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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
Aug 17, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

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

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

Why can we not serve both God and things?

 

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

Aug 16, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

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

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

What qualities do children have that we should emulate?

 

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

Aug 15, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

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

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

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

 

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

 

Aug 14, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

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

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

Why is our attitude in prayer important?

 

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

Aug 13, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

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

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

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

 

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

Aug 12, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

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

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

How should we prepare ourselves for Jesus’ return?

 

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

Aug 11, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

 

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

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

How do we show our gratitude to Jesus?

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

Aug 10, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

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

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

How can we avoid trusting in ourselves for salvation?

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

Aug 9, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

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

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

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

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

Aug 9, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

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

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

Why is it so important that we forgive others?

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

Aug 8, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

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

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

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

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

Aug 7, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’ ”

What happens when we die? It is a question that so many ask and want to understand. In this text, Jesus gives us a rare glimpse into those things that lay beyond this life and world. In this story, we see the wealthy man who lived extravagantly on earth, but had not prepared himself for eternity. His riches and notoriety were of no benefit to him as he lifted up his eyes in torment. We also see the story of Lazarus, a man who had nothing in this life, but who had stored up an eternal treasure in heaven. Jesus paints a beautiful picture of Lazarus’ soul being lovingly carried by angels into Abraham’s bosom to be comforted and cared for. This story also depicts the vast separation between those two places and the impossibility of changing one’s fate once that time has come. There is no comfort and no hope in Hades, and there is nothing that troubles in paradise. As we read these words of Jesus and consider our own lives and fate, we must ask ourselves one very important question: which story will be ours?

What element of this story stands out to you the most and why?

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

Aug 6, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him. And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God. “The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone forces his way into it. But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void. “Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.

The Pharisees, like so many in our world today, had succumbed to the temptation of falling in love with this world’s things. They were enamored with money, notoriety, and honor from men. But Jesus reminds them, and us, “What is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.” All of the worldly things that so many spend so much time and effort pursuing are unpleasing to God, not because they are necessarily evil in and of themselves, but because they threaten to occupy our hearts, minds, and lives and take us away from God. As we strive after riches, success, notoriety, and other worldly achievements, those things have the potential to take the place of God in our lives and effectively become gods to us. For that reason, Jesus often teaches  that we must not give ourselves to worldly things but rather devote our hearts and lives to God above all else.

Why is it so important for us to God first in our lives?

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

Aug 5, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

He also said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions. And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’ And the manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.’ So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings. “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

This parable of Jesus is one of the most difficult to understand. This is partially true because He uses a dishonest and unworthy steward to illustrate a principle applicable to His disciples. Notice that the steward is not commended for his dishonesty (he is still dismissed for being dishonest), but rather for being prudent and shrewd. He was able to use the physical things at his disposal to provide a comfortable living for himself. In His interpretation of the story, Jesus makes the point that those of the world are often wiser in their earthly dealings than those who belong to God. The underlying point of this parable is pretty simple. Jesus is attempting to teach us about the importance of being good stewards of our earthly things. Just as the steward used his master’s things to provide security for himself, we are to use the things God has blessed us with in such a way that we are storing up riches in heaven. Certainly, we are not to do that through dishonesty and treachery, but rather through prudence and wisdom. May God help us to be good stewards for Him!

What does it mean to be a steward of God?

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

Aug 4, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything. “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.” ’ And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate. “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’ ”

This story is one of the most well-known parables of Jesus. It is rich and full of meaning. Each character in the story—the father, the younger son, and the older son—have valuable lessons to teach us. We don’t have time in this thought to explore all the characters and all the lessons, so I want to focus on only one: the father. The loving, patient, forgiving father in the story represents our heavenly Father. Jesus paints for us a picture of a God who never gives up, who is constantly watching and waiting for His lost children to return, and who joyfully forgives us and takes us back when we do. While He certainly does not condone the sinful paths that we might choose from time to time, He never stops loving us. If I as a sinner “come to myself” and am willing to go to Him in humility and with a repentant heart, He is there to wrap His arms of love around me and restore me to my place as His child. What a beautiful picture of the mercy and love of God, and what a powerful message that needs to be heard by our world today.

This thought focused on the father, but what lessons do you see in the two sons?

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

Aug 3, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

This short parable is very similar in theme and application to the previous one. In this story, Jesus uses a lost coin as the object lesson. What if you lost a $100 dollar bill? You know that it is in your house somewhere, but you can’t find it? Do you just say, “Oh well,” and forget about it? Most of us would turn the house upside down. We would look in every drawer, under every piece of furniture, and in every corner of the house until we found the money. That is exactly the picture Jesus paints in this parable. What person, He asks, if they lose a silver coin, doesn’t search for it tirelessly until they find it? Again, that coin represents a lost soul that God desperately cares about and desires to be saved. And again, as God’s servants and ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20), we should be just as concerned for that soul as we are for that $100 bill we lost. We should work and pray and never give up on trying to “find” that lost soul. May God help us to be more like Him!

Why does one soul matter so much to God?

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

Aug 2, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

 

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

Ninety-nine percent. In most areas of life, that number is acceptable and even exemplary. A score of 99 on a test is excellent. In basketball, a 99% shooting average is amazing. A batter who hits .990 would be the greatest ever. But when it comes to souls, God is not satisfied with ninety-nine percent. Every soul matters. Each one is important. That is the point of Jesus’ parable concerning the lost sheep. But in making that point, he also teaches us that we should be just as concerned for that one soul. Which one of you, Jesus asks, would not go out looking for your lost sheep and then rejoice and celebrate when you found it? Implied is the idea that anyone who has a flock of sheep would go looking for one that was missing. Should we not be just as concerned for an eternal soul as we are for an animal? God cares about lost souls. Even one sinner that repents and returns to God causes much joy in heaven. As God’s children and servants, we should also be concerned for lost souls and work to help them find their way back to God.

What can we do to help the lost to find their way back?

 

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Aug 1, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.

The Parable of the Lost Sheep will be discussed tomorrow, so today’s thought will focus on the meaning of v. 10. Jesus had earlier used a nearby child as an object lesson, and here refers back to that child as a representative of the lowliest of people in society. In their culture, children had no rights, no property of their own, and very little regard among people. Jesus uses this child to make the point that every person, regardless of their position in society, was important to God. The phrase “their angels always see the face of My Father” has caused much discussion and confusion, and has even led to the idea of each person having a “guardian angel.” This is not Jesus’ intended meaning, but using vivid imagery, He is making the point that God is interested and concerned about every person. No person or situation escapes the eye of God. No one is unimportant or unworthy of His attention. For that reason, Jesus says, we should not despise or look down on anyone. Instead, we should strive to look at others with the love and compassion that God has for them.

What are some ways that we can share God’s compassion with the world?

 

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

 

Jul 31, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

This text expounds on what is involved in accepting the invitation that Jesus spoke of in the previous reading. In His day, as in ours, there were many who were enamored with His teaching and the prospect of being His disciple and who quickly commit to following Him. But Jesus says it is not an invitation that can be accepted without thought and true commitment. Following after Jesus requires that He be first and the greatest priority of our lives. The word “hate” in v. 26 is a harsh word and is not intended to be taken literally, but the concept behind the word is important and not always easy for people to accept. Jesus says that, in order to be His disciples, we must be willing to put Him before even our closest and most precious relationships, and in fact before our own lives. It is a firm and unwavering commitment that discipleship requires. Thus, Jesus says that we should “count the cost” before accepting that invitation to follow after Him. Are we willing to pay the price? To see our commitment through to the end? To make whatever choices and sacrifices that it requires? The price of discipleship is high, but the rewards are well worth the effort!

Why is it so important that we put Christ first?

 

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Jul 30, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

When one of those who reclined at table with him heard these things, he said to him, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’ ”

The occasion of this text is still the Sabbath day feast prepared by the ruler of the Pharisees that Jesus attended as an invited guest. We do not know who made the statement to Jesus, or exactly what they meant by it. However, in response to that statement, Jesus tells another parable. Those who were invited to the feast but made excuses not to attend probably represent the Jews, God’s chosen people under the old covenant, and those to whom Jesus was sent. Because of their refusal, the invitation is extended to all people of any background and walk of life. This parable is certainly applicable to our world today. God’s invitation to a place at His table in heaven has been issued. Unfortunately, many are too preoccupied with the affairs of this world and life to accept it. Much like those in the parable, they are consumed with worldly ventures and have no interest in spiritual things. Sadly, Jesus teaches that they will miss out on the wonderful things that God has prepared in heaven. But the invitation continues to be open to anyone who is willing to accept it and come to God in faith and obedience. Will you be there?

What is involved in accepting God’s invitation?

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

Jul 29, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”

In yesterday’s reading, Jesus was speaking to those who were attending a feast. In today’s text, He turns his attention to the host of the feast. In essence, His teaching is that one should not invite those who would not truly benefit from the feast, and who could and would invite him to a feast of their own in return. Instead, we should invite those who were in need—the poor, the infirmed, the needy—those who could truly benefit from our kindness and generosity and who could not repay the favor. Jesus is certainly not teaching that we should never spend time with friends or show kindness to loved ones, but that we should also be mindful of those who are in need. So often, we spend all of our time and effort on those we know and love, while neglecting those who have no one to care for them or help them. The larger principle here is that we should do good for the sake of doing good. Give to those who cannot give in return. Give your attention, time, and care to those who are needy, Jesus says, and your reward will be from God.

Why is it important that we show kindness to those who are in need?

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

Jul 28, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

One of the sinful attitudes of the Pharisees and Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day was their desire for prominence and praise. They coveted the places of honor and assumed those positions at every opportunity. On this occasion, at a Sabbath dinner hosted by a ruler of the Pharisees, Jesus witnessed this very attitude being demonstrated and told this parable to condemn their haughtiness and teach a valuable lesson about humility. Instead of assuming the highest position and running the risk of being asked to move to a lower place, Jesus says, assume a low position so that you might be asked to move to a higher one. Humility continues to be a much- needed and vital attitude of those who would be faithful servants of God. We cannot and will not be what God would have us to be if we are not willing to humble ourselves and take on the lowly role of servant. But as Jesus and the New Testament often teach, those who humble themselves will someday be exalted by God. May God help us to be humble servants of Him.

What does it mean to be a humble servant of God?

 

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

 

Jul 27, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

One Sabbath, when he went to dine at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees, they were watching him carefully. And behold, there was a man before him who had dropsy. And Jesus responded to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” But they remained silent. Then he took him and healed him and sent him away. And he said to them, “Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?” And they could not reply to these things.

In this text, Jesus turns the tables on the Jewish leaders. As we have seen before and even recently, the Jewish leaders often condemned Jesus for His miraculous works performed on the Sabbath, taking one of God’s laws and twisting it to be used for their own purposes. Typically, you see Jesus healing someone and then being accused of wrongdoing by the rulers. On this occasion, Jesus asks for their judgment on the matter before performing the miracle. If they condemn the healing, they must then justify their own Sabbath activities. If they permit the healing, then they are condoning Jesus’ actions. They respond to Jesus in the only way that their hard hearts will allow them to—with silence. After performing the healing, Jesus reminds them that any one of them would quickly and without hesitation rescue an animal that was in a perilous situation, even on the Sabbath. Jesus had once again silenced His adversaries and brought to light their hypocrisy.

What lessons can we learn from this text?

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

Jul 27, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ”

In my opinion, this is one of the saddest and most beautiful utterances made by Jesus during His earthly tenure. Typically, as He deals with the Jews and their hard-heartedness, there is a tone of exasperation, frustration, and even anger at their refusal to see what is right in front of them and repent. But in this passage, you catch a glimpse of the sadness and broken-heartedness that God feels over the refusal of His people to accept His loving care. His desire is to care for them, protect them, provide for them, and be a Father to them, but in the words of Jesus, they “were not willing.” What a sad testament to the Jewish nation and their attitude toward the God who had done so much for them over the centuries. As with all of the biblical text, there is a lesson for us in these words of Jesus. God desires to care for us in the same way that He did for His people under the old covenant. He wants to protect, provide for, and care for us. But we must be willing! God will not force His love or care upon us. But if we will accept Him and faithfully submit ourselves to Him, God will be a loving Father to us. What a wonderful opportunity and blessing!

What is involved in accepting a relationship with God?

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

Jul 25, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” And he said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course. Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.’

These Pharisees come to Jesus, not as friends warning Him of danger, but as cunning foes, bringing a message from Herod, trying to coax Jesus to Jerusalem where He would be in more danger from the Jewish leaders. But Jesus would not be taken in by their trickery. He was unafraid of the Jewish leaders or of Herod and was wholly devoted to the plan and purpose for which He had come. The “days” in this passage are not to be understood literally, but rather symbolically, representing a short period of time. Jesus was to continue His work of teaching and ministry for a while longer, and then He would go to Jerusalem to fulfill the purpose for which He came to the earth. He reveals to them that He will go to Jerusalem to die, but that He would go in His own time and by His own will. Despite the fact that the Jews had a burning desire to see Jesus destroyed, this text reiterates the point that Jesus died voluntarily according to God’s will and plan. When the time was right, He would willingly lay down His life and become the sacrificial Lamb of God.

Why do you think the Jewish leaders were so determined to destroy Jesus?

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

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