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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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Jul 24, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

He went on his way through towns and villages, teaching and journeying toward Jerusalem. And someone said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’ In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out. And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God. And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”

“Lord, will those who are saved be few?” This question was asked of Jesus, most likely to test his allegiance to the Jewish nation. The “few” referred to is probably a reference to the Jews among the heathen nations of the world. In other words, “Are the Jews the only ones who will be saved?” Jesus’ response represents one of the most direct and straight-forward condemnations of the Jewish leaders recorded in the gospels. Salvation is not guaranteed based on one’s nationality or lineage but rather the path that one travels through life. The gate is narrow, and many will not find it. Many who feel deserving of salvation will be shut out and rejected. But those of any nation and background who find that narrow gate and walk with God through this life will have the blessed privilege of sitting down in the kingdom of heaven. What a wonderful and hopeful thought it is to consider that God has provided a way by which we can spend eternity with Him. May we strive to enter through that narrow gate!

What is the narrow gate Jesus refers to?

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

Jul 23, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. And behold, there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.” And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God. But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, “There are six days in which work ought to be done. Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.” Then the Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” As he said these things, all his adversaries were put to shame, and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him.

This text is primarily about the controversy of Jesus healing on the Sabbath, but I would like to think about a different aspect of this story for a moment. Put yourself in the shoes of the woman whom Jesus heals. For eighteen years, she had been afflicted with this “disabling spirit.” She was bent over, unable to straighten her body. Her condition was probably painful and no doubt debilitating. But despite her physical condition, she had come to the synagogue on the Sabbath for worship. She obviously had a love for God that was greater than her pain. What a marvelous example of devotion to God she presents to us. She had not come to the synagogue looking for healing and did not ask Jesus for His help. Yet Jesus, in His compassion and love, saw her and healed her. She had come to give God her worship and instead received God’s healing touch. Just imagine the relief and joy that she must have felt, knowing that her life had been changed by this brief encounter with the Great Physician.

What lessons can we learn from this text?

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

Jul 22, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

 

And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’ ”

In this extended passage, Jesus has condemned the impenitence of the Jewish nation and has called them to change their minds and hearts and return to God. With this parable, Jesus warns them that the forbearance and patience of God has its limits and will soon come to an end. His longsuffering has been bountiful toward them, but the time of His judgment is coming. In the parable, the keeper of the vineyard likely represents Jesus, Who has come to give personal attention to the fig tree, representing the Jewish nation, to prune and feed, to nurture and fertilize, in hopes that the tree will be revived and begin to bear good fruit. If it does not, then it will be cut down and destroyed. While this parable speaks directly to the Jewish nation of Jesus’ day, it certainly has an application for all of us. Anyone who finds himself away from God and not serving Him faithfully is in the perilous position of the fruitless fig tree. Thus far, God has been patient with us, but a time of judgment is coming. With that in mind, we must heed the warning of Jesus and be sure that we are faithfully bearing fruit for the master.

What does it mean to bear fruit for God?

 

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

 

Jul 21, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

The common belief of the day was that human suffering was the direct result of sin. Those who stood listening to Jesus’ teaching and accusations, in an attempt to divert attention from themselves and their sins, brought up these Galileans who had been slain by Pilate’s soldiers. In this day and time, Jewish uprisings and rebellions were common, especially around feast days. Though we do not know the precise time of this event, those mentioned were probably Galileans who had risen up against Roman soldiers and were killed in the fray, their blood being mingled with the blood of the sacrifices being offered at the time. Jesus’ answer is simple and straightforward. These who suffered and died in either example given in this text were no more guilty of sin than Jesus’ hearers (or than any of mankind for that matter). Every accountable person is touched by sin, and the penalty for that sin is far worse than any physical suffering or death. The solution to that problem, Jesus says, is repentance—a turning away from sin and to God. If one is willing to walk away from sin and become obedient and submissive to God, he will not perish spiritually. What a hopeful promise!

How does repentance save us from perishing?

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

Jul 20, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

“And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? As you go with your accuser before the magistrate, make an effort to settle with him on the way, lest he drag you to the judge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, and the officer put you in prison. I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the very last penny.”

Jesus’ teaching in these verses has a very practical application for everyday life: when dealing with a complaint or disagreement between would-be adversaries, it is better to solve it and reconcile before taking it through an official proceeding before a judge. Doing so can eliminate much of the animosity, trouble, and penalty that a legal course can create. However, Jesus has a deeper and greater meaning to His teaching than earthly quarrels and judges. He is speaking to those who have rejected Him, and who stand in opposition to God’s law and authority through their hypocrisy. Because of their sins, they have an appointment with the great and mighty Judge of the world. Jesus advises them that it is in their best interest to be reconciled to God before that appointment, since it will otherwise surely end in their eternal punishment. When it comes to our appointment with God (and we all have one), we can either stand before Him as a guilty sinner before a righteous Judge, or as a forgiven child before a merciful Father. Just as with those of Jesus’ day, the choice is ours.

What is involved in being reconciled to God?

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

Jul 19, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

He also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you say at once, ‘A shower is coming.’ And so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat,’ and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?

These remarks of Jesus are intended for those who had questioned, doubted, and rejected Him and His teaching. These skeptics were very observant and intuitive when it came to the weather. They could read the skies and the conditions and accurately predict the coming weather. But when presented with abundant evidence of the divine nature of Jesus, they failed to see. They had witnessed the amazing miracles, had heard His authoritative teaching, had seen His compassion and mercy, and had been reminded of the many prophecies that He had fulfilled. But they had failed to interpret the signs and recognize Him as the promised Messiah. In much the same way, in our world today, despite the overwhelming evidence and proof of God, Jesus, and the Bible, there are so many who continue to deny and reject them as true. How sad it is that so many are missing out on knowing God and enjoying a relationship with Him through His Son.

What are some things that are helpful in providing evidence for Christ?

 

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

Jul 18, 2015

 

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

“I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

Jesus has just been warning about the coming judgment and His disciples’ need to be prepared for that day. He now turns His attention to His work and the effect that that work will have on the world. The fire that Jesus refers to is most likely the “fire” of purification. Through His atoning death and victorious resurrection, He will bring cleansing and purification to those who accept Him and are washed in His blood. As Jesus continues His earthly ministry, His sacrificial death, the “baptism” that He refers to, is always on His mind. While He is distressed by the suffering that lies ahead, He is anxious for the purification that it will bring to be accomplished. But as Jesus mentions, His atoning work of reconciliation with God will also bring division. There will be those who desire to be saved and are willing to accept Him, but there will also be those who, with hardened hearts, will resist and ultimately reject Him and His invitation. These two groups will naturally be opposed to one another causing division, even among kinsmen. May God help us to be among those who are willing to be purified by the blood of His precious Son.

Why do you think that there is so much division regarding Christ?

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

Jul 17, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful. And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.

In this thought, I want to focus on the concept of stewardship. A steward is one who is placed in charge of certain things in his master’s absence and given responsibility to do with those things as the master would do. Jesus tells this parable to illustrate the importance of being a faithful steward until He returns, and it is a principle that applies to each of us. The truth of the matter is that all that we have—our abilities, possessions, opportunities, and very lives—are not our own, but in reality are great blessings and gifts from God. Likewise, our families and the church are also things that God has placed in our care. All of these things have been given to us to use according to the Master’s will and to use for His good purposes. Upon His return, Jesus says, those things that we have been given by the Master will be brought into account. Those who have used them faithfully according to God’s will will be greatly rewarded, while those who have squandered or neglected their gifts will be punished. May God help us all to be faithful stewards!

What are some of the gifts that God has given you to use?

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

Jul 16, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

“Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them. If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants! But know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” Peter said, “Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for all?”

Be ready! That is the message of Jesus’ words in this passage. To “let your waist be girded and your lamps burning” is simply another way of saying, “Be dressed and ready to go.” Jesus is speaking here of that day and time when He will return to claim those who are His and to judge the world in righteousness. That day is surely coming, but the time of it is unknown. Jesus says that it will come as a thief in the night. It can be easy, even as faithful Christians, to get caught up in the daily routines of life and forget that we are constantly moving ever closer to eternity, without the promise of even another day. To remain watchful and prepared for Christ’s return is a great challenge for us, but to be found unprepared would certainly be the greatest disappointment imaginable. Therefore, Jesus often gives these powerful exhortations to be prepared for His return. Are you ready?

Why is it so important that we be constantly prepared?

 

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

 

Jul 15, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

 

Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” ’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

“One’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” It is one of the great truths of God’s Word that has been lost to our world today. In all of our striving after the things that this world deems as valuable, we have too often come to trust in those possessions as all that we need. It is this danger that Jesus warns against with the telling of the Parable of the Rich Fool. On the surface, this man had done nothing dishonest or unlawful. He had gained his wealth honestly; he had not robbed or cheated anyone. He had not damaged the property or belongings of anyone else. He had simply stored up the fruits of his labors and was preparing himself for the life of leisure that those things would provide. But the Lord calls him a fool because he had foolishly believed that material things were all that he needed and had made no provision for his soul. The clear and unavoidable truth for this man, and for all of us, is that our physical lives will someday end, and we will enter eternity. At that point, our physical wealth will be meaningless, and all that will matter is our relationship with God. Are you prepared?

What can we do to prepare for eternity?

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

Jul 14, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

 

 

“And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God, but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God. And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”

As comforting as it is to think about standing before God and have Jesus affirm that you are His before the angels of God, can there be any more terrifying thought than to be standing in that same situation and have Him utter the words, “I don’t know him”? If you have ever been guilty of thinking that confessing Christ wasn’t a big deal, then this passage certainly ought to change your mind. To be willing to confess our belief in Christ and our relationship with Him is vital to our faithfulness and salvation. Sometimes that confession is made amidst the comfort and encouragement of a loving and supportive Christian family and is an easy step to take. At other times, we may find ourselves in a much more hostile environment of skeptics, naysayers, and unbelievers who would scoff at our belief and chosen way of life. But regardless of the circumstances, we are called to confess our faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Savior of the world. May God help us to have the strength and courage to confess Christ whenever and wherever we are given the opportunity to do so.

Why is it sometimes difficult to confess Christ?

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

Jul 13, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

 

 

“I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.

“Even the hairs of your head are all numbered.” Think about that for a second. For every one of us, the number of hairs on our heads is constantly changing. We are always losing and re-growing hair so that the number of them is never the same. But God has them all numbered. What an amazing statement of God’s care and concern for His children. It is difficult to imagine that God—the Creator and Sustainer of the universe; the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, glorious ruler of all that is—would be so concerned with us. But that is exactly the picture that is painted of God in this text. He is a God who is carefully attentive to each one of us. He knows every detail of our lives: every thought, feeling, fear, pain, joy, and sorrow. There is not a moment of our lives that escapes His watchful eye, and not a single need that goes unnoticed. Therefore, Jesus says, there is no need to fear. Our lives and souls are safely guarded in the hands of the Almighty God, who will care for us as His dear children. Whatever may come upon us in this life, we can be comforted in the knowledge that God knows, and He cares.

Think of an example of how God has cared for you.

 

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

Jul 12, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

 

In the meantime, when so many thousands of the people had gathered together that they were trampling one another, he began to say to his disciples first, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.

Hypocrisy—the word points to the image of an actor playing a role. The Pharisees, Jesus warns His disciples, were guilty of this sin—pretending to be righteous, spiritual, and godly when in reality they were worldly and sinful. But this passage is not merely another condemnation of the Pharisees. It is a warning to His disciples against being drawn into their sinful nature and becoming like them. He refers to the “leaven” of their hypocrisy, giving the idea that it has the ability to spread and affect those around them. Jesus then gives an assurance that we would do well to heed today— “Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.” Eventually, the masks of hypocrisy will be removed, and everyone will be known as they truly are. We cannot hide from God. He knows our hearts, minds, and motives and will one day cause the hidden things to be revealed. What is the lesson in this truth? Simply put, it is this: Be genuine and sincere in our faith and lives, and we have nothing to fear.

Why is hypocrisy such a dangerous attitude to have?

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

Jul 11, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

One of the lawyers answered him, “Teacher, in saying these things you insult us also.” And he said, “Woe to you lawyers also! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers. Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your fathers killed. So you are witnesses and you consent to the deeds of your fathers, for they killed them, and you build their tombs. Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’ so that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be required of this generation. Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.” As he went away from there, the scribes and the Pharisees began to press him hard and to provoke him to speak about many things, lying in wait for him, to catch him in something he might say.

In yesterday’s reading, Jesus condemns the Pharisees for their hypocrisy. In these verses, the lawyers come to the defense of their friends and cohorts and in so doing, bring Jesus’ harsh condemnations upon them too. The “lawyers” were often Pharisees themselves and are also often the same ones referred to as “scribes.” They were experts in the Law of Moses and were the self-appointed interpreters, teachers, and judges of the law and of the people. They knew the Old Testament Scriptures better than anyone else, so it was especially cutting for Jesus to accuse them of taking away the key of knowledge. They had manipulated and, in some cases, hidden completely God’s law from the people. In so doing, they had hindered them from a proper understanding. It occurs to me that far too many in our world today are guilty of the same wrongdoing. They ignore, hide, alter, or manipulate God’s Word in order to be accepted, successful, or justified. The result is that those who look to them for guidance and teaching are led astray and hindered from a proper understanding of God’s Word. May God help us to be a people of His Word and to seek constantly to know and embrace its truths.

How can we avoid being led astray by one not teaching the truth?

 

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

Jul 11, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

While Jesus was speaking, a Pharisee asked him to dine with him, so he went in and reclined at table. The Pharisee was astonished to see that he did not first wash before dinner. And the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also? But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you. “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seat in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces. Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without knowing it.”

Jesus uses harsh language in this passage to condemn the Pharisees for their hypocritical attitudes and actions. To the casual observer, the Pharisees were the model of faithfulness and religious service. They were held up by the Jews as the most righteous among them. But Jesus saw through the outward appearance and into their hearts. Though their outward appearance and conduct may have seemed to be righteous, their hearts were unclean and their motives impure. Their lives were full of pretense and appearances, but empty in sincere and selfless devotion to God. Their desire was not to please God, but rather to receive the recognition, praise, and adoration of men. Their negative example and Jesus’ condemnation of them reaches through the centuries to instruct us. Hypocrisy is still a problem and is still condemned by God. One’s acts of worship and service, no matter how impressive and commendable, are meaningless if not from a sincere and genuine heart that loves God and desires to do His will. God is pleased with our righteous actions only if they are motivated by a holy and pure heart.

Why do you think God cares so much about the attitude of our hearts?

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

Jul 9, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

“Martha was distracted with much serving.” Jesus was a very special guest. Martha was concerned with making sure that everything was just right, that her guests, and especially Jesus, had everything they needed. Meanwhile, her sister, Mary, simply sat at the feet of Jesus, basking in His presence, soaking up every word that He spoke. When Martha asks Jesus to rebuke her sister for not helping serve, Jesus responds with a gentle rebuke for Martha instead: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things.” It is not that Martha was doing anything that was overtly wrong. Her desire and efforts to serve Jesus were commendable, but she had become distracted by those efforts and was missing out on more important things. How often do we make the same mistake? Do we ever find ourselves so busy with all that we have to do, including many good and commendable things, that we forget to stop and just spend time with the Lord through prayer or Bible study? As Jesus says, “One thing is necessary,” meaning that there is one thing that is more important than anything else—our relationship with Christ. May we never neglect that most important thing!

What are some things that we can be distracted by today?

 

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

Jul 8, 2015

 

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

What does it mean to be a neighbor? In this parable, Jesus illustrates what it means to “love your neighbor as yourself.” While the priest and Levite provide disappointing examples of apathy and disregard, the Samaritan gives us a wonderful example of an act of neighborly love. His act of care and concern for the injured stranger was compassionate, selfless, and sacrificial. Though, as a Samaritan, he would have no doubt been looked down on and despised by the injured Jewish man, he disregarded his own convenience and safety to help one who was in need and, in so doing, demonstrated what it means to “love your neighbor as yourself.” To love our neighbors as ourselves is still a vital concept in living a life that is pleasing to God. I am reminded of the familiar words of Jesus in another passage: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12). May we all strive to be a good neighbor to those around us, knowing that it is God’s will for our lives, and that we may someday need a neighbor ourselves.

What are some ways we can be a neighbor to those around us?

 

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

Jul 7, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” Then turning to the disciples he said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”

In this text, we get a rare glimpse into the prayer life of Jesus. This prayer of praise and rejoicing is offered in response to the news of the works performed by the seventy. The redemptive plan of God, long veiled in mystery, was being revealed in a powerful way through the life of Jesus and His followers. Jesus, seemingly overwhelmed by the joy of these great events, pauses to thank and glorify God for His gracious works. He then turns to His disciples to share His joy with them and to remind them of how blessed they are to be in a position to witness these things taking place. For centuries, godly men—kings and prophets, great and small—had hoped for, wondered about, anticipated, and waited for the plan of God to be revealed. Now that plan was being revealed in a powerful way before the disciples’ very eyes. Did they know or could they comprehend how blessed they were to be in the presence of the Son of God and to witness God’s plan coming to fruition? While you and I weren’t there to witness Him in the flesh, we are also very blessed to have that same plan of redemption revealed to us in His word and to be the benefactors of God’s love and mercy. Let us rejoice with Christ for the wonderful blessing of salvation through Him!

What kinds of things can cause us to lose our focus on salvation today?

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

Jul 6, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

Obviously, the seventy had followed Jesus’ instructions, and their faith and faithfulness had been rewarded by their great success, demonstrated even in the ability to cast out demons. This power over demons seen in Jesus’ disciples was a sign of the coming downfall of Satan that Jesus would accomplish through His death and resurrection. But Jesus’ accompanies this rejoicing over their success with a warning. “Do not rejoice in this...but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.” As with all of us, there was the propensity with these disciples to rejoice in this authority over demons to the point that they would become haughty and arrogant, giving themselves the credit and praise for their abilities, and forgetting the true purpose of their work. Jesus reminds them that they must remain focused on the great blessing of salvation as their source of rejoicing, and in that recognition, be ever committed to sharing that message of salvation with others. What a great lesson for us to remember today!

What kinds of things can cause us to lose our focus on salvation today?

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

Jul 5, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.

There are many aspects of this event that are important and teach us valuable lessons about our own discipleship. But I want to focus on just one in this thought. Why did Jesus place such rigid restrictions on those He was sending out regarding the things they would carry with them, and how they would approach and interact with people along the way? While many suggestions might be offered, I believe Jesus was essentially trying to accomplish two things: 1) He wanted them to learn a dependence upon God instead of trusting in things. To approach this mission without “necessities” would have been a daunting task, but would teach them the great lesson that, as they put their trust in God, He would provide all that they needed. 2) He wanted them to avoid the distractions that often come with worldly desires and activities. Their purpose was singular: to go out as laborers in the field to prepare the way for Jesus and to bring in a good harvest for the Lord. Jesus wanted them to be totally focused on that purpose. These same lessons are very relevant for us today. As Christians, we are laborers for the Lord. May God help us work diligently for His harvest.

What are some of the things that often distract us from our mission?

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

Jul 4, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

What a beautiful invitation! To those who are burdened, weary, and straining under the weight of their load, Jesus offers rest—relief from the hopelessness and despair of sin, rescue from the fear and dread of judgment, respite from the labors and struggles of life. He offers to help, comfort, strengthen, and bless us in ways that only He can. But there is a provision involved in that invitation. Our part is to take on His yoke, to allow Him to guide and direct our lives according to His will, to submit ourselves to His control. What He is truly asking is that we exchange one yoke for another. The one is the yoke placed on us by the world and Satan, a yoke that is heavy and burdensome, bound to us by sin. It is difficult, tiresome to bear, and ultimately destructive. But the yoke that Jesus offers in exchange is a yoke that is bound with love. It is light and easy. It always has our best interest in mind and ultimately leads to eternal life. What an amazing opportunity we have been given to escape the burdensome yoke of sin and find rest in the caring yoke of Christ!

Why is it important that we put on the yoke of Christ?

 

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

Jul 3, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.”

While we do not know a great deal about Jesus’ activities in these towns, especially Chorazin and Bethsaida, there are two things that we can know for sure from this text: 1) Jesus had performed many great works in those places as a testament to His identity and power, and 2) Despite those works, these cities had remained hard-hearted and unrepentant, rejecting Jesus as the Son of God. The cities mentioned in comparison to those that Jesus had spent time in were among the most wicked and reviled of the Old Testament—cities filled with idol worship, immorality and ungodliness. But Jesus makes the cutting remark that, if those cities had been witness to His mighty works, they would have repented. These cities in which Jesus did much of His ministering work had been blessed with a great advantage and opportunity. They had been eyewitnesses to the power of God and had heard first-hand the truth from the Master Teacher. They were without excuse for not receiving Him and following Him. Much the same can be said of us. Christ has been revealed to us through God’s holy Word in such a way that we are also without excuse if we fail to come to Him!

Why do you think so many refuse to believe in Jesus?

 

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

Jul 2, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Wherever Jesus went, He attracted great crowds and much attention. He displayed power and authority in an unprecedented way. For some, therefore, the idea of following Christ must have seemed a glamorous position of prominence and renown. For others, following Christ was viewed as a hindrance to their daily lives and routines, and something that could easily be put off. In this passage, Jesus warns against both of these attitudes and stresses the importance, commitment, and urgency of following Him. A life of following Christ is truly a life full of blessings and joy. It is the best and most abundant life imaginable. While following Christ should never be viewed as a burden, it is a life that requires a great deal of commitment. As followers of Christ, we must be willing to put Him above all else, be faithful to Him in any circumstance, and allow Him to rule our lives daily. It is indeed the best of all lives, for those who are willing to make the commitment!

Why does following Christ require such commitment?

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

Jul 1, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for him. But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But he turned and rebuked them. And they went on to another village.

“His face was set toward Jerusalem.” Don’t underestimate the meaning and importance of this statement. For some time, Jesus had focused His ministry on the area of Galilee and had avoided Jerusalem, but the time was drawing near for God’s plan of redemption to be accomplished. The purpose of Jesus going to Jerusalem was to die, to become the lamb of God and offer Himself as a perfect, spotless sacrifice for the sins of the world. It would be, from a physical standpoint, the most difficult, agonizing, and torturous event of His life. But spiritually speaking, it would be the most powerful and effectual act ever witnessed. Despite the great physical suffering that Jesus knew was before Him, the spiritual benefit was worth the sacrifice, and so He set His face toward Jerusalem. He resolved to go there and would not be turned aside. He was determined to see God’s plan carried out, even through His own sacrifice. His commitment to His Father’s will was absolute, and His love for us was overwhelming. What a great testament to the greatness of Jesus’ love and sacrifice.

Why might this journey to Jerusalem have been difficult for Jesus?

 

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

Jun 30, 2015

HOST: Ron House

SPONSOR: Start2Finish

For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” Others said, “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”

Jesus’ statements in this passage are vitally important. He came to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins, but if his life is taken from Him against His will, it cannot be considered a sacrifice. It was in that voluntary shedding of His blood that He became the perfect Lamb of God offered for the sins of the world. If He was to be the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies, if He was to exhibit the authority of God as His Son, if He was to be the atoning sacrifice that He was purposed to be, it was crucial that He lay down His own life, and that it not be forcefully taken from Him. While the gospel accounts of the crucifixion seem to show a picture of the Jewish leaders and Romans both taking part in forcefully and wrongfully taking Jesus’ life from Him, it is important to remember that He was never an unwilling party in those proceedings. He had the ability to change the course of those events at any time (Matthew 26:53), but chose to go to the cross for us. His death was truly a sacrifice!

Why was it so important that Jesus’ death be voluntary?

 

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

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