Election day is only a few days away. Every election cycle seems more divisive as the sides pick and choose what truths they want to adhere to from news media and officials. When we see each side yelling at each other and calling the other names, it can seem like it’s hopeless. How can we piece back together mutual respect and trust – despite the fact that we believe differently?
In our reading today, we read about Jesus’ triumphal entry, in addition to some parables. In Matthew 21, we get the story:
6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,
“Hosanna to the Son of David!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey, a sign of suffering, humility, industry, and peace rather than a horse, a sign of war and wealth, to show how his kingdom would be different. The people are sure to welcome him into the city and even drape their coats on the ground so that the donkey’s feet would not touch the ground. Even though the people warmly welcomed Jesus and gave him the honor he deserved, the Pharisees saw this and were jealous. After the triumphal entry, they began plotting against Jesus to kill him.
In the swirl of the election cycle, our focus can get hazy. As we’ve read this week, there is so much that can cloud our vision and cause us to stumble and fall in our pursuit of God. But, as we inch closer and closer to the day when our votes are counted for this country, we need to rest in the truth that this is not our home. We are a holy priesthood – a set-apart nation. We are the kingdom of God on earth, ambassadors of Christ. We are not waiting with bated breath for the winner of this election season to save us.
Our King rode in on a donkey 2,000 years ago. He is who we are waiting on, who we are trusting in. He is the one who saved us.
~ Cayce Fletcher
Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Matthew 20-21.
In Tim Keller’s book, Counterfeit Gods, he describes the ways that we put other areas of our life in the role of ‘god of our lives.’ Though the handmade idols that the Israelites worshipped – like the Baals and Golden Calves – may not exist anymore, idolatry is still very present in our modern day life. Keller describes how we, as humans, have a tendency to make good things god things, and consequently, we allow those things to turn our focus away from God. Sex, marriage, money, wealth, (self-)righteousness, and status can all be good things, but these things cannot be the ultimate thing.
In today’s passage, we meet the Pharisees who were trying to trip Jesus up with a question about divorce. They wanted to know if Jesus was going to contradict the law of Moses by saying that divorce was not legal. After Jesus responded that divorce should not happen outside of sexual immorality, the disciples were amazed and said, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry” (v. 10). Jesus agrees with them in v. 12 when he talks about the eunuchs who chose to live that way for the sake of the Kingdom.
Then, later on in Matthew 19, a rich young ruler comes and asks Jesus what rule he needs to follow to get eternal life. Jesus tells him the thing that he needs to do is give his possessions to the poor. He “went away sad, because he had great wealth” (v. 22). When Jesus tells his disciples that it is incredibly difficult for a rich man to enter the Kingdom, they are amazed and asked “Who can be saved?” (v. 25). Jesus responds in v. 26, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
In Matthew 19, Jesus focuses on 3 areas of life, and in each case, he shows the disciples that they need to obediently follow what God says, despite how contrary it looks to the world. These 3 areas of life can be areas where we all easily fall into idolatry. They are good things – but they cannot be the ultimate thing. These things cannot be our god, but we try to put them in that place.
The pharisees (and the rich young ruler) struggle with self-righteousness. They wanted to be good enough to be their own god – so that in effect, they wouldn’t actually need God. Though no one in the story seemed to struggle with marriage and sex, the question the Pharisees asked brings up this next idol that so many people make an ultimate thing. Both of these marriage and sex are created by God, but so often, we do not act with obedience to God’s word in these areas, and we step out of God’s design for us. By doing so, we are making these things an idol. The last area is money and wealth. The rich young ruler had so much wealth that he went away grieving. We don’t know if he made the choice to act with obedience to what Jesus commanded him to do, or if he decided that his wealth was too important to him to follow Jesus and ‘enter life.’ What we do know is that he mourned for his wealth. The disciples were amazed that Jesus spoke so harshly of wealthy people. In a culture that values money and possessions (like our own), the pursuit of wealth always seems like a good thing. However, like we’ve read this past week in the book of Luke, money can become an idol in our life, and the Bible says plainly that we cannot serve two masters: God and money (Matt. 6:24).
When it’s so easy to fall into idolatry, who then can be saved? Jesus reassures us that “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” If you find yourself in a place of idolatry – putting good things in the place of the ultimate thing, turn back to God. He is the one with whom all things are possible.
~ Cayce Fletcher
Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Matthew 19 & Mark 10.
In today’s reading, we read four different stories: (1) the healing of the ten lepers, (2) the teachings on the coming of the Kingdom, (3) a parable on persistence in prayer, and (4) a parable on the dangers of self-righteousness. Throughout all of these passages, Jesus clearly teaches the importance of humility and the dangers of pride in ourselves.
In Luke 18:9-14 it says:
9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
The Pharisee in this story believed that he had done everything right. Because of this, he boasted in his own righteousness and looked down on others. When we look at the Pharisee’s actions, we may question why the Pharisee was not the better person in the parable. The Pharisee has been following the law and doing a much better job than the people he was looking down on. Whereas tax collectors were notorious for stealing money when they came to collect taxes for the government of the foreign military occupying their lands. Even though that was the case, the tax collector was the one who was justified before God!
Why would this be the case? Why would the person whose life did not follow the law be the person who was justified before God? It’s all about the way that we view ourselves in relation to God. As Romans 3:23 states, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” None of us are truly righteous. We all fall short. So, none of us have a right to boast in the few things that we do – none of those things make us righteous when you compare our righteousness to God’s.
Knowing this, how should we lead our lives? We should still strive for righteousness, but we need to recognize that our actions are an outpouring of our relationship with God. Those actions – going to church, tithing, mentoring, having a ministry, evangelizing, or writing a devotion – those actions are not the things that save us. What saves us is the love that God has for us and the faith we have in him.
~ Cayce Fletcher
Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Luke 17:11-18:14.
In today’s passage, we read a familiar story of the raising of Lazarus. Jesus has been preaching in the countryside, and he receives news that Lazarus is gravely ill and may not make it. Being close friends with the family, Jesus makes plans to go visit them, even though the people in Jerusalem were making threats against Jesus’ life. However, he doesn’t leave right away, and Lazarus passes away before he gets there.
When Jesus arrives, everyone asks him the same question: ‘Why didn’t you get here earlier? Why did you try to hustle so that you could save Lazarus’ life?’ Jesus is deeply moved by the suffering, but the answer to these questions is that Lazaraus’ death was used to glorify God. Even more, Lazarus’ death shows still teaches us a profound truth that we can have comfort in today, 2,000 years later.
While Jesus was walking into the town, Martha, the sister of Lazarus, comes out to meet him. She asks him the questions that I mentioned before, to which Jesus replied one of his 7 I AM statements found in the book of John.
25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.”
Jesus then goes and raises Lazarus from the dead, doing so so that the people would believe that he truly is the son of God (John 11:41-42).
This story should give us comfort and hope as we face down our great enemy, death. By believing in Christ, we will take part in the resurrection. Not only this, we can live a ‘resurrected life’ now, being “dead to sin and alive in Christ” (Rom. 6:11). Jesus is the only resurrection and life. If we want to truly live life, we have to believe in the doctrinal truths that Martha tells Jesus:
27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”
What do you believe? Do you believe in the resurrection and the life that comes from Christ?
~ Cayce Fletcher
Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – John 11.
In our world today, there are so many distractions that can lead us away from God. When we turn our focus on other things, we can get choked out like the seeds in the parable of the sower. When we consider what is worth pursuing in life, we have to ask ourselves whether or not the things that we are pursuing are things that glorify God. If they do not, they have no true worth.
In today’s reading, Jesus tells a series of parables that show how we should view money and possessions in our lives. The Pharisees listened to his teachings and scoffed at Jesus, because they loved Money. Jesus recognizes this, and tells them that “ What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight” (Luke 16:14b). What do you value highly in your life? How does that affect your ability to glorify God with your life?
We’ve all been given an allotted period of time that we can use for God and for ourselves. We are responsible to manage that time wisely. We are stewards, not only of our wealth, but our very lives. Luke 16:10-13 says,
10 “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. 11 So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? 12 And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?
13 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
Who is the master in your life? Let’s turn our focus on God. He is worthy of all our life.
Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Luke 16:1-17:10.
I love enjoying Sunday dinner with others. Sharing a potluck or going out to eat together is great, but in our reading we see Jesus was invited to the house of a prominent Pharisee where he was being carefully watched. Some of the leaders had been listening very carefully to Jesus, but not to learn from him. They hoped to find fault with Jesus and to catch him in something he said then report him to the authorities. Imagine being a guest at this table. You have the opportunity to sit and eat with the Son of God. You have the chance to hear his teaching. But these leaders are so blind that they are trying to set a trap for Jesus. The leaders get their wish because a man who is suffering is there. Of course, out of compassion the Lord heals the man. Rejoicing should have happened around this table, but instead Jesus has to explain that healing on the Sabbath is doing good and it is acceptable.
Jesus noticed that these guests were picking the places of honor at the table. They were self-promoting and needed to learn the importance of humility that Jesus illustrates through a parable of taking the lowest position at a feast. Explaining that “all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Jesus then teaches that meals should be given for the less fortunate, which will result in the host being blessed and repaid at the resurrection of the righteous. Someone at Jesus table said to him, “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.”
Jesus then used a parable to explain that the “stuff of life” should never keep us from accepting the invitation we have received from the Lord to the great banquet He has prepared for us. When we count the cost of being a disciple, we realize that giving up the things of this life are a small price to sit at the Kingdom feast table. As Christ said “many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom.” I love that he states that there are places for us at that feast (reserved seating). Each person is important to God as we see in Chapter 15. Stay close to our Heavenly Father and rejoice when those that are lost are found. Remember that we will one day celebrate like never before around our Father’s table at the Kingdom feast.
This week has been a whirlwind of to-do’s and tasks that seem to be never ending. From Monday when I woke up to a day ‘off’ that was filled with cleaning and yard work to a FULL week of teaching virtually and face to face with a classroom observation thrown in, I barely had a minute to pause and remember to pray. 2020 has shaken up many of my routines and added a whole lot of responsibilities. When I’m trying to guzzle my third cup of coffee as I step out the door at 7:00, I think if I only had a few more days off, I would be able to fix my house, my life, and my relationship with God. I wish I just had more time!
The truth is I got that wish earlier this year, and it didn’t really revolutionize much in my life. Sometimes, I feel like kicking myself when I think back to the months between the time schools closed in March and the time that they reopened in August. I had so much free time! And, I filled it with a lot of hobbies, habits, and pursuits that didn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things.
In this year that has been full of changes and stressors, I know that I have felt full of anxiety – anxiety about finances, work, my house (under year 2 of renovations, my job, elections, pandemics (and the list could go on). When I think about all of these things, my mind likes to turn into overdrive. I make lists, and to-dos, and try to work on ALL THE THINGS to try to make my mind slow down and stop racing. Or I veg out on the couch and binge watch an entire season on Netflix eating a bag of chocolates. It doesn’t matter if the list of things that I need to do is a mile long or (like in quarantine) my main goal is fold a basket of laundry that day – I seem stuck in these two cycles.
And I think I have figured out why. In the hustle and in the ‘rest,’ my activities, thoughts, and feelings center around me – what I need to do, what I need to buy, what I think I need to be. Those things become the thing that I am striving after. But, like most human made goals and plans, I can easily get derailed through distractions and setbacks that cause me to eventually fall flat on my face (cue the chocolate induced coma after the 16th episode of Seinfeld). When I don’t meet those expectations of myself, the anxiety kicks in, and I worry about how I can meet my own demands of myself.
God calls us away from this striving, away from this cycle of stressful work and anxious thoughts. He calls us to him. In the chapters we read today in Luke 12-13, we read parables of people who sought after their own goals that were made based on the standards of the world. These goals sucked the life out of the people who made them. They caused the people to spend more time trying to glorify themselves and not glorify God. Like the fig tree in Luke 13:6-9, this striving for self-glory will not produce good fruit. Instead, we need to strive for storing up treasures in heaven. Seek after the good things, and work to give God the glory with your life.
That is really all that matters.
~ Cayce Fletcher
Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Luke 12-13.
My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. -John 10:27-28 NRSV
Rejection is something that all of us have, or will, face in this life. And, I can honestly say that it never feels great. You know that feeling where you feel like your stomach hits the floor? For a moment, it’s hard to catch a breath. In that moment you feel like you’ve lost it all. As humans, we want people to believe in us. We want to be trusted in, relied upon. And, we also hate the loneliness that comes from people choosing to walk away from us or not abide in our words.
So, what must it have felt like for our Messiah to constantly face people who were unwilling to believe him? How did he have the strength to continue to persevere? We see in the ministry of the Son of Man, the Perfect Man, an ability to consistently rely upon the Word of his father. We see in Jesus complete confidence in God and his plan for Jesus’s ministry. And, over and over, we see Christ giving all glory to God. Jesus knows with complete clarity where his power is coming from and how important it is.
Can you imagine knowing you are the Son of God, proclaiming the gospel that you know without any doubt is true, and having your Jewish brothers and sisters threaten you with stoning?
Fear, dismay, sadness. I can say if I had been in the shoes of Jesus at the end of John 10, I would be overwhelmed with emotion. The steadiness that we see in the Lord is astonishing, and takes an exuberant amount of courage.
32 Jesus replied, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these are you going to stone me?”
Wow. Jesus has just laid out his cards. He is saying, “Look this is who I am. I have been sent by my father to do his good works. You have seen many of these works. And you are going to stone me now?” He is making it clear that by stoning Jesus, the Jews are going against the glory of God. WOAH. What an argument. Its clean, simple, and most importantly, transcendent.
Although we see that Jesus escapes being stoned that day in John 10, we all know that he did have to endure the cross for us. The perfect man that did it all right covered our sin with his blood. And then, God raised him from the dead. Because of that, we have been grafted into an eternal kingdom where righteousness will reign!
But in this life, we will continue to face rejection. We will always have people that don’t believe us. And no, we aren’t going to be perfect. But because of the sacrifice that Jesus made on our behalf, we have the ability to also trust in and rely upon the Word of God. We have the opportunity to serve and be loved by our Creator. How beautiful is that?
When we choose to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, we learn what it takes to be spiritually confident. Trust in God. Trust in his Word. Proclaim his good works. That is where true confidence begins.
Imagery of sheep and shepherd are found all throughout the Bible, in both the old and the new testaments. Because of this, I think we sometimes forget some of the metaphorical imagery that comes with the sheep and shepherd dynamic. Sheep are not an intelligent animal in any sense of the word. They often wander off and get themselves in trouble. When threatened by predators, sheep will often clump themselves together in such a tight pack, that sheep in the center will often suffocate. All in all, sheep are fully reliant on their shepherd for protection, food water, and for their own survival.
Here in John 10, when Jesus is speaking about sheep, and he being the good shepherd, the people probably would have seen it as insulting when he compared them to sheep. But the point that Jesus is trying to make, is that like sheep we could not depend on ourselves for salvation from the consequences of our bad choices. God had to send us a shepherd who would “lay down his life for his sheep”. So he sent us His son Jesus. And as Jesus said, no one took his life from him, but he laid it down of his own accord. I don’t think we could have asked God to send us a better shepherd than who He sent us, His one and only son, Jesus. In just over a week, the Thanksgiving season will begin, and I think that this year we need to spend time thanking God, for the gift of the Good Shepherd, who laid down his life willingly, for us his sheep.
Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – John 9:1 – 10:21
Tomorrow’s passages will be the rest of John 10 and Luke 10.
Okay, let me start by saying, it was SO hard deciding where to even start when I was writing today’s devotion. There is just so much meat in these two chapters, and I highly recommend that you set aside enough time today to really dig into these scriptures.
In today’s first chapter, John 7, we watch as Jesus instructs his disciples to go to the feast without him, because the Jews do not hate the disciples as they do Jesus. Eventually Jesus goes, but in secret. He went to the temple and began teaching, aware that if he were to make himself known to too many people, things wouldn’t end well. Which of course, in the long run, they didn’t – but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. As Jesus said, his time had not yet fully come. This is one of the reasons he was often so discreet. He couldn’t yet draw too much attention to himself, because he knew that would almost immediately lead to his death. This is important to note because he was not done with his time on earth; he knew there was more to accomplish before fulfilling the prophecy. And so he did, showing as much love and kindness as possible, and bringing thousands and thousands of people into the light. (And in doing so, setting an example for us to do the same.)
We could, of course, continue to talk about this one chapter for days and days, however, there’s also a ton of good stuff worth addressing from the next chapter, John 8. This one’s actually jam-packed with wise words and food for thought… so let’s dive in.
The first little section in John 8 is the story of the adulterous woman, which is definitely a good one and can teach us a lot. However if you don’t know already, this story was not in early manuscripts of the book of John, and was likely not written by him. Regardless, the important take away of this story is that none of us have the right to judge another, for we all sin, and we all deserve forgiveness. What stood out to me most though, is that Jesus said “I do not condemn you, either. Go…” which of course is the point of the story, but then he said, “From now on sin no more.” We can’t forget this part in Jesus’ line of thinking. Yes, we can be forgiven, but that doesn’t mean just getting away with something and then going and doing it again. It’s also about repentance; turning yourself around and doing things different from there on out. That’s maybe the most important step: what you do after the fact.
In the next few sections of chapter 8, we’re walked through a series of conversations between Jesus and the Pharisees/Jews. Repeatedly, Jesus (humbly) says something authoritative, and repeatedly, the Pharisees have some illegitimate reason to disagree. Jesus describes himself in many ways over chapter 8: the Light, the Son, the Truth, etc. This is who he is, always, but it is in this chapter that these attributes resulted in so many people coming to believe in him, and so many people coming to hate him. What the Pharisees failed to understand was that Jesus truly did have authority over them. He is the Mediator between God and man. When he claims all these things about who he is, it’s not to glorify himself, it’s simply the truth, God’s truth. As the Son of God he speaks God’s truth, not on his own initiative, but as the Father teaches him (John 8:28).
Jesus has to repeat himself many times in chapter 8, because his audience is really not getting it. At one point he even asks, “Why are you not understanding what I am saying?” which I always imagine was said in slight exasperation. From this point on, he really begins spelling it out for them, and for us. In verses 38-47 Jesus refers to two fathers, ours and his. At first the Jews think he means their descendant, Abraham. He proceeds to tell them that if they were truly children of Abraham, they would be acting like Abraham, but they’re not. Then they try to refute this by saying, oh well actually no, God is our one Father. Jesus then replies with, well if God was your Father, you would love me, because He’s the one who sent me. Then he reveals that the father he was really referring to as theirs was the devil, which had to have stung, but should really make us think. Who are we allowing to lead our lives? As children of God, are we fully giving ourselves to Him- our Creator, our Potter, our Abba.
Lastly I want to quickly mention something about 8:58. Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am” (NASB). Many times trinitarians take this verse and try to claim that this means Jesus was around forever, making him one with God. However, it was really translated wrong, (as many verses are, due to the overwhelming amount of biased translators) and if translated correctly, would read something more like, “I am he,” or “I am the one,” which in this context, would just be referring to himself as the Messiah, existing not physically in Abraham’s time, or before, but in God’s plans for the world.
As you go through the rest of your week, pray that, being of God, you may hear the word of God, because followers of God WILL hear Him, and will know the truth (John 8:45-47), and the truth will set you free (John 8:32).
– Isabella Osborn
It’s a treat to hear from Isabella today. She is a wise and caring home-school student from South Carolina who loves loving God and others.
Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – John 7-8
Tomorrow we will read John 9:1-10:21 as we continue on our journey through God’s Word. Come follow along!