Bible Study

01/31/15 Daily Devotion – “Father forgive them…”


“Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’ And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.” (Luke 23:34, NIV84)

These are not the words I would expect to come from a man who had just been unjustly beaten, scourged and crucified. He doesn’t even plead His case from the cross. I would at least be declaring my innocence for the world to hear. But that is not what we heard from Jesus. Instead, we heard a word of prayer directed to His Father. He asked His Father to forgive, rather than hold accountable, the sins of His accusers. But wasn’t their rejection of Jesus worthy of punishment? Weren’t their actions worthy of some kind of divine retribution? Yes! But it came in a way that none of us would expect.

The punishment and retribution due Jesus’ accusers fell upon Him. That’s right! Paul says, “God made Him who had no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that in Him, we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). The innocent was dying for the wicked. Jesus took not only His accusers’ sins upon Himself, but He also took yours and mine. In this unimaginable act of grace, we see the love of God for His broken and lost creatures. He would rather die to save us than to lose us. Stop right there! Name another religion in the world that points us to such a God of grace. What philosophy provides the necessary remedy for what truly plagues humanity? Christianity alone points us to a God who loves us so much that He became the remedy.

Today, and every day, know that you are loved and forgiven by God!

Peace!

Pastor Tom


01/22/15 Daily Devotion – Their shouts prevailed!


“But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that He be crucified, and their shouts prevailed. So Pilate decided to grant them their demand.” (Luke 23:23-24)

This verse alone disproves the idea of majority rules. Why? Because the majority isn’t always right. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the minority or in the majority. What matters is truth. You see, there are absolute truths! The enemy (Satan) is powerless when a group of people is living in the truth of God’s word. When we back away from the truth, we open ourselves to the power of his lies and deceptions. During the last couple days of Jesus’ life, Satan used the mob mentality of the religious leaders to bring everything to a boiling point. How else does one go from dealing with a peaceful teacher to wanting Him crucified and dead?

Pilate tried repeatedly to release Jesus but finally gave in to the pressure of the mob. He wasn’t willing to risk any more unrest. But more important, when he had the opportunity to talk to Jesus about the truth, he didn’t. We need to assess the circumstances of our lives through the lens of absolute truths. We need to filter everything through truths of the word of God. Whether we are in the place of authority, like Pilate, or just a member of the crowd, we need to see things properly or things will get bad really quickly.

Remember, it doesn’t matter how loud or how large a group is. What matters is whether it is speaking the truth.

Peace!

Pastor Tom


01/20/15 Daily Devotion – The Look!


“The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: ‘Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.'” (Luke 22:61)

This verse has haunted me since my first reading of it — to have the Lord not only predict my denial, but then to catch me red-handed. To know that when my third denial took place and the rooster crowed Jesus intentionally turned to see me, to then look into the eyes of my Lord and Savior. All of this would be too overwhelming. So why does this verse haunt me? Because I am aware of my duplicity. I am aware of the fact that I feel I have gotten away with things because the Lord doesn’t see me. I don’t find myself looking into the eyes of Jesus in my times of weakness, and hence feel that I have gotten away with something.

How silly of me. How foolish to think that because I am not looking into Jesus’ eyes that He is not peering into mine. The book of Proverbs says, “A man’s ways are in full view of the Lord.” There is not a thing in our lives that He does not notice. We must remember that Jesus not only sees all things, but He also peers into our hearts and knows our thoughts and intentions. All of this reminds us that we cannot hide our sins from God. But I think there was something more in that look than judgment. I believe that as Peter peered back into His Savior’s eyes he saw the same compassion that Jesus had shown to so many during His ministry. Somehow Peter was both convicted and loved in the same look. And that look would provide him enough hope to live another day. He went out of the city weeping and waited for the Lord to bring healing to his broken heart. On Easter morning, Jesus rose from the dead with a message for Peter. Jesus told the women, “Go tell Peter…”. Jesus faithfully brought forgiveness and hope to Peter’s shattered life.

He promises to do the same for you and me, today and every day!

Peace!

Pastor Tom


01/19/15 Daily Devotion – The hour of darkness!


“Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders, who had come for him, ‘Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs? Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour — when darkness reigns.’” (Luke 22:52–53, NIV84)

One of the things I emphasize in my Bible classes is that Satan doesn’t get any days. It frustrates me when Christians say that Halloween is Satan’s day. Last I checked, Jesus only gave Satan a portion of Good Friday, and even at that, the evil one was not given all control. In his rage to destroy Jesus, he was blind to the fact that the death of Jesus would be his downfall. When Jesus spoke the phrase “Tetelestai” (“It is finished!”), He crushed the Devil”s head as promised in Genesis 3:15.

I wrote this devotion from Haiti on a Sunday night. When we went to worship that day, we drove past the home of a voodoo priest. Haiti is a nation where many people still believe there is power in the forces of evil. I am thankful that He who is in me is greater than he who is in the world. We must always keep in mind that God and the Devil are not equals! One of them is our eternal God. He is all-knowing, all-powerful and present everywhere. The other is a created being who has had his power removed and his head crushed and awaits his eternal judgment. We truly are victors in Jesus Christ. May we daily live in the light and life of Jesus’ victory over sin, death and the Devil.

Peace!

Pastor Tom


01/16/15 Daily Devotion – Not what a kiss is for!


“But Jesus asked him, ‘Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?’” (Luke 22:48, NIV84)

Michael Card wrote a song about Judas’ betrayal, and in it were these words, “but that is not what a kiss is for.” These words cause me to cringe every time I hear them. I so often criticize Judas for betraying Jesus in such a cold (wrong) way, but quickly I realize that I, too, have betrayed Him with a kiss. I have told Jesus how much I love Him on Sunday and betrayed Him by Monday. I have often used the right words as cover for the wrong motives and actions. I guess what I am saying is that there is a lot of Judas in me. And my question for you is, if you were really honest with yourself would there be a little Judas in you, too?

I think there is a little Judas in each of us. Our faith and commitment to Jesus is a little lukewarm. We waiver in our commitment. Our sinful nature gets the best of us and we begin to want things to be our way. But enough about us! The key to all of this is that the One betrayed still loves us. He still went to the cross to redeem a people whose faith is fickle. Paul says to Timothy, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, because He cannot deny Himself.” The key to our spirituality is to know that we have a God who is always faithful to us. May we find hope, peace, and joy in the loving faithfulness of Jesus our Savior.

Peace!

Pastor Tom


01/15/15 Daily Devotion – Sweat like drops of blood


“And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” (Luke 22:44, NIV84)

C.S. Lewis in one of his books talks about temptation with a clarity I will never forget. He talks about how Jesus underwent temptation just like you and me. He faced demonic temptations throughout His life. Lewis admits it is tough for us to relate to Jesus being tempted. We will readily acknowledge that He was tempted, but we have difficulty seeing Jesus’ temptation as equal to our own. Most Christians think Jesus was not tempted nearly to the degree that you and I are. To this, C.S. Lewis adds the following thought: the exact opposite is true. Lewis says that we have never been tempted to the degree that Jesus has. How does he conclude that? He goes on to say that only Jesus took everything that Satan could dish out. Jesus took 100% of the tempting force of Satan and prevailed. He began to sweat blood in the garden as He was praying. He did not sin. But you and me? Lewis says that, we, too, quickly fall into temptation. When was the last time we sweat blood because we were resisting temptation so strongly? None of us has faced 100% of what Satan has to offer. We each have crumbled before it has gotten that intense.

So, C.S. Lewis asserts that in Jesus we have the perfect Savior. We have one who was tempted beyond what we can imagine and prevailed. We have a Savior who can relate to our weakness and brokenness. In Jesus, we also have the example as to how temptation is to be fought. Jesus used the Word of God and prayer when He dealt with Satan, and so should we. We need to be Firmly Rooted into God’s Word. We need to be praying continuously, as Paul tells us. I pray that we never have to bear agony like Jesus did in order to resist temptation. I pray that as we submit to God in word and prayer, Satan will flee from us. (James 4:7)

May the scene of Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane provide us comfort, hope and security in our Savior Jesus.

Peace!

Pastor Tom


01/14/15 Daily Devotion – “Not my will, but Thine be done.”


“‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but Yours be done.’” (Luke 22:42, NIV84)

There are those in the Christian faith who hold a doctrine on prayer that has been characterized as “name it and claim it.” They believe that if we ask God for something in prayer with the right faith and with the right heart we will automatically get what we are asking for. It sounds good. It sounds gracious. It sounds loving. Until you realize that ultimately we, as sinful human beings, are deciding what blessings we get from God. Isn’t it possible that He might see and know more than us? Only He has the master plan. Ultimately, it is about His will, not ours. Anyway, how does that doctrine on prayer work if God’s answer is “No!”? Jesus clearly understood prayer better than us. He requested from God that the cup of wrath be taken away from Him, and God’s answer was “No.” Jesus was willing to accept the “no” answer when He said “Not my will, but Yours be done.”

Have you ever thought that the thought “Not my will, but Yours be done” should be at the heart of our prayer life? I am not saying that we can’t bring petitions to the throne of God like a child brings requests to her earthly father. What I am saying is that we (like the child) must learn that our Father knows best and our will must take second place to His will. He knows what we really need. He knows what is really in our future. We can only speculate about tomorrow. Let’s enter prayer with a proper fear and reverence of God. Let’s remember that we are on holy ground. Let God know what you want, think, need, feel; but in the end, seek His will to be done in your life.

Peace!

Pastor Tom


01/13/15 Daily Devotion – Praying about temptation


“Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, ‘Pray that you will not fall into temptation.’” (Luke 22:39–40, NIV84)

Two to three times Jesus warns the disciples to pray about not falling into temptation during this short period of time while praying on the Mount of Olives. Jesus senses something the rest don’t. The enemy is in their midst. He seeks to kill, steal and destroy. Jesus knows that he is in the garden. He knows that Judas’ betrayal is moments away. He doesn’t want His disciples to fall into the temptation of Satan’s twisted view of what is about to take place. Jesus knows that Satan is a liar. He always twists the truth. Jesus is in fervent prayer for Himself and His disciples that they do not get drug down a bad path once the arrest takes place.

As I was typing those words I couldn’t help but see the stark contrast even in my own life. Jesus senses and knows that the enemy is present, and most of my existence is lived in a state of darkness and denial until that fatal moment when I bite the bait the enemy has placed in my path. We need to be more spiritually attuned to our reality. We need to be discerning about the enemy and his strategies. As I think about it, it doesn’t surprise me at all that Jesus dedicates the last three petitions of the Lord’s Prayer to sin, temptation and the enemy: “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation. But deliver us from evil.” We need to be more aware so that we do not fall into the traps the enemy places before us.

Jesus’ words from the Mount of Olives were not spoken that one time and meant only for the disciples. Jesus wants us to discerningly pray every day about protection from the enemy. I suggest the Lord’s Prayer as a great prayer to use.

Peace!

Pastor Tom


01/12/15 Daily Devotion – He knows what’s coming!


“‘Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.'” (Luke 22:31–32, NIV84)

For the first time, I draw comfort from these verses. Previously when I read them, my mind would jump directly to Peter’s denial and I would weigh myself down in repentance for my own betrayals. In these verses, Jesus was speaking to Peter directly about what Satan wanted to do to Peter. Jesus reminds us here that He is no ordinary man and that He is even aware of what the forces of evil have planned. Note that Jesus did not promise Peter that He would prevent Satan from attacking him. What He did was assure Peter that He prayed for him and his faith. Jesus prayed that Peter’s faith would not fail him during his battle with Satan and his own heart. Jesus also looked past the event to a time of restoration in which Peter would need to turn to his fellow disciples and strengthen their faith as well.

I am deeply comforted to know that Jesus is aware of the dark roads before me and that he prays for me and my faith. I am also comforted that His love, grace and compassion for me is not based upon my success in these trying situations. Like Peter, I often fail and fall short of being who I ought to be in those trying and tempting moments. Regardless, Jesus prays that we would be moved to repentance and find forgiveness and restoration in His loving arms. Finally, I am thankful that Jesus can, through my redemption and restoration, find a way to use me in His kingdom to help restore and strengthen others who are where I have been.

May we be comforted to know that our Lord and Savior knows what’s coming up in our lives and is praying for us.

Peace!

Pastor Tom


01/10/15 Daily Devotion – The greatness of servanthood!


“For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.” (Luke 22:27, NIV84)

Behind the scenes, the disciples were arguing with one another about who among them would be the greatest in the kingdom of God. This forced Jesus to breach the subject of greatness. What makes someone great? Is it a person’s intellect, strength, wealth, societal position? These are things that seem to define greatness in the world in which we live. But this doesn’t seem to be the how the kingdom of God defines greatness. Jesus reminds the disciples that it is not the servant at the dinner but the master at the head of the table who is the greatest at that moment. Then He challenges them to comprehend how it is that He, as the Lord of Lords, came into the world as one who serves.

It’s not easy for us self-centered human beings to wrap our minds around this spiritual concept, but it seems clear that in the kingdom of God, greatness runs side-by-side with goodness. Our God is good. Because He is good, He is motivated by His love and compassion for His creation. There is nothing that He would not do to show that goodness, love and grace to us. He revealed the extent He would go by coming to the world in the form of a man and dying on the cross so that we might have life.

On the very night Jesus said these words, He took off His robe and washed the disciples’ feet. He came to seek, to serve, and to save us. May we find our greatness not in our accomplishments but in our service to God and our goodness to our fellow man.

Peace!

Pastor Tom