Luke 16-17:10

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. 

~Cayce Fletcher

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Luke 16:1-17:10.

Tomorrow we will read John 11.

Luke 12-13 – Heavenly Treasures

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.

Tomorrow we will read Luke 16:1-17:10.

To Know God

Job 40-42

Job 42 3 NIV

The last chapters of Job leave us with a terrifying and convicting picture. God continues to describe his wonders through his creations. We may have a pretty tame view of God based on a Santa Claus version of him that is popular in churches today. However, when we think about the fact that God, who made every great and mighty thing in the world from alligators to great white sharks to tornadoes and hurricanes, also controls them. He is greater and mightier than anything that exists.

 

When God tells these things to Job, Job recognizes how small and insignificant he is – just like we do when we stand on a mountain top or look at the vastness of the ocean. Job, before this moment, knew a lot about God. He knew the right theology and lived righteously. At the heart of the matter though, he didn’t truly know the depth of who God was, and because of that, he tried to put God in a box. He tried to put limits on God based on his own limited human understanding.

 

If you’ve grown up hearing about God, whether the things you heard were true or not, you may have a mistaken understanding of who God is. It’s like the game of telephone, where one person starts off a chain of spoken words. We all can remember some of the hilarious phrases that are morphed out of simple sentences when we don’t get the original saying from the source. When we try to base our understanding of God on what we’ve heard by word of mouth, we may have some pretty wacky understandings of God. When we come face to face with Him through the scriptures, we begin to see with clarity the awe and majesty of God.

 

That’s our hope for the new year. By the end of the year, we should say, like Job, “I had heard rumors about You, but now my eyes have seen You” (Job 42:5). Let’s commit to this goal together to desire to know God instead of just learning more about God this year.
~Cayce Fletcher
Meet God face to face in His Word.  You can read or listen to God here https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Job+40-42&version=CSB
We have finished the book of Job – tomorrow we return to the book of Genesis (chapters 12-15) in our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Jesus is Coming! Jesus is Coming!

Luke 19

luke 19 38

Jesus is Coming!  What preparations do we need to make before Jesus comes?  Climb a tree to get a good vantage point?  Put his money to work?  Spread your cloak on the road?  These were all mentioned in Luke 19 as ways people prepared for Jesus’ coming.

The wealthy, though short, tax collector Zacchaeus was curious about this Jesus who was coming into town.  Not wanting to miss out he climbed a tree to make sure he could see Jesus.

In the Parable of the Ten Minas, during the master’s absence most of the servants took what had been entrusted to them (a mina – about three months wages) and put it to work to earn more – and were rewarded for their work.

When the crowd heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem they gathered to pay him honor as they spread their cloaks in the road in front of the colt carrying Jesus.  And with loud voices they joyfully praised God for the miracles they had witnessed Jesus perform: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!  Peace in heaven and glory in the highest”. (Luke 19:38)

This greeting reminds me of the words spoken by the great company of the heavenly host about 33 years earlier when the angels were telling the shepherds of the birth of Christ.  “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14).

No doubt, today, Christmas Eve, many many preparations will be made – supposedly in preparation to celebrate the birth of a King.  In the midst of our busyness how will we actually prepare for Jesus?   What will we do and say and give and pray TODAY to celebrate his FIRST Coming in a way that will honor him?  Perhaps there will be some things that we decide we will NOT do, in order to better celebrate Jesus’ coming.

And, EVERY day – how will we prepare for his SECOND coming?

Will we take the time and effort to seek out Jesus as Zacchaeus did?  Will we joyfully accept his invitation to meet together and then find ourselves changed – repentant and obedient – because of the time we spend in his presence?

Will we take the talents, time, possessions and minas/money  we have been given and diligently be trustworthy in using them to prepare for the coming return of our Savior – spreading the word, growing the church, and caring for the lost?  Or will we be like the scared servant who just hid away the treasure that he was responsible for – and even what he had was taken from him?

Will we work at honoring Jesus, the Son of God who is indeed coming to be crowned king in a kingdom like no other.   Will we give of ourselves, not afraid to get our clothes a little dirty, not ashamed to speak boldly, not persuaded to keep quiet by the Pharisees in our midst?  For if we don’t speak – even the stones will tell of his greatness (Luke 19:40).

I pray we celebrate his first coming well while we wisely and diligently prepare for his even greater second coming!

Jesus is Coming!

Marcia Railton

 

 

Caring for the Poor

Proverbs 23  (Tuesday)

Prov 23-10-11

 

 

There are two strong images that emerge in this proverb.  The first is that of moving a landmark so that it encroaches on “the field of orphans” (Proverbs 23:10).  This is most likely a reference to the Israelite practice of leaving the corners of a field for the poor to glean from (Lev. 19:9-10; Deut. 24:19-21).  This institutionalized care for those in need meant that farmers would always leave part of their field unpicked.

 

Just like surveyors today, the properties of each person would have been laid out by various markings: large rocks, stakes, or a cairn (pile of rocks).  While there wasn’t a board or city commission the farmers could check against, a greedy farmer could slowly move a marker year after year to make their own plot larger while taking from their neighbor – or in this case, shrinking the portion of their field that is left for the poor.  Human greed to take from those who already have so little is nothing new today.  So, this proverb is a warning that if we try to steal from the orphaned and poor, we have their redeemer to answer to — God.

 

The second image comes in verse 11 and is connected to the story of Ruth.  It is the role of the “redeemer.”  In the Hebrew, this is the word Gaal or Gaw’al (spellings vary).  We might more accurately translate it as a “kinsman redeemer” like Boaz is in Ruth.  This is the person whose responsibility it is to care for family members who don’t have a means to protect themselves.  And God will not only protect them, but plead their case against us if are the ones threatening the little that they have.

 

Our God is one who jealously guards His children, even more so those who have no protector themselves.  As the people of God, this Proverb reminds us that God is one who stands as the kinsman redeemer of the poor and that it is our responsibility as part of his family to take up their cause as well.

–Graysen Pack

The Prosperity Gospel vs. Giving Generously

Proverbs 22 – Monday

Prov 22-9

Proverbs 22:4 & 9

The reward for humility and fear of the Lord

   is riches and honor and life…

Those who are generous are blessed,

   for they share their bread with the poor.

 

On any given Sunday morning, I can flip on my television and find a number of ministers promising me riches, wealth, and prosperity if I only have faith.  They usually then want me to practice that faith by making an offering to their ministry – “give us $5 so that God can return it to you one hundred fold.”  These promises do indeed sound promising, but this prosperity gospel is not the message that our Lord came preaching.

 

Just like we can twist the words of Jeremiah 29:11 and John 10:10 to fit this perspective, we can also turn to Proverbs to try to find a God who rewards those who are faithful with riches, wealth, and health.  But our interpretation of the Proverbs would be just as tortured if we tried to find its truth in the shallow waters of the prosperity gospel.  

 

Rather, let’s use the Scriptures themselves to better understand the “riches and honor and life” that is promised for those who love the Lord like we find in Proverbs 22:4.  Just a few verses later, we find the clarification that we need.  It is the “generous” who are (hashtag) blessed.


The wealth of the Gospel of Christ lies not in storing up material wealth or riches or fame, but in sharing the material goodness that we have been given with those who don’t have them.  We are blessed with lives of richness, honor, and life abundant when we give away the riches we have so that those with neither riches nor basic needs can be filled as well.

 

To close with a parable of Jesus, there was a man whose harvest was larger than his barn could store.  He decided to build a larger barn to store his crop.  However, that night he died and all his wealth was lost.  I think that the point of this parable isn’t that we shouldn’t plan ahead or have large barns, but rather that when we have more than we need, we should share it instead of store it up for ourselves.

 

We can find life, wealth, and riches only when we are generous and give the very things we think we need to hoard.

-Graysen Pack

 

 

2500 Years Later

Sunday Intro by Graysen Pack

God's Word RemainsLiving & Active

As we continue our readings in Proverbs (Chapters 22-26 this week), we are going to be leaving a collection of sayings by Solomon that contrast the wise and the foolish.  We’ll then move into a new section of Proverbs, the sayings of the Wise.  These proverbs, unlike previous ones, aren’t written down by Solomon directly but put down to paper by the servants of King Hezekiah years later.


This reveals one of the defining characteristics of Wisdom literature as it’s found in Scripture: it is a product of the dynamic tension that ancient people faced in their day to day lives.  These are sayings that were passed down for generations from the time of Solomon to the days of Hezekiah and then put to paper.  Unlike some portions of the Hebrew Bible, the Wisdom literature found in Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Solomon, Job, and Ecclesiastes are intrinsically shaped by the ways that the Jews of ancient Israel were trying to understand the role of faith in their daily actions.

 

This is what makes these scriptures deep, meaningful, and particularly relevant to the struggles we still face today.  So, as we explore the Proverbs this week, I encourage you to not see them as a detached set of sayings from a time long gone, but as markers laid out by individuals of faith who found themselves in older variations of the exact same challenges we encounter in our own lives some 2500 years later.

Paper Mache Proverbs

Saturday Weekly Recap with Rebecca Dauksas

paper mache

As we continued through the Proverbs we compared it to the craft of Paper Mache as we add the layers of principles into our lives and saturate every piece of our hearts with God’s Spirit. Maybe, seeing so many parables makes you think of a large jigsaw puzzle. So many pieces! Yet the beauty of God’s scriptures are how they fit and go together.  Proverb upon proverb, principle upon principle, parable upon parable, …forming us into God’s wise children. Lets continue to gain wisdom as we move into Proverbs 22.

How Much Do Your Motives Weigh?

Proverbs 21

proverbs 21-2

A person may think their own ways are right, but the Lord weighs the heart. Proverbs 21:2

Proverbs 21 focuses on “why we do what we do” or motives. It is hard to determine another’s motives because sometimes we don’t even understand why we are doing something. Our motives are the goal or object of our actions or something that causes a person to act in a certain way or do a certain thing. We should be comforted by the fact that the LORD weighs the heart.  God not only sees what we do, but he understands why we do it.  He understands who we are inside and out.  We can be happy about this because not only does He know what we are like, but He will help us become who we should be.  As Ezekiel 11:19-20 states, “I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God.”

So God not only looks at the heart (1 Sam. 16:7), but when we are open to Him He makes our hearts as they should be.  Verse 1 explains that in the Lord’s hand the king’s heart is a stream of water that he channels toward all who please him. Anyone that has watched an irrigation ditch being dug truly pictures this. The water rushes through bringing much needed water to the crops.  In the same way, we succeed by placing our hearts in the LORD’s hand.  God gives us pure hearts so we can do good with pure motives.  We allow Him to use us to do His work and we will be rewarded beyond our sacrifice. Of course, that reward may only be given in the Kingdom of God.  As verse 21 states, “Whoever pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor.”  So now is the time to get ready for the ways that our lives can honor and serve our God. The final verse of Proverbs 21 tells us, “The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the Lord.”  So it is our responsibility to prepare for the ways in which we can serve the LORD. Under God’s direction, we will get our horse ready.  But we can be sure that victory rests with the LORD.

-Rebecca Dauksas

 

Integrity!

Proverbs 20

prov 20-17 (1)

We read previously that honest scales and balances belong to the Lord so we understand that God wants us to possess fairness, honesty and integrity.  Proverbs 20 shows us the importance of being honest with everyone around us in our daily lives.  For instance, in verse 23 we are told that the Lord detests differing weights, and dishonest scales do not please him. Dishonest scales refers to the loaded scales a merchant might use in order to cheat customers. Those who cheat others think that their actions will not be discovered and they will have benefited from what they did. Unfortunately, Statistic Brain estimates that $270,000,000,000 is lost annually by the U.S. Treasury due to unreported income. Maybe they cheat because they just don’t think they will be caught.  After all, this same report states that 79% of people think it is morally wrong to cheat on their taxes.

But as Christians we value what God thinks of us.  We want His approval.  As verse 17 explains “Food gained by fraud tastes sweet, but one ends up with a mouth full of gravel.”  Sometimes, it is tough to do the right thing, but we should always take the moral high ground.  After all, integrity can be described as doing the right thing when no one is watching. And as Children of God, we know God is not only watching, but helping us by “directing our steps”(v.24).

Something to think about. What is verse 1 saying about the abuse of alcohol leading the unwise astray? How could this affect someone’s integrity or honesty?

By Rebecca Dauksas