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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: Page 10
Apr 15, 2015

HOST: Michael Whitworth

And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

This kingdom parable is short and simple and has a very straightforward point. In gardening, your chore is to plant and harvest. Everything that happens between those two tasks is largely out of your control. Sure, you might pull some weeds, give some water, or apply some other type of maintenance from time to time. But the actual processes of growth and production of fruit are things that we cannot control or even fully understand. Jesus says that this is also true of the kingdom of God. Our duty is to plant the seed. How that seed (the word of God) germinates, sprouts, grows, and produces fruit in the life of a person is not within our ability to control or understand. Ours is simply to sow the seed and then do what we can to water and nurture it, understanding that it is God who will bring about the increase (1 Corinthians 3:6).

Why do you think God gives us the responsibility of sowing the seed?

 

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

Apr 14, 2015

HOST: Michael Whitworth

And he said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket, or under a bed, and not on a stand? For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you. For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”

There are several phrases within this passage that remind us of statements made by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). In this passage, however, all of those statements are made in reference to Jesus’ teaching. Though Jesus was teaching many things by parables, He here indicates that the whole truth of God would soon come to light. That being the case, it was imperative that His followers listen and pay careful attention to the things Jesus taught. That truth has since been revealed to us in the written Word which God has delivered to us through His Spirit and has preserved for all generations by His power and providence. In our day and time, the teachings of Jesus are just as timely and relevant as they ever were, and they are just as vital to our spiritual lives as they were to those who stood in His physical presence. The admonition that Jesus gives to his hearers extends to us as well: “If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Why is it so important that we heed the teachings of Jesus?

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

Apr 13, 2015

HOST: Michael Whitworth

Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.

Good and bad existing together. It is difficult, frustrating, and often discouraging for those who are struggling to be faithful children of God. It certainly doesn’t seem to be a situation that would exist by God’s will, yet it does. While it is not God’s will that any be disobedient to Him and be lost eternally, He has chosen to allow His faithful children to coexist with those who choose to reject Him and live in disobedience. But this parable teaches us that that coexistence will not last forever. At “the end of the age,” Jesus says He will send out His angels to harvest the good seed and destroy the bad. The two will be eternally separated as wheat is separated from the poisonous tares. Knowing that the day of harvest is coming, there are two goals that should be of highest priority in our lives: 1) to be faithful to God so that we might be numbered among the righteous who “will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father,” and 2) to do all that we can to help those around us to come to know, love, and obey God as we do. In view of judgment and eternity, nothing is more important than these.

What can we do to help prepare ourselves for the day of judgment?

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

Apr 12, 2015

HOST: Michael Whitworth

He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’ ”

While this parable is really about the eventual separation of the good from the bad (we’ll think about that tomorrow), there is another truth that I want to think about now. In the story, the tares exist because they are sown by an enemy. The good seed represents godly and faithful lives produced by the seed of God’s word (as we saw in the Parable of the Sower). But there are also bad seeds—seeds of unbelief, worldliness, greed, hatred, and sinfulness that are sown among the good. These seeds produce ungodly and sinful lives. The enemy is Satan. He is constantly trying to contaminate people’s minds, hearts, and lives with his bad seed. His hope is that, as those bad seeds spring up in the lives of many, they will destroy the fruit of the good seed and cause all to be lost. What we must remember is that God’s enemy is our enemy as well. Satan’s desire is to take us away from God and destroy us. We must be diligent and purposeful in our efforts to fend off the attacks of Satan and nourish the good seed of God’s word so that we may continue to grow in faith and knowledge and bear the good fruit that God intends.

What are some things that we can do to protect ourselves against Satan’s bad seeds?

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

Apr 11, 2015

HOST: Michael Whitworth

Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: “ ‘ “You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.” For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’ But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

Whenever Jesus spoke, his audience was made up of many types of hearers, including those who were faithful followers and sincere listeners, and those who had already rejected Him but sought some basis for accusing Him of wrongdoing. Jesus’ use of parables was for the purpose of differentiating between these two groups. Those who were insincere and simply looking to trap Him by His words would only hear an earthly story and miss the spiritual meaning. However, those who sincerely desired to learn from Him and were listening with “spiritual” ears would gain knowledge about and insight into the kingdom of God. It occurs to me that the word of God is much the same for us today. Those who view it skeptically and look into it only to discredit it will surely miss out on the wonderful blessings gained through knowing God and His will for us. But conversely, the diligent and sincere student of God’s Word who seeks to be taught and strengthened by its precepts will be blessed beyond measure by the timeless truths of that holy book. May we all approach God’s word with willing and open hearts!

What are some of the blessings of studying God’s word?

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

Apr 10, 2015

HOST: Michael Whitworth

“Hear then the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

We often call this parable, “The Parable of the Seeds," or “The Parable of the Soils," but Jesus calls it “The Parable of the Sower." Without the sower, there is no seed sown, and thus no opportunity for it to take root and grow. The sower's task was not to dig a hole and carefully plant a seed just right; it was to walk along through the field and scatter the seeds in abundance wherever they might fall. The more seeds he scattered, the more likelihood of a harvest. The "seed" is the word of God, and we are called to be the sowers. Our purpose and God-given task is to sow the seed of God's word into the hearts of men. It is not our place to judge the fertility of the soil and discriminately plant seeds only in the best of soils, but rather simply to sow. Some soils (hearts) will receive the seed and allow it to take root and grow; others will reject or resist the seed, and it will ultimately fail. Still, God wants us to sow. Sow in hard ground, sow in rocky ground, sow in ground overgrown with weeds, and sow in good ground. If we will sow, then God will bring the increase (1 Corinthians 3:6)!

What are some ways we can be sowers of the word of God?

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

Apr 9, 2015

HOST: Michael Whitworth

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.”

As Jesus looked over this great crowd that had gathered to hear Him teach, He saw their hearts and knew them. They had come to Him from different backgrounds and for different reasons. Jesus told this parable to describe them and the conditions of their hearts. Some had hearts that were hard and impenetrable by the seed of God's word. Others had hearts that were shallow and did not allow the word to take root. Still others had hearts that were filled with cares and desires that choked out the truth of God's word. Then there were the fertile hearts—those that were soft and accepting of God's word; those that offered an environment that nurtured its truths and encouraged growth. It was this heart that Jesus desired His hearers to have, and it is this same heart that God still desires for us today. What kind of heart do you have? May God help us to have a heart that is open and accepting to the truth of God's word.

What are some of the things that cause hearts to be infertile today?

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

Apr 8, 2015

HOST: Michael Whitworth

Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means.

When we think of the followers of Jesus during His earthly ministry, our minds most likely go immediately to the twelve apostles. They are the most present and visible companions of Jesus as we read through the gospels. But it is important to remember that they were not the only faithful followers of the Lord. There were others, many others, who believed in Him and followed Him from place to place because of their devotion to Him. Some of the most faithful and devoted among these followers seem to be the group of women mentioned in this text. They show up from time to time in the gospel accounts, but most notably in the events surrounding the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. When most of the apostles had abandoned Jesus, these women were at the foot of the cross, grieving for their friend and Lord. Some of them were there when Jesus’ body was laid in the tomb, and they returned on the resurrection morning to properly prepare His body for burial. They were among the first to witness the resurrection. These women were faithful, devoted, courageous followers of Christ who serve as wonderful examples for us.

What can we learn from the example of these women?

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

Apr 7, 2015

HOST: Michael Whitworth

While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

On the surface, it may seem that Jesus was being disrespectful toward His mother and brothers in disregarding their request. Why would He not speak to them? Why make the statements He made concerning them? To understand what Jesus does and says here, we must understand that Jesus was always focused on His mission and was always looking for opportunities to teach. This request from his family provided just such an opportunity. Jesus’ purpose here was not to disrespect His physical family, but to make the point that there is an even more important spiritual family made up of those who are obedient to God. Jesus wanted His followers, then and now, to understand the importance of being His disciples and of the relationship with God that comes through that discipleship. There is no greater family that we can be a part of than the family of God!

Why is being part of God’s spiritual family so important?

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

Apr 6, 2015

HOST: Michael Whitworth

“When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation.”

Jesus uses this interesting little parable to describe the condition of the Jewish leaders of His day, but it also contains a powerful lesson and warning for us. The unclean spirit represents anything sinful or ungodly that might find its way into our lives. When that unclean spirit goes out (is cast out), meaning we repent of the sinful activity and rid our lives of it, there remains a clean but empty space in our lives. If that space remains vacant, that sin (and others) will find their way back into our lives, causing us to be in a worse condition than before. The danger is not in ridding our lives of sin, for this is what God desires and commands of us. The danger is in failing to replace the sin with good, godly things, filling the void and leaving no room for sin to re-enter. As we strive to live faithful lives, let us be determined not only to defeat sin in our lives, but also to be filled to overflowing with godliness.

What are some godly things we should put into practice?

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

Apr 5, 2015

HOST: Michael Whitworth

Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.

Do we ever seek signs from Jesus? Though ours may not be as outward and obvious, there are times when we might require some “sign” from God in exchange for our faith and obedience. A sick loved one being healed, a financial hardship resolved, a trial in our lives taken away. If God will answer our prayers and provide these blessings for us, then we will be thankful and devoted to Him. But if He fails to deliver the things we ask for, we become angry, bitter, and skeptical of God’s worthiness of our faith. When we adopt this attitude, we require a “sign” just as the scribes and Pharisees did. But Jesus’ response to them is still true and relevant today. The only sign that will be given—the only one that should be required—is the “sign” of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. God sent His Son into the world to take on flesh and give Himself as an atoning sacrifice for all of mankind. Jesus then, after three days in the tomb, overcame death in the resurrection. There is no more proof needed that Jesus is the Christ, and that God cares for us. Thanks be to God!

Why do you think so many people fail to believe in Jesus as the Christ?

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

Apr 4, 2015

HOST: Michael Whitworth

“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

These verses are reminiscent of Jesus' words in the Sermon on the Mount, teaching us that we can know a tree by its fruit (Matthew 7:15-20). In this passage, though, He specifically targets the words we speak, emphasizing that we will be accountable for and judged by them. The word "careless" in this text has a different meaning than we would give it today. It means malicious, slanderous, or harmful. He was still speaking to and about the Pharisees that had accused Him of casting out demons by the power of Beelzebul, and He was warning them of the danger of speaking words of slander against the Holy Spirit. But more importantly, He reminds them (and us) that their words, and ours, come from what's in the heart. The real lesson of this text is deeper than just watching our words. It is that we must guard our hearts to protect them from unbelief and unholy influences that would turn us against God and cause us to think and say things that put our souls in peril. May God help us to strive constantly to be "good trees" that bring forth good fruit.

What are some things that we can do to guard our hearts against sin?

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

Apr 3, 2015

HOST: Michael Whitworth

Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

This is a difficult passage for us because it seems to fly in the face of everything we know and want to believe about God and His forgiveness. Is there really a sin that cannot be forgiven? This is, in fact, one of several New Testament passages that speak of an inability to receive forgiveness (Hebrews 6:4-6; 10:26-31; 1 John 5:16-17), but this passage is unique in pinpointing a specific sinful act that is unforgiveable—blasphemy against the Spirit. Why is this sin so severe that it cannot be forgiven? Remember that it is through the Holy Spirit that we have the word of God (see John 16:12-15; 1 Peters 1:12; 2 Peters 1:21). To blaspheme, or speak evil of, and reject the Holy Spirit is to reject our only source of truth leading to faith (Romans 10:17). Without faith, one cannot have forgiveness. The message of this passage (and the entire New Testament) is that if we are unwilling to believe in Jesus Christ and come to Him in faith and obedience, then we cannot have forgiveness and salvation.

Why is faith so vital to receiving forgiveness from God?

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

Apr 2, 2015

HOST: Michael Whitworth

Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

As Jesus so often does, He takes the accusations or criticisms of the Pharisees and turns them into a teaching moment about their (and our) relationship with God. In response to their claims that He was casting out demons by the power of Beelzebul, Jesus points out the absurdity of that idea. Why would Satan cast out Satan? How can one survive if he is against himself? Jesus uses simple logic to defeat their accusations, but then He makes an application of that very principle to Himself. "Whoever is not with Me is against Me..." It is simple, it is logical, yet it is often forgotten or misunderstood in our world. You either stand with Christ or against Him. There is no middle ground. A person cannot be neutral concerning Christ. If we say that we are with Him but live as if He doesn't exist, we are not really with Him but against Him. If we say that we love Him but ignore His teachings and commands, we are not with Him but against Him. May God help us always to be firmly and truly with Christ.

What are some ways that you might improve in being “with” Christ?

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

Apr 1, 2015

HOST: Michael Whitworth

One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.” “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

There are many lessons that come to mind from this reading, but I want to focus on one that we might overlook. This woman who is called a sinner (the label of "sinner" was reserved for the worst offenders of the Jewish law) comes to Jesus weeping. In fact, so copious were her tears that they were sufficient to wash Jesus' feet. The context makes clear that these tears were because of her sins—tears of sorrow, remorse, and repentance. Her heart had been touched by the words or actions of Jesus, and it had been broken by the recognition of her many sins. She came to Jesus in repentance and humility, desiring to give honor to Jesus and receive mercy from Him. It is for this reason that Jesus looks upon her with compassion and forgives her many sins. What a blessing it is to know that, despite our many sins and shortcomings, we have a God and Savior who is willing to show mercy toward us and forgive us. Oh, that we might learn from the example of this sinner who was broken-hearted over her sin and came to Jesus with a repentant heart.

Why should we be broken-hearted over sin?

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

Mar 31, 2015

HOST: Michael Whitworth

“But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates, “ ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.”

Have you ever known someone who was determined to be unsatisfied? That is the way Jesus describes some of His day. They were hard-headed and hard-hearted, obstinate, and close-minded. They rejected John because he separated himself from the world. He dressed differently, spoke differently, acted differently, and even ate differently, and so they accused him of having a demon. Then Jesus came and interacted in people’s lives, attended normal activities of life, had relationships with people, and He was also rejected because of the way He lived. Neither of these men fit the Jews’ mold or conformed to their way of thinking, so they were refused. They were determined to be unsatisfied. It is still true today that many people are determined to be unsatisfied— unsatisfied with the church, the elders, the preacher, or even with Christ Himself. They are hard-headed and hard-hearted. May God help us avoid that attitude and always be open and accepting of Jesus.

Why do you think some people are so determined to be unsatisfied?

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

Mar 30, 2015

HOST: Michael Whitworth

As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written, “ ‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.’ Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

What a statement of praise and commendation given here to John by Jesus! John was not “a reed shaken by the wind”—he was not one to be blown about by every changing current of social or religious ideology. He was not “a man dressed in soft clothing”—one who was self-indulgent and worldly. John was a man of conviction and courage, one who was sacrificially committed to His God-given purpose. He was a prophet—more than a prophet, he was the forerunner of the Messiah. “Among those born of women,” Jesus says, “there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist.” But Jesus doesn’t stop there. He goes on to say that “the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” As great as John and his work was, he did not get to see the Lord’s kingdom come. He was never a citizen of that kingdom, the church. We, who have the privilege of being washed in the blood of Christ and thereby added to His body, are far more blessed and privileged than even John. What a wonderful blessing it is to be citizens of the kingdom of heaven.

Why is it such a blessing to be part of the Lord’s kingdom?

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

Mar 29, 2015

HOST: Michael Whitworth

Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

“While there is much to think about in this short text, I want to focus on the final statement Jesus makes: “Blessed is the one who is not offended by Me.” The word “offended” is from the same root word from which we get the word “stumbling block.” Following Jesus was not, and is not, always easy. It requires commitment and sacrifice. In Jesus’ day, many found a stumbling block in the fact that Jesus did not take the form they were expecting or in the difficulty of His teaching. Many rejected Him from the beginning, while others were disciples for a while, only to turn back and follow Him no more. Not much has changed in today’s world. Many still reject Him for reasons that are not much different from those of His own time. But it also remains true that “Blessed is the one who is not offended by [Him].” May God help us be committed and faithful followers of Christ!

What are some of the reasons people reject Christ today?

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

Mar 29, 2015

HOST: Michael Whitworth

So he came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill. When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way. As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering. So he asked them the hour when he began to get better, and they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” And he himself believed, and all his household.

“And he himself believed…” He had not seen his son healed. He had no proof, no evidence. He only had the word of Jesus, yet he believed. He met the challenge of believing without seeing with incredible faith, and in so doing, left us a great example. How do we respond when we are challenged to believe without seeing? There are times for all of us when we pour out our hearts to God, pleading with Him for His help, His blessings, His intervention in our lives. We do not typically see immediate results from those prayers but must, as the man in this text, go our way and wait on God. Not knowing when or even how God will answer our prayers, we are called to believe without seeing. What a challenge that is for us. But if we can approach those times with faith, we, like the nobleman, will find that God is faithful, and that He can and will answer our prayers in a way that is good and perfect.

How can we learn to deepen our faith in God’s promises?

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

Mar 27, 2015

HOST: Michael Whitworth

Soon afterward he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him. As he drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited his people!” And this report about him spread through the whole of Judea and all the surrounding country.

For the woman in this story, the mother of the man who had died, this was not only a sorrowful situation but a desperate one. Being a widow and having only one son who had now died, she was left with no one to care for her. There would be no one to provide for her needs, no one to take her in, no one to care about her at all. She would become a helpless and hopeless victim of her society. But Jesus cared. He recognized her plight, had compassion on her, and provided for her in a way that no one else could. God still has a way of caring for us. He looks down on us in compassion to see our needs, and He meets those needs in ways that no one else can, many times in ways that we do not even recognize. Through His perfect wisdom and wonderful providence, He brings people and opportunities into our lives when we need them most and sees that we are taken care of. What a wonderful, loving, compassionate God we serve!

What are some ways in which God has cared for you?

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

Mar 26, 2015

HOST: Michael WhitworthAfter he had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. Now a centurion had a servant who was sick and at the point of death, who was highly valued by him. When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent to him elders of the Jews, asking him to come and heal his servant. And when they came to Jesus, they pleaded with him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue.” And Jesus went with them. When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. Therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed. For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” And when those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the servant well.

After he had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. Now a centurion had a servant who was sick and at the point of death, who was highly valued by him. When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent to him elders of the Jews, asking him to come and heal his servant. And when they came to Jesus, they pleaded with him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue.” And Jesus went with them. When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. Therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed. For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” And when those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the servant well.

What faith and what a statement of commendation by Jesus! This Gentile man was said to have a faith that surpassed even the faith of any Jew. Rarely did Jesus use such flattering words. What was it that demonstrated this great faith and prompted such a commendation from the Lord? First of all, he believed in Jesus and in His ability to heal his sick, dying servant. But more importantly, he understood that Jesus had authority and power over this illness that was not bound by proximity. With great humility and recognition of his own unworthiness to even be in the presence of Jesus, he acknowledged that, even without seeing the servant, without touching him, without the servant being able to hear Him, Jesus had the power to heal. Despite the distance and seriousness of the illness, the Centurion was confident of Jesus’ ability to make his servant whole. Oh, that God would help us to have that kind of faith—a faith that fully trusted in Him to meet our needs and answer our prayers despite our own unworthiness.

What can we do in our lives to strengthen our faith in God?

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

Mar 25, 2015

HOST: Michael Whitworth

And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

God gives, God answers, God opens. As Christians, we don’t struggle with this truth, but we do sometimes struggle with what God gives, how God answers, and which door God opens. When we pray, we typically have a very specific idea in mind about what we need and how we desire God to answer. As long as God’s answers are in line with our desires, we are satisfied, but what if they are not? What if God’s answers to our petitions are much different than we had asked? In those times, we often wonder why God is not blessing us in the way we need. When it comes to understanding our lives, we are much like children. Our children may want to eat candy at every meal and stay up as late as they can each night, but as parents, we know that those choices are not the best for them. So, we give them more nourishing foods and help them get the sleep they need. In much the same way, the things we often think are best or needed are, in reality, not what is in our best interest. Just like we do with our children, God sometimes overrules our requests and desires in order to give us what is more needful and beneficial. He is always a giver of good things. Our part is to take our requests to Him and then trust Him to give us what is best.

How can we learn to see the good in God’s answers to our prayers?

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

Mar 24, 2015

HOST: Michael Whitworth

And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs.

“Because of his imprudence…” Some have asked if it is wrong to pray about the same thing repeatedly, to petition God over and over concerning the same situation. “Doesn’t it show a lack of faith?” some want to know. This little parable gives the answer to that question. Jesus is teaching a lesson about the persistence in prayer that God desires for us to demonstrate. But don’t misunderstand the meaning of this parable. In the story, it appears that the friend, who initially refused the borrower’s request, eventually grants the request because of the continual bothering of the borrower. Does that mean that God is, at first, hesitant to answer our prayers, but might be willing to grant our petitions if we pester Him enough? Not at all! God is never bothered by our prayers, nor is He hesitant to answer. The meaning of this teaching is simply that God desires our persistence in prayer. He wants to hear from us over and over again. He wants us to rely upon Him and to pray to Him “without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). For it is in prayer that we find the comfort and solace that only God can provide.

Why do you think that God has such a desire for us to pray to Him?

 

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

Mar 23, 2015

HOST: Michael Whitworth

“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.”

This passage highlights the danger of doing nothing. We typically think of the man who built his house on the sand (better known from Matthew’s account) as being one who founded his life on sinful, worldly things, one who had actively rejected God and filled his life with ungodly and wicked pursuits. But this is not the picture that Luke paints in his record of Jesus’ teaching. Notice that “the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation...” Many people feel that, by attempting to “ride the fence” and not make a decision one way or the other about Christ, whether to reject Him or accept Him, they are safe on middle ground. But Jesus teaches us that not making a decision is just as destructive to our lives as to actively reject Him. There is only one way to build our lives on a firm foundation—to accept Him and live by His words.

Why is the middle ground of non-committal not a good foundation for our lives?

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

Mar 22, 2015

HOST: Michael Whitworth

“For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

Who are you? On the surface, it seems to be a simple question, but the answer is often more complicated and difficult to discover than we think. When we think about who we are, we consider how we want others to see us, and what we want them to think of us. We also think about who we want to be or wish we were. But as we consider our lives and who we really are, we are taught by passages such as this one that the answer is found, not in the opinions of others or even in our own eyes, but deep within our hearts. Our lives are made into what they are by the things we choose to put into our hearts—thoughts, actions, images, attitudes, and feelings. The abundance of those things that we put into our hearts then come out as words, actions, and attitudes of our own. If we fill our hearts with good and godly things, then our lives will reflect godliness. If we fill our hearts with sinful and worldly things, then our lives will become like the world. May God help us to have hearts that are filled with Him!

What are some things we can do to fill our hearts with godly things?

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

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