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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: 2015
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!

Sep 5, 2015

 

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”  

Even though the Jewish leaders, those who should have been closest to God and the first to recognize Him as the promised Messiah, had rejected Him, Jesus’ heart was still full of compassion for them. In this scene, Jesus weeps over the city of Jerusalem. In less than forty years, this great and holy city, which had represented God’s people and been the center of their lives and nation, would be overtaken and destroyed. If only they had listened to Him. If only they had believed. In this sad scene, we see clearly the merciful and longsuffering love of God. Though these hard-hearted leaders had twisted and corrupted God’s laws, though they had led God’s people astray, though they had rejected His Son and would soon murder Him, yet God’s love persisted. He mourned their downfall and wished for their return. It is no different in our day. Despite our world’s own hard-heartedness and refusal to believe, God continues to love. He continues to desire salvation for mankind. And he continues to wait patiently, giving us time to repent and turn to Him before it is too late. What a loving and patient God!

Why do you think God is so long-suffering toward us?

 

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

Sep 4, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!” His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him. The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.”

"Look, the world has gone after Him!” This was the conclusion of the Pharisees. All their attempts to discredit, disparage, and find fault with Jesus had been ineffective. People had believed in Him and still had followed after Him in great numbers. Their desire and willingness to follow after Jesus had been greater than the Pharisees’ plotting and schemes to destroy Jesus’ influence. I believe that the world is not much different today. Despite the skepticism that often exists, and despite the many people and forces that would have us to believe that Jesus and religion is all a farce, the world is still filled with people who are willing to believe and follow the truth when they find it. The difference is that Jesus is no longer walking in this world, showing Himself to them in human form. He has, instead, called us to show Him to the world. Through our love and faithfulness, Jesus desires for the world to see and follow after Him. And they will. Through our lives and service, I believe that we can still say today that “the world has gone after Him!”

How can we show Jesus to the world today?

 

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

Sep 3, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

And when he had said these things, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village in front of you, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this: ‘The Lord has need of it.’ ” So those who were sent went away and found it just as he had told them. And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” And they said, “The Lord has need of it.” And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”

What a powerful passage! There were not many moments during Jesus’ ministry when He was treated like the king and Lord that He was (and is). As you read through the gospels, the focus is often on His adversaries and all the doubts, accusations, rejections, and plotting that were constantly a part of His life. We can forget that there were a great many people who did believe in Jesus and who were sincere and devoted disciples. This passage reminds us of that fact. These disciples recognized Him as Lord and as the Son of God. They were excited to give honor and praise to Him and to treat Him like the King that He was. When He was commanded to rebuke His disciples for what the Pharisees saw as blasphemous behavior, Jesus responds with the powerful statement that, if they were to keep silent, even the stones would cry out. Jesus was the Son of God. That fact was undeniable and irrefutable. All of creation was a testament to the greatness of God, and even the stones would attest to the glory of Jesus as the only begotten of the Father.

What was significant about this entry into Jerusalem by Jesus?

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

Sep 2, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.

It never ceases to amaze me to see the dark, devious attitudes and motives of the Jewish leaders. Even if their motives had been pure (which they were not), they were willing to lay aside the same law of God they claimed to be protecting in order to rid themselves of Jesus and anyone else that might cause others to believe in Him. Their deceitfulness knew no bounds as they plotted to kill, not only Jesus, but Lazarus as well. How could they have such disregard for the law that they professed to love and had devoted their lives to, and for the God that had given it to them? It is a sad testament to their hardness of heart and hypocrisy. It is a dangerous thing to become so hardened in heart that one cannot be touched by Jesus. That danger exists for us today, just as it did for the chief priests of Jesus’ day. Though our means of rejection may be much more subtle and less violent than theirs, our hardness of heart can cause the same attitudes of denial and rejection toward Jesus. May God help us always to have soft and willing hearts in accepting and submitting to Jesus as Lord.

What are some things that can cause our hearts to become hardened?

 

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

 

Sep 1, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

 

Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”

It is hard to believe that one could spend so much time with Jesus and not be completely changed by Him. How could Judas be an apostle of the Lord and still be so enamored with worldly riches that he is characterized by John as “a thief”? Apparently, this was not a new problem for Judas. John says that it was his practice to take money out of the money box with which he had been entrusted. His mind and heart were given to physical things, so much so that he resented this act of love and honor that was being bestowed upon Jesus. Mark reveals that it was this event that prompted Judas to go to the chief priests for the purpose of betraying Jesus to them (Mark 14:10-11). Other than revealing the character of Judas, what can this text teach us? I believe that it is a grim reminder of the power and danger of the attraction of worldly things. If we allow them to, the things of this world can occupy our hearts in a way that leaves no room for Christ and causes us to betray Him just as Judas did. It is no wonder that Jesus warns us that we “cannot serve God and money” (Matthew 6:24).

Why do you think that worldly things are such a powerful temptation?

 

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

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

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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!

 

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