had, just a few days before, praised Jesus, calling Him the Son of David (Matthew 21:9, 15) to which the Pharisees adamantly protested. The Jews had taken the prophecies literally and thought the coming Messiah to be only of the physical lineage of David. “Why then,” Jesus asked, “did David call Him Lord?” The point is, if David called the Messiah Lord, it stands to reason that He must be more than just the physical descendant of David. In fact, He must be more than merely human. He must be from God. For this reasoning, the Jews had no response and, in fact, did not question Him again until the night that He stood on trial before them.

Why do you think the Jews continued to refuse to believe in Jesus?

 

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

Sep 14, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions.

Matthew records that this scribe came to Jesus to “test” Him, that is, to put him to the test. It was another attempt to entrap Jesus in His own words. The Law of Mosses contained some 613 individual laws and commands. How could He pinpoint one as the most important? Jesus’ answer is a simple one: love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. He then goes a step further to name the second most important law—to love your neighbor as yourself. If one keeps these two commands, Jesus says, he will have been faithful to the entire law. At this point in the text, an interesting thing happens. This scribe who came to test Jesus realizes the wisdom and truthfulness of Jesus’ answer. He agrees with Him, commends His answer, and even expounds on what Jesus says. This doubter has seemingly become a believer. He has been won over by the unavoidable truth of what Jesus has taught. In response, Jesus commends the scribe by telling him: “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” What a testament to the wisdom and truthfulness of Jesus.

What does it mean to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength?

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

Sep 13, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

There came to him some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection, and they asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, having a wife but no children, the man must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. The first took a wife, and died without children. And the second and the third took her, and likewise all seven left no children and died. Afterward the woman also died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had her as wife.” And Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him.” Then some of the scribes answered, “Teacher, you have spoken well.” For they no longer dared to ask him any question.

It must have been a wondrous thing to watch Jesus spar with the Jewish leaders. The Sadducees took the next turn, as one came to Jesus with a riddle in an attempt to prove what they believed to be the absurdity of the resurrection. Taking another “unanswerable question,” Jesus teaches another great truth, this time about the resurrection. The Sadducees, like many today, had trouble differentiating between the physical and the spiritual. How would physical relationships exist in the same way when all of humankind was resurrected? It was impossible. But Jesus distinguishes between the physical and spiritual by teaching that, in the resurrection, there will be no marriage. Marriage is a physical union that exists only in the physical world. In the resurrection, we will take on spiritual forms and will no longer be subject to physical relationships. It is a concept that is difficult to grasp because of our physical nature, but in order to put on the spiritual, we must put off the physical with all of its elements and relationships. What a glorious transformation that will be!

When will the resurrection take place?

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

Sep 12, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away.

Despite all their attempts, the Jewish leaders could not find fault with Jesus within their own law. He was flawless in His conduct and in His understanding of the law of Moses. So they turned to the Roman law to try and trap Him. They sent men to question Him on the issue of taxation, a hotly debated topic among the Jews. The Herodians agreed with submission to the Roman emperor and paying taxes to that government, while the Pharisees saw taxes as a violation of the Jewish law. Again, whichever side Jesus chose, He would have trouble with someone. Knowing their hearts and evil intent, Jesus responds by calling for a Roman coin engraved with the image and name of the Caesar. His teaching is that it is right to give to Caesar what belongs to Him, but that they must also remember to give to God those things that belong to Him. It may be that He was speaking of the Jewish taxes due to the temple. But more likely, Jesus was telling them to give God the honor, love, and obedience that was due Him. We likewise must give to God the love and devotion that we owe Him.

How do we give God the love and devotion that we owe Him?

 

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

 

Sep 11, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

 

And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.” ’ But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests. “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”

When I read this parable, my initial reaction to it is one of sadness. The king had prepared a great feast because of this joyous occasion, the marriage of his son. He is happy, excited, overjoyed, and he wishes to share his joy with his friends and neighbors. He initially invites people to the feast who he has a relationship with, those whom he knows and cares for. But they all reject him. They do not desire to share in his joy or have enough respect for him to accept his invitation. They even beat and kill the servants that are sent to him with the invitation. How saddened and hurt the king must have felt at being treated so shamefully by those who were supposed to be his friends. Obviously, the king represents God, and the friends are the Jews. God had desired to share with His chosen people this great and joyous event, but they were not willing. So He rejected them and opened the feast to any who would answer the invitation and prepare themselves for the wedding feast. May we be found dressed (see Galatians 3:27) and ready when the bridegroom appears.

How should we prepare ourselves for this wedding?

 

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

Sep 10, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

“Hear another parable. There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country. When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit. And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.” Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: “ ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.” When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them. And although they were seeking to arrest him, they feared the crowds, because they held him to be a prophet.  

God had entrusted the Jews with His law and with the well-being of His people. He had blessed them with a name, an inheritance, His protection, and many great promises. In return, He had expected them to keep those laws faithfully, to guard His people against false gods and false religions, to submit to Him and Him only, and to teach His laws and precepts to His people. But they had gone their own way. They had taken the things that God had given them as their own and had forgotten who they truly belonged to. They had perverted and misused them. They had mingled God’s commands with traditions of their own, and they had led many astray. They had rejected God’s prophets and messengers who had tried to correct them. They had even rejected His own Son and would eventually kill Him. So as Jesus teaches through this parable, God had rejected them. He would establish a new covenant and open up His kingdom to a new people, all people. This text should serve both to encourage and warn us. God’s covenant and kingdom are open to us through Christ, but we must be careful to be found faithful in what God has entrusted to us.

What is involved in being a faithful servant of God?

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

Sep 9, 2015

 

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

“What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.

This passage is really about the heart. In Jesus’ teaching, and throughout the New Testament, it is continually expressed that God desires the hearts of sinners that are soft, aware of sin, and repentant over those hearts and lives that are haughty and hypocritical. The Jewish leaders were very often of the latter type. They placed themselves above others and above sin. They were self-righteous and judgmental. They were hard-hearted, refusing to see or believe in Jesus, and condemning of anyone who did. In this short parable, Jesus describes them as the son that agreed to obey his father but never did. In contrast, Jesus said it is those who had initially refused to obey the father (sinners), but who had afterward repented and obeyed, who were justified. God still desires for us to have soft hearts. We are all sinners, redeemed by the blood of Christ. We must be willing to recognize our shortcomings, repent of our sins, and submit to God. In doing so, we must put away the high-mindedness and hypocrisy that Jesus condemned the Jews for. It is only in this way that we find the forgiveness that we need and become pleasing to God.

What are some things that can cause a person to become hard-hearted?

 

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

Sep 8, 2015

 

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” Jesus answered them, “I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?” And they discussed it among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From man,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.

Jesus was trapped, or so the Jewish leaders thought. Though the text doesn’t give any background information, you can imagine the plotting and scheming that had gone on prior to this encounter. The chief priests and elders had put their heads together and come up with the perfect trap. They had planned every detail carefully—the time, the place, the question. On the surface, the questions are simple and straight-forward, yet in their minds, there was no safe answer. If Jesus said that it was by God’s authority that He did these things, they could seize Him immediately on the charge of blasphemy. If He claimed any other authority, He was guilty of working against the authority of the Jewish leaders. They had Him! But Jesus’ wisdom was far greater than theirs. He immediately saw through their guise and knew their intent. He turned the tables on them and put them in the same situation. If they answered His question, He would answer theirs, but they could not. Once again, Jesus had proven Himself to be superior to them in wisdom and authority.

What impresses you most about how Jesus dealt with His enemies?

 

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

Sep 7, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

In the morning, as he was returning to the city, he became hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once. When the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither at once?” And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”

What good is a fruit tree with no fruit? While Jesus’ action here might seem to be harsh and impulsive, there is no doubt that He knew the condition of the tree before reaching it, and that He had a purpose and plan for His action. But what was that purpose? Obviously, this occasion provided Jesus with an opportunity once again to teach His apostles about the power of faith. But I believe that there is another lesson to be learned from this text. A fruit tree’s purpose is to produce fruit. A tree that is barren is useless. As disciples of Christ, we are much like fruit trees. Our responsibility is to bear fruit for Him. But just as surely as a barren fruit tree is not fulfilling its purpose, if we are not bearing fruit for Christ, then neither are we fulfilling our purpose. Could it be that Jesus is attempting to impress upon His apostles, and us, the importance of fulfilling our purpose and the seriousness with which God views that purpose? May He help us to be about the business of bearing fruit for Him.

What does it mean to bear fruit for Christ?

 

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

Sep 6, 2015

 

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.” And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant, and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, “ ‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise’?” And leaving them, he went out of the city to Bethany and lodged there.

As I read this passage, it strikes me as interesting that the Jewish leaders were more interested in what some children were saying than in what Jesus was doing. He had created havoc in the temple by running out the merchants who had set up shop there, condemning their corruption and wrongdoing. He had then proceeded to heal all who came to Him with infirmities. Surely these actions were worthy of the Jews’ attention and reaction. But they had become accustomed to ignoring the great works of Jesus. They had made a habit of closing their eyes to His righteousness, compassion, and power. To recognize those things would force them to acknowledge Him. They chose rather to concentrate on what they considered to be the blasphemous language of children. Their words were words that could be used to accuse Jesus, to build a case against Him. Though the words were true, they could be used by the unbelieving Jewish leaders to condemn Jesus. So they chose to focus on what they wanted to see and ignore the truth.

Why were the Jewish leaders so upset by the children’s words?

 

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

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