Possessions or Jesus?

Text: Luke 18.15-19.48

At the time this devotion is being written, the release of the new iPhone 12 will be announced tomorrow. Many people, as usual, will drool over this fresh piece of technology and feel compelled to get it even though they probably don’t need it. And my oh my how this is true with so many other material items in our life. We don’t really need them but feel as though we do. This is the world we live in as 21st century Americans. However, though having material possessions IS NOT BAD, as disciples of Jesus we MUST be aware of the ever lurking sin of greed and ungodly consumption. 

In today’s text we read about two rich men who respond to Jesus in complete opposite ways. The two rich men are the Young Rich Ruler and Zacchaeus. The reality is both of these men represent two groups of people. One group who says they want to follow Jesus but do not want to give up their supreme desire for possessions/wealth and the other group are those who equally love money and wealth but repent of it and replace the greatest desire of their life (wealth) with Jesus. 

In the account of the rich young ruler, Jesus plainly tells us it is impossible for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. Worldly riches and treasures and possessions mean absolutely nothing to the sovereign creator of the universe. It is ok to have money, it is absolutely not ok to love money (and what you get with it) more than God. The former is God’s gift to us, the latter is idolatry. Love the giver not the gift. 

In the account of Zacchaeus we learn that it is never too late to repent of our sin (in this case greed) and come to Jesus and receive salvation. Zacchaeus was likely a career tax collector who made a living stealing from his own Jewish people. He shows us the way to repent from greed. He gives away many of his possessions and repays four times what he stole from people. Zacchaeus’ heart changed therefore his actions and lifestyle changed. True repentance is always evidenced in life change. 

Who are you? Do you say you love Jesus but really wealth and consumerism has your heart? Or do you recognize greed has no place in the life of a believer. Our greatest treasure is Christ not the Iphone 12. 

Other passages on greed and wealth:

.Luke 8.14

.Luke 12.16-21

.Luke 16.19-31

.Proverbs 11.4

.Proverbs 11.28

.Matthew 6.19-21

-Jacob Rohrer

P.S. The next 2 weeks of devotions will be authored by me. All my scriptural citations will come from the New American Standard Bible (NASB).

Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Luke 18.15-19.48

Tomorrow we will read Mark 11 & John 12.

Matthew 20-21

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.

Tomorrow, we will read Luke 18:15-19:48.

Matthew 19 & Mark 10

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.

Tomorrow, we will read Matthew 20-21.

John 11

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.

Tomorrow we will read Luke 17:11-18:14.

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.

The Shepherd

Ezekiel 32-34

Ezekiel 33 and 34 cover leadership, how Ezekiel cannot be an effective leader and how God will one day lead Israel directly and be their shepherd. 

30 “As for you, son of man, your people are talking together about you by the walls and at the doors of the houses, saying to each other, ‘Come and hear the message that has come from the Lord.’ 31 My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to hear your words, but they do not put them into practice. Their mouths speak of love, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. 32 Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice.” (Ezekiel 33:30-32 NIV)

Ezekiel is a leader over God’s people, but he cannot lead effectively if they will not listen to him.  Ezekiel has been proclaiming God’s word to the people for a few years now and telling them of the judgements of God and the consequences of their actions, and they have been collectively taking his messages about as seriously as you would a street performer’s.  I think that a lot of people go to church today because they want to hear nice things from the pastor and they enjoy how energetic and uplifting the speaker can be, but unless you are being pushed to change your ways and grow closer to God and step outside of your comfort zone, then you might be like the Israelites here, with the word of God going in one ear and out the other.  Hearing the word is not enough, you have to listen and change.

11 “‘For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. 12 As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness.

15 I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord. 16 I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice.” (Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-16 NIV)

I think that this looks forward to two different times.  First it looks to the time after the death of Jesus when the sins of mankind can be covered by Jesus’ blood and man can go directly to God, without the need for an earthly priest and a temple and daily sacrifices.  I think that Jesus was even alluding to this chapter when he told the parable of the shepherd who left the 99 sheep to find the one, basically telling the Israelites that God was ready to begin this new type of relationship with them that he had told them about during the time of Ezekiel.  

I think that this verse also looks forward to the Kingdom of God when he will reign as the perfect shepherd over all those who have believed.  At the time of Ezekiel this was very far away, and Jesus had not begun his ministry, and the Church was not yet established, but God still had a plan.

Revelation 21:3

3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 

Thanks for joining us this week as we have been going through Ezekiel.  It is not a book that we know particularly well and we are glad that we have had this time to study it.

Chris and Katie-Beth Mattison

Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at Bible Gateway here – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ezekiel+32-34&version=NIV

Tomorrow we will be reading Ezekiel 35-37 as we continue our Chronological Bible Reading Plan.

Isaiah 40-43

He gives strength to the weary and strengthens the powerless. Those who trust in the LORD will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint

“Comfort, comfort My people,” says your God. “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and announce to her that her time of forced labor is over, her iniquity has been pardoned, and she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.” ~ Is. 40:1-2 

While the first 39 chapters of Isaiah consist of the judgment pronounced on Israel & Judah, the book of consolation begins in chapter 40 and continues for the last 27 chapters of the book (mirroring the set-up of the Bible itself). Isaiah 40-43 contains beautiful pictures of who God is and breath-taking prophecies of the future messiah. When we look at the story of the Israelites a central theme that we see is the forsaking of the true God for idols. Because they could see the idols and because other nations worshipped in the same way, they felt like it was more profitable to worship them. However, these idols always proved to be worthless and caused pain and destruction. If we see that we are worshipping idols, what should we do? How can we turn away from the worthlessness of these idols to the infinite value found in God through Christ. 

Isaiah 40-43 gives us an answer to that as well. In Isaiah 40, Isaiah reminds us who God is. He asks the question in v. 18-19, “Who will compare God with? What likeness will you compare Him to? To an idol? Something that a smelter casts, and a metalworker plates with gold and makes silver welds for it?” Instead of worshipping a created thing, God points us to what he has created to show his power and to show us that he is the only one worth worshipping. In v. 26, he says, “Look up and see: who created these? He brings out the starry host by number; He calls all of them by name. Because of His great power and strength, not one of them is missing.” When we find ourselves looking towards idols for our value and worth – and in turn worshipping them, we need to remind ourselves of where our true value comes from. To do that, we have to turn our eyes away from ourselves and the things we think define us – whether that’s our relationships, money, career, or anything else – and turn them towards the only thing that really gives us worth. By focusing on God and basing our lives on his unchanging character, we can rest in God through the storms and trials of life. He is our firm foundation. 

~ Cayce Fletcher

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to on Bible Gateway – Isaiah 40-43.

Tomorrow, we continue reading about the history of Judah and Israel in Isaiah 44-48 – as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan.

Isaiah 37-39 & Psalm 76

I will defend this city and rescue it because of Me and because of My servant David._

In Isaiah 36-37, we read more about the good king Hezekiah. Like we learned last week, Hezekiah worked hard to take down the idols in the land and point the people back to God. In Isaiah 36, Judah came under attack from the neighboring nation of Assyria. Hezekiah then undergoes a battle for the minds of the people as he argues against King Sennacherib and the people of the court. In these two chapters, the Rabshakeh, a high-ranking military officer, tries to convince the people to forsake their kingdom and God. In his three speeches, we may see some similarities between what he says and the way that we are tempted today. At the heart of all of his speeches is a desire to turn Judah away from trusting solely in God. 

In the Rabshakeh’s first speech, he points out one of Israel’s insecurities. He says in Is. 36:4-6, ‘What are you relying on? Your strategy and military preparedness are mere words. Look, you are trusting in Egypt, that splintered reed of a staff that will enter and pierce the hand of anyone who leans on it.’ Israel and Judah had both sought protection and manpower from Egypt as we read about in Is. 31. Now the Rabshakeh was pointing out that weakness and mocking them for it! We’ve all experienced a time when we have had our insecurities pointed out. I’m a terrible volleyball player. When I would have to play volleyball in gym class, I remember one of the cute guys at my school saying to me ‘You just have to hit the ball like this. It’s not hard!’ You can imagine that in that moment – when a shortcoming of mine was pointed out – all I wanted to do was for someone to take that problem away from me quickly! In my gym class that meant sitting out the next game, but the Judeans didn’t have that option. The Assyrians gave them the option instead to give him 2,000 horses if they could supply riders for them (v. 8). Again, this pointed out the lack of manpower and ability for the Israelites to protect themselves. 

At this point, we would probably say, ‘Well, that’s fine! Israel doesn’t need to protect themselves – they should trust in God!’ The Rabshakeh thought of that too. In verse 7, he says, ““Suppose you say to me, ‘We trust in the LORD our God.’ Isn’t he the One whose high places and altars Hezekiah removed, saying to Judah and Jerusalem, ‘You are to worship at this altar’?” The Rabshakeh twisted the actions of Hezekiah to make it seem like he had done something against God rather than something that God wanted. He even goes so far as to say in v. 10, “Have I attacked this land to destroy it without the LORD’s approval? The LORD said to me, ‘Attack this land and destroy it!’ In his second speech, the Rabshakeh describes how he had destroyed the gods of the surrounding nations, which would just show that God himself wouldn’t deliver the people either (v. 18-20). 

This is some powerful psychological warfare! We know the Judeans had trust issues to begin with. Now, someone is coming and laying out all of their insecurities for the world to see (right before they try to march in and destroy their kingdom)! The heart of all of the Rabshakeh’s temptation can be summed up with what he said in Is. 37:10, “Don’t let your God, whom you trust, deceive you by promising that Jerusalem won’t be handed over to the king of Assyria.” He basically says ‘Did God really say that he would save you?’ which may sound eerily reminiscent of another ancient tempter (Gen. 3:1). At this point, if someone had tried to break our trust in God in this way, we may have caved and believed them. However, Hezekiah does what we all should do when we have people who try to break our trust in God. He prays and then reminds himself of God’s unchanging character. 

God hears his prayer and we read about the victory that God brings in Isaiah 37:36-38 when an angel of the LORD strikes down the Assyrian army and the king is killed in the temple of his god, Nisroch.

When we face temptations and challenges that try to break our trust in God, we need to be reminded that he is who he says he is and will do what he says he will do. We can trust in what the Bible says. We can trust in the promises of God. 

~ Cayce Fletcher

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to on Bible Gateway – Isaiah 37-39 & Psalm 76.

Tomorrow, we continue reading about the history of Judah and Israel in Isaiah 40-43– as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan.

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.