Luke 17:11-18:14

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.

Tomorrow we will read Matthew 19 & Mark 10.

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 14-15

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.

~ Rebecca Dauksas

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Luke 14-15.

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

Isaiah 31-34

The Lord gives victory to his anointed. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.

One highlight of my year is going to South East Camp held on the mountaintops of the NC Blue Ridge. Years ago, we drove down the mountain to a center with a high ropes course. Everyone suited up with a helmet and a buddy and clipped their carabiner to the first level on the course. Now, I have some friends who are into rock climbing and would be happy to dangle off the top of a mountain just to get the adrenaline rush. However, I am not that person. As a child, I used to get weak knees going to the edge of the second floor balcony at my church. In fact, there are still some rides I refuse to go on at amusement parks, because the drop is just too much. I’ve gotten better, but I definitely am still scared of heights. Going back to our high ropes adventure, I made it through the whole course, including the more difficult parts, but then I came to the end where I needed to zip line down to the ground. 

Looking down off the ledge, I could already feel a tingling in my knees and my palms getting sweaty. At that moment, I felt like turning around and going through the whole ropes course again just to make it back down to the bottom, because I felt like that was something that I could control with my body. Even though my heart was racing, I paused to take a few deep breaths, and then I stepped off the side to zoom through the air. In truth, once I picked up my feet, I felt safe and secure in my harness. The obstacle I had to overcome was one of trusting that my harness would do what it was supposed to do. I had to trust in something that I couldn’t control, but was probably the quickest and safest way down. 

In Isaiah 31, we read about some trust issues that the Israelites had developed with God. They weren’t afraid of heights in this case; instead, they were afraid of the nations around them. Israel had chosen to rely on numbers of men and horses when they faced battle, and because of this, they had grown to depend on Egypt’s help. They thought that by controlling the amount of man- and horsepower they could bring to a fight they could ensure their victory. However, God reminds them that the “Egyptians are men, not God; their horses are flesh, not spirit” (Isaiah 31:3). God was so much stronger than anyone the Israelites would face, but they refused to see it. By not trusting in God, they paved the way for their own demise (v. 3). 

We also have a daily choice between trusting God or trusting our own flesh. It may come in the form of choosing to be obedient to God’s command, by giving away our money or time to someone in need, or by sacrificing a desire to make room for a deeper relationship with God. In those times, we may want to trust in our own minds or bodies, because we feel like we can control those things. But, remember, God is so much more mighty than we are. We can trust him in whatever situation that we face. 

~ Cayce Fletcher

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to on Bible Gateway – Isaiah 31-34.

Tomorrow, we continue reading about the history of Judah and Israel in Isaiah 35-36– as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan.

Isaiah 28-30

Because these people approach Me with their mouths to honor Me with lip service - yet their hearts are far from Me, and their worship consists of man-made rules learned by rote

As we turn back to Isaiah in our reading, we read about the judgments pronounced upon Jerusalem and the surrounding nations. At the end of Isaiah 27, God had given the Israelites a picture of their hope – to return to Jerusalem. However, in Isaiah 28, we turn back to the reason why the Israelites had to be removed from the promised land in the first place. 

When I was in high school, every student that drove had to take a driver’s education class before they could get their parking pass. I was standing pressed against the glass at the DMV the day I turned 15 (the age we could get our learner’s permit), and I knew that I would do whatever it took to be able to drive to school as soon as I could. Along with the videos of car crashes and the several hours driving with the instructor, one activity we had to do was put on a pair of beer goggles to show the effects of driving under the influence. With the vision of someone who had way too many beers, we were supposed to catch a tennis ball. As you can imagine, almost all of us dropped the ball as we stumbled and swayed with the goggles on our face. With our vision clouded, there was no way that we were able to complete the task that we were given. 

We’ve been looking at the effects of idolatry over the previous days. This was not the Israelites only sin though. In Isaiah 28, God turns to focus on Ephraim’s drunkards and says woe to them. These priests “stagger because of wine and stumble under the influence of beer. They are muddled in their visions, they stumble in their judgments. Indeed, all their tables are covered with vomit; there is no place without a stench” (Isaiah 28:7-8). This presents a dire picture of priests turned alcoholics, which means they can’t do much good for anyone. We know how alcoholism and drunkenness itself can be dangerous, but what is so striking to me in this description is the way that it shows a parallel to all sin. All sin clouds our vision and judgments. All sin realigns our priorities. Ultimately, all sin separates us from God and leaves our lives defiled. 

When we are living under the influence of sin, we miss out on God’s purpose for our lives. The priests in this chapter were supposed to teach the people how to seek after God. Instead, they stumbled over their words while they instructed and caused their people to stumble in their everyday walk with God. Where do you see the effects of sin goggles in your life? Where can you take off the sin in your life so that you can have a clearer vision for how to serve God better? 

~ Cayce Fletcher

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to on Bible Gateway – Isaiah 28-30.

Tomorrow, we continue reading about the history of Judah and Israel in Isaiah 31-34– as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan.

Lessons from the Wilderness: The Israelites

heb.Over the next few days, we’re going to look at four wilderness stories in the bible to learn a lesson about what the wilderness is and what it can teach us. The first Wilderness Wandering Lesson is this:

Wilderness Wandering Lesson #1: The faithful love of God is infinitely more secure than our fractured circumstances.

The most recognizable story of wilderness is that of the Israelites. After 400 years of servitude to the Egyptians, the Israelites kept crying out to God for the deliverance prophecied by Joseph in Gen. 50:25. That help came in the form of Moses, who was commissioned by God to lead the Israelites to the land of Canaan. So this so-called Promised land, part of the covenant promise that God made with Abraham in Gen. 12, was the Israelites’ destination. Even in the Israelites’ time in the wilderness, we can see two purposes in the wilderness. The wilderness in the first year was a time of purification and dependence. It is in the wilderness that the Israelites learned to trust God for direction (Fire and Cloud – Ex. 14) and sustenance (Manna and Water – Ex. 16). In Exodus 16, God even says, “I will test them to see whether or not they will follow my instructions” (v. 4). This testing was his goal for the first year the Israelites spent in the wilderness. Spent mostly at the base of Mt. Sinai, it was in this time that the Israelites received the ten commandments, built the tabernacle, and received the rest of the law (Ex. 15-Num. 10). Though there was difficulty in this time (think Golden Calf – Ex. 32), this time in the wilderness was also full of incredible closeness to God. It was during this time that the Israelites were able to witness the Shekinah glory of God descend on the tabernacle. And, during this time, the Israelites experienced the humbling dependence on God that came from relying on him.

Map-Route-Exodus-Israelites-Egypt

We can think of this first year in the wilderness as the training wheels period where God was showing the Israelites that relying on him was best. That trusting in him was the way to choose life and joy. In Numbers 10, the Israelites break camp and move towards the border of the Promised land. In Numbers 11, the cracks begin to show again as the Israelites complain more and more about hardship, food, and in the case of Aaron and Miriam, the power and relationship with God that Moses had. Based on the tendencies that we see in these chapters, we shouldn’t be as surprised as we generally are that the Israelites get to the border of the promised land and choose to go against God and refuse to take the land because of their fear (Num. 14). The Israelites chose not to go into the promised land because their trust in God was lacking. They didn’t think that God would do what he said he would. Instead, they based their decisions on their circumstances, which seemed too difficult to overcome. It’s this that ultimately angers God and leads towards his judgment against the Israelites: They would wander the wilderness for 40 years (one year for each day they spent scouting the wilderness). In the remaining chapters of Numbers, we see more instances of rebellion and provision as the Israelites do exactly as God says and wander the wilderness for 40 years. It is not until the book of Joshua, that we see the next generation of Israelites rise up and take the land just as God promised his people that they would.

These two tales are frequently told together, but they tell two very different stories of the wilderness. In the first, the Israelites seemed to have done nothing to be put in the wilderness, while in the second, the wilderness was a place of punishment for the past sin of the people. But, the purpose of each wilderness experience is the same. The wilderness is meant for purification and refinement, to make the people of God ‘holy, because [he] is holy’ (Lev. 19:2). Too often, I think we view the wilderness as a punishment, and because of that, we go back to asking God, “Why? Why am I here?” We may even sound like some of my high school students when they get called out, “Why? I wasn’t even doing anything!” (No matter what they are doing.) We need to stop viewing the wilderness as a place of punishment. It can be that place, as we’ve seen with the Israelites. But, more importantly, this time in the wilderness is where God is beckoning us back to him. It’s in this time that all of the Israelites first heard God’s word. It’s in this time that they felt the characteristics of God that Moses spoke in Numb. 14:18. In your wilderness wanderings, instead of focusing on the doubt – the questions of why you are in that experience – focus on who God is:

“The Lord is slow to anger and rich in faithful love, forgiving wrongdoing and rebellion. But He will not leave the guilty unpunished, bringing the consequences of the fathers’ wrongdoing on the children to the third and fourth generation.” (Numb. 14:18)

Rest on God’s faithful love, and in your time in the wilderness, don’t forget to remember who he is. When we trust in him, our circumstances don’t seem so challenging anymore.

~ Cayce Fletcher

What Rings Out from You?

1 Thess 1 8

I Thessalonians 1-3

Apprentice: Learning from the Master was the theme for Family Camp 2015.  Our son suggested the theme while coming home from Family Camp the previous year.   And it stuck.  “Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ” I Corinthians 11:1.  We have a responsibility to be following our Master Jesus (who was following God’s will and direction every step of the way) – not only for our benefit – but to lead and guide and instruct others how to also follow Christ and become more and more like Jesus.

I see Apprentice all over these first three chapters of I Thessalonians.   When Paul was blinded on the road to Damascus he entered training to be an Apprentice of the Lord Jesus Christ.  But he didn’t hide away with his new-found life – taking it out every Sunday to display at church.  It was his life and breath and joy and struggle – to be lived and fought for every day – to take people to Jesus that they might become apprentices as well – learning and teaching the craft of loving, serving, following, obeying Christ and His Father.  Listen again to some of these phrases:
“You became imitators of us and of our Lord: in spite of severe suffering” (1:6)
“And so you became a model to all the believers” (1:7)
“The Lord’s message rang out from you” (1:8)
“For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes?  Is it not you?  Indeed, you are our glory and joy.” (2:19,20)
“For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord.” (3:8)

Do you want to be a better Apprentice?

First – check your walk – are you living what you’ve learned from Jesus the Master? Do you do the work that Jesus did?  How can you follow Jesus better?  More consistently?  Does the Lord’s message ring out from you?  Do you imitate the world or do you imitate Christ and Christian role-models?
How can you reach out to others as Jesus did?  And as Paul did?  Who do you pray earnestly for night and day – that their faith will be strong?
Who will be your hope, your joy or your crown in which you will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes?

“May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.  May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.”  (3:12-13).

Marcia Railton

How to Avoid Belly Aches

Prov 21 2

I’ve always worked around construction sites. From the age of 5, my dad would have me help where I could and talk to the workers. I remember when I was 8 I saw a brickmason with what I thought was candy and asked for a piece. What he had was a can of tobacco but as an 8 yr. old I was convinced I was right because I was 8 and knew everything. Some of us never grow out of this and religious people are no different.

The Pharisees, Saul, David, and others thought they were right. Proverbs 16:2 says, “All a person’s ways seem right to them but motives are weighed by God.” And just in case you’re like me, Solomon says something similar in 21:2. How do we, as believers, keep our motives pure. Proverbs 3:5,6 says to lean on God and not on our understanding and he will make straight paths for us. We do this by reading God’s words: Psalms 12:6 says God’s word is flawless. The Psalms and Proverbs are big on that theme. In Hebrews 4:12 we see God’s word is active and when used, judges our thoughts so that, if we aren’t stubborn, we can make Godly choices.

At 43, I can still channel my 8 yr. old self. After so many times of telling the brickmason I was right, my dad said let him have one. I swallowed that and got sick for the next 30 min, but never have tried that again. I pray that today we acknowledge God first and his word and live by the Spirit that brings life. Try his word today and avoid some of the “belly aches” that come from thinking we have the answers. God bless you.

-Joseph Partain

God’s Will in Just 6 Words

Phil 2 14 15

Have you noticed that there is a book about every subject. There are books on marriage, parenting, preaching, finding God’s will for our lives, etc. I listen to Christian talk radio and it seems like everyone that preaches or speaks has a book to sell or give you for a donation. What about the book that God wrote. Many people buy books on God’s will like: Do Something, God’s Will for your life, and any number of books promising to find that specific thing that is just for you.

Philippians 2 gives us a seemingly simple yet admittedly hard will that God has for all of our lives. In fact, if done, promises that our light for God will shine like the stars in the sky. Philippians 2:14 says to do everything without arguing or complaining. God’s word always seems to get to the point and save you hundreds at Barnes and Nobles. This verse, if followed, promises that we will not have labored in vain on the day of Christ.

Is God’s will for our life really just 6 words? Try it. Today just listen to what is going on around you. There is complaining and arguing on politics, religion, driving skills or lack thereof, and the speed at which we get our fast food and God hates it. In Numbers 14 this issue kept the children of Israel out of the promised land. The place that God had planned for them. What “promised lands” are we missing out on due to our attitude.

Just yesterday as our work crew pulled up to the construction site, one of the workers from the other crew met us and said, “The Christians are here”. He said he was listening to the preaching and music we were listening to and was enjoying it. You can shine in this world if we focus on God and his son. Like the song says, “The things of this world will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.”

-Joseph Partain

Love and Forgiveness

1 Corinthians 16 14

Throughout this week we have discussed topics on having a Christ-centered life, God’s Will vs. our will, our purpose in life, worshipping by singing, standing up for Christ, and thriving. Today we are going to discuss two important attributes and characteristics of Christians. We, as Christians, should love and forgive. Here’s why!

God’s Word, the Bible, sets the example of a Christian’s life. Throughout the Bible we find the word love. Love is a strong word. Right? A lot of times we use the word love without meaning.

To begin, I believe 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 is the Bible’s definition of love.

“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

-1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Here are other scriptures that reference love:

“Let all that you do be done in love.” -1 Corinthians 16:14

“The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”

-1 John 4:8

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” -John 13:34-35

“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” -John 15:13

“So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

-1 Corinthians 13:13

“We love because He first loved us.” -1 John 4:19

God wants us to love Him, His Son, and each other. God loved us first! He loved us before we were born! He loved us so much, that He sent His one and only Son to die for the sins of the world. That’s pure love. Jesus Christ was obedient to His Father and followed His will. Jesus loves us too! We should love God with everything we have. We should display the love of God so others can know Him and receive His love. If we do not love one another, then we do not know God! God is love! Everything revolves around love.

Another important Christian characteristic is forgiving others. I understand, it’s hard to forgive people sometimes. It’s hard to forgive people who make fun of you, call you names, or just act rudely. But it’s something we have to do!

In Matthew 6:9-13, Jesus teaches His disciples the Lord’s Prayer. In verse 12, Jesus says that we should pray to our Heavenly Father, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”

That’s huge! We are praying and asking God to forgive us of our debts and sins. After and only if we also forgive those who sin or have debts against us.

That’s right! You heard it! We have to forgive others so God will forgive us.

Jesus continues by saying in Matthew 6:14-15, “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.”

That is plain and simple to understand. We need to forgive one another, if we want to be forgiven by God.

Love and forgiveness flow together hand in hand. If we love one another, we will forgive one another. If we do not love one another, we will not forgive others. If we do not love, we do not know God, because God is love.

Because of God’s love, we have pathway to salvation. He gave His Son, Jesus, as a perfect sacrifice to die on the cross for our sins. Jesus Christ lived, was crucified, died, was resurrected, and is coming back again! That’s the Good News of the Gospel.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

-Romans 6:23

We all are sinners, and the price of sin is death. Sadly, because of sin, we all will die. Jesus gives us hope. Because of the shedding of Jesus’ blood, God has forgiven our sins. If we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior and are baptized, we will be saved. We have hope that when we die, we will be asleep in Christ, until He returns. When Jesus Christ returns, the dead in Christ will be raised and those who lived a righteous life will be resurrected to life eternal in the Kingdom of God. Don’t you want to be a part of that? I know I sure do!

Today I encourage you to live a Kingdom life. Love one another and forgive those who sin against you. God wants us to live according to His Word, His will, and His way. We are His children!

-Brenan Dominguez 

 

Hi everyone, 

I enjoyed sharing several topics with you all this week! I hope you have grown in your faith and learned something new this week from these devotions. I hope and pray that you will continue to grow and learn. I encourage you to read your Bible daily. Every time you read your Bible you will learn something new! Remember that God has a plan and a vision for your life. Find that vision, set a goal, and work toward achieving the goal. Our ultimate goal as Christians should be glorifying our Heavenly Father. 

If you need someone to talk to, you can always leave a comment here or find me on facebook.

Until next time, 

“The LORD bless you and keep you; The LORD make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.” -Numbers 6:24-26