Bible Study

10/01/14 Daily Devotion – A proper sense of reality!


“I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ So he got up and went to his father.” (Luke 15:18–19, NIV84)

When people come to their senses the major change is the gaining of a proper sense of reality. When we come to our senses our view of ourselves, others and the world around us gets corrected. The prodigal son in this verse finally saw the hopelessness of his situation and decided to go home. I heard someone say once that this experience is like being out on the ocean and realizing that somehow you are out of the boat and in the water. This isn’t a time to build another boat (create another false reality) — it’s a time to simply swim back to the original boat (go home).

Here the prodigal son thought about going home and in doing so he faced another reality. He realized that he sinned against his father and God. His immediate reaction was repentance and a sense of unworthiness to return as a son. He correctly humbled himself, hoping his father would at least take him back as a hired hand. So, with a heavy heart, he returned to his father’s home. We need to do the same thing. We need to admit that we have sinned and humbly return to our heavenly Father. It’s not easy. But what is the alternative? When we’ve come to our senses we know that there is no place else to go.

May we, today and always, be quick to come to our senses and turn back to our heavenly Father, no matter what the circumstances.

Peace!

Pastor Tom

www.firmlyrooted.org


09/30/14 Daily Devotion – Have you come to your senses?


“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!’” (Luke 15:17, NIV84)

This verse is a quote from the Prodigal Son. You remember, the one who couldn’t wait for his inheritance. He needed to get out from under his father’s reach. He was certain he knew a better way, and that better way was living on his own, far from his father. For awhile things were good. He had plenty of money and plenty of friends. Life was a party, and he was the life of that party. That was until his money ran out. You see, the life he was living was really a figment of his imagination. He really thought things were going well as his money was running out. He thought his friends were true friends. He thought life was good. But it was all a facade.

Now he had finally come to his senses. Here he sees reality properly. You see, there is a reality. We don’t create it. We either live going with the stream of reality, or going against it. In this verse the prodigal son found himself all alone. The reality he imagined and thought he could live had completely vanished. He was moneyless, friendless, and without his father. He was utterly alone. In the depth of that darkness, a light dawned within him. He realized that his father’s home wasn’t so bad. He realized that even the hired men who worked for his father were provided for better than he was out on his own. He finally figured it out!

What about you and me? Have we hit that point? Is it time to come to our senses? Have we strayed too far from the only reality that matters? We have a heavenly Father who loves us, even though we have strayed from Him. How long will we live in the darkness of our self-made reality? It’s time that we come to our senses and think about returning home.

Peace!

Pastor Tom

www.firmlyrooted.org


09/29/14 Daily Devotion – Let’s diligently seek and find the lost among us!


“Suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’  In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”  (Luke 15:8-10 NIV84)

This short parable stresses two key points about the life of the Church (the kingdom of God). First, we note the intensity and diligence with which the woman searches for the lost coin. Second, we note the rejoicing and celebrating once it is found. So I wrestle with several questions today. Where are those two key components of the kingdom of God in my life and in my church today? Am I willing to turn my world upside-down in order to find the lost? Am I diligently seeking the lost as they come and go through my life? Is this key component visible in the church I lead? How about you? How about your church? When someone does come to Christ these days, where is the fanfare and the celebration? I don’t often see it on this earth with my earthly eyes. But Jesus tells us that those present in the kingdom of God stop and rejoice when a sinner (who was lost) repents (is found) and is brought back to the kingdom of God. This is important work! This is what we are here for. This is why Jesus left us on the planet.

Jesus wants us to never lose sight of the fact that we were all lost but eventually found because of the diligent search of someone who loved and cared enough for us. We can’t allow the business of life, or even the church, to distract us from our primary task. God causes the lost to ebb and flow through our lives so that we might be used to touch (find) them. We need to have our spiritual eyes open to see the opportunities that the Lord is laying before us. We need to fervently seek and find the lost among us. Once found, we introduce them to Jesus and He does the rest of the work. The Holy Spirit will work through our words and actions to touch, heal, redeem and save. What’s left for us to do? REJOICE! Stop long enough to recognize that in the business of this worldly existence a divine act has occurred. The lost has been found and the dead has been born again. Let’s take time to rejoice and celebrate with the members of the kingdom of God in heaven.

Today, let’s diligently seek and find for the kingdom of God!

Peace!

Pastor Tom

www.firmlyroote.org


09/27/14 Daily Devotion – Have you maintained your ‘saltiness’?


“Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? (Luke 14:34 NIV 84)

Salt has a purpose. Actually, it has several purposes. One in particular is its ability to season foods. Salt has a particular flavoring ability to enhance the taste of most foods. Salt sits in the salt shaker, just being salt, until it’s time for its use. One doesn’t have to worry about salt losing its saltiness. Saltiness is what salt does. It can’t do anything else. But if it were possible for salt to somehow lose its saltiness it would become worthless.

We are God’s children. We are His creation. Our purpose is to glorify Him in all that we do, and honor Him in all that we say. Our life purpose is to mirror the image of our creator. If our lives do not glorify Him. If our words do not honor Him. If our lives do not mirror His image, then we cannot fulfill our purpose. We become useless. This is the state of fallen humanity. We have lost our purpose. Jesus ends this verse with a profound question, “How can it be made salty again?” In the world of salt, the answer is it can’t. In the world of humans, this absolutely can happen. We can regain our intentional purpose through the death and resurrection of Jesus. We can be born again by the power of the Holy Spirit and regain our original purpose (saltiness). This redemption and transformation is a reflection of the love of our heavenly Father and His desire to make us right with Him.

Today, if you have lost your saltiness (purpose), do not despair! Jesus can, and will, restore you to your original purpose. Turn to Him and see what He can do.

Peace!

Pastor Tom

www.firmlyrooted.org


09/26/14 Daily Devotion – Let’s be disciples!


“And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:27 NIV84)

Is it fair to say that one could be a believer in Jesus Christ, but not be a disciple? Is there a difference? Can one have faith, but not be actively serving the Lord? Jesus is talking about disciples in our verse for today. He says that we cannot be His disciples unless we are willing to carry our cross and follow Him, two requirements that seem to go beyond the initial evidence of faith. We who have faith in Jesus have a choice. We have the choice to hold on to that faith as an ends, or we can see our faith as a means to an end (being a disciple of Jesus). Those who choose to be a disciple commit to carrying the cross of suffering and persecution because of their faith-activated life. As they live their lives following Jesus’ example in word and deed, they become disciples of Jesus.

In the great commission, Jesus sends us out to make disciples (not just believers) of the whole world. How do we do that? Jesus says to baptize them (bring them to the faith) and teach them to observe all that He has commanded (make them disciples). As disciples of Jesus we are committed to letting our faith be the rubber hitting the road of our lives.  We are committed to picking up our cross every day. We promise to follow Jesus wherever he leads us. We promise to make our faith not an ends, but a means to an end.

Jesus didn’t tell every one of His disciples to “believe in Me.” He told them to “follow Me!” Like the disciples of the New Testament, may we believe and follow our Lord and Savior Jesus.

Peace!

Pastor Tom

www.firmlyrooteed.org


09/22/14 Daily Devotion – “…but you were not willing!”


“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Luke 13:34, NIV84)

When Jesus spoke these words Jerusalem was the religious capital of Judaism, and had been so for centuries. It was a city that should have welcomed God’s prophets, and especially His Messiah. But it just wasn’t the case. But before we place all the blame on the Pharisees and Sadducees, let’s remind ourselves that we face the same temptation. Religious people are always tempted to make their religion their idol by creating it in a manner that is palatable to their senses. Satan tempts all religious people to get off of what is core to their theology (God’s word) and focus more on man’s interpretation and reasoning. This was true back then, and it is true today.

The Christian world, like the Judaic world, is guilty of creating a religion within a religion and ultimately missing the point. Jesus is telling us that all He desires (as a hen with her chicks) is to place us under His wing of protection. The problem is we are unwilling. And that unwillingness has caused us to miss messages and messengers that God has sent our way. We need to humbly repent of our idolatry and turn back to Jesus. We need to surrender control of our religious beliefs to the one we believe in. Jesus is God’s word made flesh. We need to listen and accept His word for what it is. Jesus doesn’t need our human reasoning and interpretation to be meaningful. We need to find meaning in what God’s word clearly states.

Today, let’s realize that God loves us so much that He comes to us (like a mother hen) to guard and protect us. Let’s not allow our theology to get in the way of His working on our behalf.

Peace!

Tom


09/19/14 Daily Devotion – Does Jesus Know You?


Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?” He said to them, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’ But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’ Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’” (Luke 13:22–27, NIV84)

This section of Scripture has always been a challenge for me. On the last day there will be people knocking on the door to the kingdom of God desiring to enter, but they will not be allowed. They will plead with the Master that they know him; that they ate and drank in His presence; that they even heard Him teach but He will not let them in. The text says, “I don’t know you.” All this in response to the question, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”

What point is Jesus making here? He doesn’t seem to answer the question directly. He doesn’t mention numbers at all. He is talking more about who gets in, rather than how many. And I guess, ultimately, that is the more important question. Whether I get in is more important than how many will be there with me. I struggle with this text because Jesus focuses on those who don’t get in rather than those who do. As I look at those who don’t get in, I see a little of me in them. I have heard Jesus teach. I have eaten with Him and His people. I have worshiped in His church. How can I be certain I will be let in?

Twice in the text Jesus says, “I don’t know you.” I think the key to understanding this text lies in this phrase. Salvation requires more than an association and familiarity with Jesus. Not everyone who met Jesus believed in Him. People witnessed His miracles and teaching and still didn’t believe Him to be the promised Messiah. For us to know Jesus requires a personal relationship, one in which He has also come to know us. Jesus knows the heart of all men. He knows whether His word has taken root and caused faith to develop in a soul. He knows His sheep, and His sheep know him. You see, the focus does not need to be on who and how many will enter the kingdom. The focus needs to be on personally knowing and believing that Jesus is who He says He is.

May we always be certain that we know, and are known by, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Peace!

Tom


09/18/14 Daily Devotion – The Kingdom of God is like…


“Then Jesus asked, ‘What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air perched in its branches.’ Again he asked, ‘What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.’” (Luke 13:18–21, NIV84)

I just love Jesus’ kingdom of God parables. There is so much we can take away from them. These two short parables about the kingdom of God share a similar meaning. The kingdom of God is not what it appears to be. It may seem small and insignificant like a mustard seed. It may be the smallest portion (yeast) of what is put into a loaf of bread. But the reality is that the kingdom of God is hugely significant. Like the mustard seed becomes a plant in which birds can perch and like yeast causes an entire loaf of bread to rise, the kingdom of God is the reason human history is marching forward. The entire history of the world is tied to what God is doing in and for His kingdom. The kingdom of God is also the most powerful entity on the planet. The kingdom of God has at its disposal the omnipotent power of God. That power can be used to change lives, relationships, communities and countries.

I know it seems at times that we belong to a weak and powerless entity. Satan would want us to believe that, but it is just not true. I know that at times it seems like the kingdom of this world is winning. But read the book of Revelation and it’s clear that we are on the victorious side. What you and I need to do is believe! We need to believe what the word of God says about the kingdom of God. We need to believe that despite our smallness we have great significance. We need to look at ourselves with eyes of faith (the way God sees us) instead of eyes of sight.

We are members of the most significant and powerful entity on the planet. We are members of the kingdom of God.

Peace!

Tom


09/17/14 Daily Devotion – What is lawful on the Sabbath?


“The Lord answered him, ‘You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?’” (Luke 13:15–16, NIV84)

Something is wrong with someone’s theology when Jesus Himself is accused of breaking the law by healing this woman on the Sabbath day. The Pharisees watch Jesus heal a woman on the Sabbath, a woman who had suffered 18 years with a debilitating ailment that caused her to be completely hunched over. She was a woman yearning to be freed from her misery and pain. Rather than jumping up and down praising God, the Pharisees accuse Jesus of breaking the Sabbath law and hence doing something unlawful and ungodly.

You want to provoke Jesus’ ire? Just attack divine acts of mercy. Call an act of God an act of the devil. Say that a divine act of mercy is unlawful or ungodly. Jesus calls the Pharisees hypocrites. He accuses them of missing the point and hence breaking their own law. He challenges them about two things. First, their definition of work is not the same as what God has defined and is not something they can even live up to.  He says to them: “Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your donkey and lead it to water?” He asks why, if they can do that on the Sabbath so their animals can survive, He can’t heal a person on the Sabbath so she can survive. Second, and most important, the Sabbath is supposed to be a day for setting people free from what binds them! The whole reason we worship on the Sabbath is so we can put ourselves in the presence of Almighty God so He can work miracles in our lives.

May we remember at all times what the Sabbath day is for!

Peace!

Tom


09/12/14 Daily Devotion – Not Peace, but Division!


“Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” (Luke 12:51–53, NIV84)

Wait one minute! What did Jesus just say? He didn’t come to bring peace on earth? But what about the angels on Christmas morning (“and on earth, Peace!)? What about Jesus telling us that in Him we have peace. What about Him blessing His disciples after His resurrection by saying, “Peace be unto you”? Doesn’t the Bible call Jesus the Prince of Peace? What is He saying in these verses? Is He contradicting Himself? Not at all. It is very important that we understand what Jesus is saying in these verses.

First, let’s state clearly that Jesus is the Prince of Peace. He did come so that we might have peace. He means what He says in the gospel of John when He says: “I have come so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have troubles, but take heart, I have overcome the world.” And there is the key to peace. There can never be peace on this planet because the earth is broken by the corruption of sin. Residents of the earth can have peace, but the source and destination of their peace is the kingdom of heaven. As long as we live in this broken world where Satan and human sinfulness exist, we will see division and conflict. We see it everywhere. The Christian message, although loving and peaceful, receives vicious attacks from this world. This conflict will continue until Jesus comes again and reigns over a new heaven and a new earth.

In the meantime what do we do? We stay the course! We remain loving and peaceful no matter how we are treated. We let the light of Christ’s love shine through us so that the world is forced to see the contrast. We NEVER apply the world’s tactics in our approach. Remember, we are called to love our enemies, go the extra mile, turn the other cheek, and love and forgive others as Jesus has us.

Peace!

Pastor Tom

www.firmlyrooted.org