I had touched very briefly yesterday on the plague of the firstborn and the passover ceremony which spared the lives of those who followed God. Let’s look at that a bit more today.
To prepare the Israelites for the passover they were to have each family take a lamb and slaughter it at twilight and take some of the blood and put it on the doorframes of their houses and then cook and eat the lamb that night with bitter herbs. They were to also take care of the lamp for a week before they slaughtered it. This would not be an easy thing to do and the meal would not taste good. This was meant to show the pain and sorrow that sin causes and the blood that is required to wash away sin.
Slaughtering the lamb in Egypt would also have taken a lot of faith. Animals were of great value back then, which is why so many of the Egyptians worshiped them, and most likely many of the Israelites did as well. Animals were of even greater value as well because of all the plagues that had just wiped out the animals in Egypt. Earlier we had seen that they could not do any sacrifices in the land of Egypt because the Egyptians detested it. Now they are doing just that. In order to do this the Israelites are sacrificing their material wealth, as well as turning their backs on the Egyptian gods. If they were not able to let go of the wealth or culture then they would have faced the judgment. He goes on to say,
12 “On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. 13 The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.
14 “This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord—a lasting ordinance.
The plague of the firstborn was to be the final blow to the Egyptian culture/gods, and with it God is also implementing a lasting holy day in their culture by which they will remember what God has done for them for all generations, and the seder passover dinner is practiced around the world to this day. The problem with the Israelites in Egypt was that they forgot what God had promised them. God was not going to let them forget again so easily.
In the Old Testament there were many festivals and holy days and cultural things that God implemented in the Israelites in order to remind them of his work and power in their past. Even with these they often forgot and wandered away from God. After Jesus we do not live under these laws and we do not have to follow these feasts and rituals, but we still need to make a permanent change in our lives every time that God acts in our lives. We need to constantly remind ourselves of what God has done for us. The passover ceremony was designed to make people ask why they would do such a thing so that the Israelites could tell people the story of the Exodus. Similarly our stories of how God has changed our lives are our most powerful tool for spreading the Gospel.
One of the verses in the Bible that I love is in Hebrews 11 where Abel is mentioned. Genesis 4 mentions that he was born to Adam and Eve, gave his best as an offering to God, and was killed by his brother Cain. This seems like a tragic story but Abel is mentioned in Hebrews 11. This chapter is known as the faith chapter and the first person mentioned was Abel. Hebrews says, “By faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.” (Hebrews 11:4)
So many of us want to have a lasting influence. Some think education, work, family, sports, or any number of things we achieve will have a lasting impact. Matt.6 tells us to store up treasures with God and this will keep our heart devoted to him. The very little we know about Abel is important because the sacrifice he gave had eternal value. I once asked a 94 yr. old preacher from our area what advice he would give to our youth group. Preacher Ferrell said do one thing a day that has eternal value. What a challenge from a man who is still speaking to us through that challenge even though he is now gone.
Do you want to have a lasting legacy? We can start by accepting Jesus as our Savior and giving whatever is our best to him. What would Abel’s “fatty portions” be equivalent to in our lives. Is it your time, money or abilities. Give those in the service to God and our lives will speak even after we are gone.
In Romans 12:1 we are told to sacrifice our bodies, a living sacrifice. This is our reasonable (or true and proper) “service”. Service is also translated correctly worship. So, a Sunday Service is a time of worship. However, in verse 2 Paul tells us how to do the sacrifice.
When we change our minds to obey God, leaving worldly things and performing God’s will, it’s worship. So, the place of worship is in our own bodies. Many people have been misled into believing that you must be in a particular place to worship. It’s better said you must be in a particular frame of mind to worship.
I have been asked many times during my trips if we have to worship in the chapel. Or, which chapel is the right place to worship. The word they use in the Philippines came from the Spanish priests. “Simbahan”. “Simba” means worship and “han” means place. So naturally they assume the building is the place to worship. Read Genesis 22:1-12 and notice in many translations verse 5 says Abraham worshipped on Mount Moriah.
And what did he do there? Sacrifice. This makes us think of sacrifice as worship. In fact what we sacrifice for God is our worship to him. It’s that we should worship God as we love God. With all of our being and available resources.
What stands in the way of you living completely for Jesus? Not enough time, a secret sin, a preoccupation with _______, a friend taking you in the wrong direction? Many in the early church in Acts were living out a completely committed relationship with God and His Son, Jesus. And the results are exciting to watch as we read through the book. Their faith was living and active and daily – and tested regularly.
I wonder if today too many people who carry the label ‘Christian’ use their faith as a once-a-week booster shot, if they can make it to church that week. But then are quite content to spend the week surrounded by (and sometimes covered in) the germs and sicknesses of worldly living and priorities.
Go ahead and read Acts 19 today and search for all the sold-out characteristics and examples; and while you’re at it – spot the imitations as well (those exist today, too). I particularly like the passage in verses 18-20 where the believers were confessing their practices and bringing their (expensive) magic books to be burned. They had heard about Jesus and they believed and they were excited and ready to change! It’s not that they had heard about Jesus and kind of believed and were sort of interested and wanted to add in some Jesus/church/faith to their full lives. See the huge difference? They were radically changing their lives because they wanted to follow Jesus well.
Do you have anything in your life to add to the bonfire? Anything that is keeping you from being totally committed to God and His Coming Kingdom? Anything that doesn’t mix well with Jesus’ message that you need to give up?
The believers had burned 50,000 drachmas worth of obstacles to living sold-out lives (a drachma was a silver coin worth about one day’s wages) – that’s a lot of obstacles they eliminated! The very next thing Paul wrote was: “So the word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing.” (Acts 19:20). Sacrifice and true change brought growth. Are you ready to grow?
Hello again everyone!
I get to finish the book of Hebrews today with you, and wow have we covered a lot! The last chapter is full of little gems like marriage, money, peace, faith, prayer… each are uniquely different, making it hard to write a quick devotional. So, I’m going to cover the topic that spoke the most to me this week! You may be drawn to a different aspect of the text, and I encourage you to listen to God’s voice and what He has to tell you versus my own thoughts and ideas. Hopefully I’ll have something to add though!
I’m going to focus on the relational aspect of this chapter. Verses 1 and 2 talks about loving others; specifically, strangers. Now, it may be the “Minnesota-nice” in me, but I seriously love this reminder! One of my biggest pet peeves is when people are rude to others they don’t even know. Anytime I encounter someone new who is rude, or even just has a scowl on their face, it automatically turns me off from anything they have to say.
We are told to be examples of Christ, and as Christians, we absolutely are whether or not we think so! If we are outspoken in our faith, if someone knows you go to church on Sundays, or whatever the situation might be, to anyone we interact with, we are examples of Christianity as a whole. That is a big responsibility! These verses are great reminders to love one another and to show hospitality to everyone we meet. Who knows, maybe you’re loving on an angel!
Skipping ahead just a bit to verse 16, we have another reminder in how to act towards others. We are told to do good and share with them. Obviously, this is another way in which we can show the love of God and demonstrate Christianity to new believers. But, I’ll be completely honest, I’m not always in the best mood to share or do good for other people. And quite frankly, sometimes people don’t deserve it! But this verse isn’t telling us to do these things for other people alone. We are told to offer these things as sacrifices to please God. Depending on the person, sacrifice might be a good word to describe it! I think it makes it easier to do good and share if I think of doing it for God versus for man.
Looking at the word sacrifice in verse 16 and the verse directly before that, I am reminded at how the Hebrews originally viewed that word. Remember, they are still learning that sacrifice no longer has to be the shedding of blood! That must have been a little confusing to go from sacrifice being blood to being worship and sharing! This is just another way that shows how drastically Jesus can change our lives. He took the unclean, messy, death and changed it in to praising God and showing love to others!
We are so incredibly lucky to have a Savior that has changed our world for us. As a show of gratitude, we can focus on loving one another and spreading the same grace we receive from him to others. In times like this when our world is hurting from the loss of people to things such as mass shootings, plane crashes, abortions, wars, natural disasters, and so many other horrible things in this life, I encourage you, brothers and sisters, to show a little love.
Grace be with you all!
Today’s chapter starts off with some details about how the tabernacle was set up. It gives some great descriptions of exactly what it would look like and makes it very tangible for readers. I love the little aside that the author gives at the end of verse 5 when they write “But we cannot discuss these things in detail now.” It makes me smile because I imagine someone who is so excited about sharing everything they have with the Hebrews, but has to contain themselves because they know they have more important things to discuss.
Now on to the “more important” things! At this point people would’ve known what priests had to do when going into the Most Holy Place and recognized the sacrifice that was required. The author here is giving the background information for the rest of the message to show the significance of Christ. It is explained that priests no longer had to go to a place made by humans that required continuing sacrifice of animals for forgiveness; Christ was able to enter the Most Holy Place by one sacrifice to obtain eternal redemption (vs. 11-12). This would’ve been a big deal in this time!
Verse 14 and 15 are great verses to meditate on for this chapter! “How much more, then, will the blood of Christ… cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” What a great verse to give us some perspective! We have a Savior who offered himself as a completely perfect sacrifice ONE TIME for the redemption of our sins that should’ve led to death. And why? So that we can not only serve the living God, but also so that we can be set free from our sins and receive eternal inheritance (vs. 15). That is simply amazing, friends!
There is so much more in this chapter that we could really unpack, but I don’t need to write a whole book so we’ll finish off with the final verses 😊
When we look at verse 27 there are two really big pieces that we need to recognize. The first is in verse 27 which reads “Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment…” This key factor on the morality of humans is one of the many reasons Christianity differs from other religions. Here it says that people get one life to live, they die one time, and after will face judgment. The second piece shows me that people have a lifetime to seek forgiveness for their sins. It doesn’t say that we will face judgement after we do that one really bad sin, or that by the time we reach a certain age, etc. We will face judgment after death. With that in mind, we aren’t all guaranteed a long lifetime to seek that forgiveness. Are you living each day as if you could be judged the next moment? Are you continually serving the living God and asking for forgiveness when you fall short? Those can be some sobering questions to ask yourself.
Finally, in verse 28, we get a glimpse of that hope we have. “…And he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” Jesus is coming again! I want to be one of those who are waiting for him, and I hope you all do too! Today, how can your actions, thoughts, words, and choices reflect that you are waiting on Jesus’ return? Or, how can you encourage a brother or sister in Christ and remind them of his second coming?
In yesterday’s devotion, Jesus died. And the world – the centurion, the sky, the women, the crowd – took notice and responded. Even the crowd that had not been Jesus’ followers, some of whom may have earlier shouted, “Crucify Him!”, now, “beat their breasts and went away” (Luke 23:48). There was something very different about this man Jesus and the way he died. Though they did not understand at the time that he had died for their sins – and not only theirs – but the sins of the world.
If Luke’s gospel story had ended there, we could still be forgiven people today – able to have a relationship with God because of the sacrifice of Jesus carrying our sins to his death because the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). BUT – there is even MORE good news to come in Luke 24! A great gift of God is set before us – eternal life in Christ Jesus our RISEN Lord. Without a risen Lord there would be no future hope for a resurrection for his followers.
When the women brought news to the disciples that Jesus was no longer in the tomb, “they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb.” (Luke 24:11,12). He was going to search it out and find the truth. Likewise, the two on the road to Emmaus had many questions and were confused about what they had seen and heard. Jesus walked with them, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” (Luke 24:27).
Today, news of his resurrection and the resurrection to come still brings great joy to his followers. There are those who say it sounds like nonsense. There are those who are questioning. Be like Peter and seek out answers. Like Jesus, dig into the Scriptures and reveal them to others. Declare the good news of Jesus’ birth – but then so much more – his death and resurrection. Share the Joy!
In case you have missed part of this week’s study, here is a quick summary of each of our daily devotions this week:
Sunday – Luke 13 – The Kingdom of God is Like – Like a virus, a mustard seed, or yeast is the Kingdom of God. The smallest amount can cause a giant reaction in your life. You are called to be contagious; constantly build and spread the hope you have in Christ.
Monday – Luke 14 – Counting the Cost – We are to take account of all we hold valuable. We may be asked to trade those things in to live within the will of God as we seek his Kingdom. Entry may cost us everything, but it is a meager price to pay by comparison.
Tuesday – Luke 15 – The Parable of the Lost Ring – God will not stop searching for those who want to be found. He desires that all men are saved, having a home awaiting in His Kingdom. The whole of heaven rejoices when the lost sheep are restored to their shepherd.
Wednesday – Luke 16 – The Master and Manager – God is the master of all wealth. He wants us to be faithful in small ways before we are given more responsibility. When we acknowledge that we are mere managers, we look at our fortunes differently, as the master’s talents to do his bidding.
Thursday – Luke 17 – One Thank You – Like the lepers, we have been restored; we now can enter the eternal city, The Kingdom of God. We need to acknowledge God’s restoration through Jesus Christ; no longer are we outcast. A deliberate and thoughtful thank you is a life that turns to Him.
Friday – Luke 18 – The Power of Persistence – We should not give up our hope that our Father is listening to our appeal. Perseverance is the outcome of faith. Stay the course. Appeal to the Lord. He will turn His ear and answer you.
As we have taken a closer look at the six chapters of Luke, we see that it all comes back to the Kingdom of God. Parables, teaching, healing, reproach – They all point towards the eternal hope that all men can have when they accept Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior of their life. Jesus does not dilute the truth of the price of admission. He says we must be faithful with what we are given; it could cost us everything. Consequently, the reward isn’t necessarily immediately. The crown of life is not for those who casually follow commands, or openly do good works to receive their inheritance in this present age. The Kingdom of God is for those who become infected with His love, truth, and message and spread His hope at all cost. Each of these teachings have been immeasurably challenging and equally thought-provoking.
It has been a great opportunity to write for you this week. I hope my narratives and notions have resonated in some way to the circumstances and challenges presented in your own life. I pray you have found connection, truth, and hope in these handful of chapters for the Good News of Luke because these works speak the greatest of truths. Continue to read, grow your faith, and pray for His Kingdom to come soon.
~With love, your brother in Christ,