Bible Study

10/31/14 Daily Devotion – Faith!


“People were also bringing babies to Jesus to have him touch them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”” (Luke 18:15–17, NIV84)

“…for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” If you read this account in each of the Gospels in which it is recorded, you can’t miss the fact that Jesus implies that children (even babies) believe in Him and are members of the kingdom of God. There is a lot of discussion in Christian circles about what faith is and who can have faith. These discussions have been going on for centuries. From my perspective, Jesus makes it very clear.   Anyone can believe in Jesus.

I think we tend to put limitations on who can believe because we tend to tie faith too closely with reason and intellect. Although reason and intellect may play a part in understanding and expressing that faith, we have to be careful not to get to the point where we say that reason, intellect, and faith are interchangeable or that faith requires a certain intellectual ability. We must remember that reason and intellect have been negatively affected by the Fall. We tend to say that babies can’t have faith because they can’t reason the propositional truths about faith. But that is not what faith is. Faith is not like figuring out that 2 + 2 = 4. Faith transcends our reason and our intellect. It actually has the ability to transform them. If reason and intellect are the prerequisites for faith, then do mentally handicapped or Alzheimer patients have a chance? What about when I am sleeping or under anesthetic? As a pastor I have personally seen faith expressions from Alzheimer’s patients and the mentally handicapped.

What about some Biblical proof? The Bible says that John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit before He was born. He was a believer in Jesus before He came out of Elizabeth’s womb. And we are told in the Gospel of Luke that when Mary (who just conceived Jesus) came to Elizabeth’s house to talk to her, John (6 months in Elizabeth’s womb) leapt because he was in the presence of Jesus. Now there is an expression of faith!

May we see more clearly what faith is and praise God for this amazing divine gift.

Peace!

Pastor Tom


10/30/14 Daily Devotion – True Righteousness!


To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ “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.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”” (Luke 18:9–14, NIV84)

The key theme of these verses is “righteousness”.  So, that begs the question, “What does it mean to be righteous?”  From a worldly perspective it means to be a pretty good guy (like the Pharisees).  Outwardly, the Pharisees were very legalistic and outwardly obedient to their beliefs.  This is why it is so easy for the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable to compare himself to the tax collector and conclude, “God, thank you that I am not like…this tax collector.”  The outward appearances between their two lives would have been glaringly obvious.  But notice the perspective of the Pharisee’s petition.  He thanks the Lord that He is a good man.  He goes to God with his own righteousness.  And although it was a pretty good life, it certainly did not meet up with God’s requirement of perfection.  The Pharisee’s righteousness meant nothing to God and was useless to him.

But the tax collector is a different story.  He would readily admit a flawed life.  He doesn’t go to God with his own righteousness (he doesn’t have any).  He goes to God with his sin, seeking from God His mercy and forgiveness.  He is seeking to be cleansed by God.  He is a “sick” man who goes to the Great Physician for healing.  And what does He receive?  Exactly what he asked for!  He receives God’s love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness, because he goes to the Lord with an honest heart.  Jesus tells the Pharisees, “I tell you, this man rather than the other (the Pharisee) went home justified (righteous) before God.  Our story, like the tax collector, is one of God’s hearing our honest plea for mercy and although we are unworthy, God sees fit to honor us with His righteousness.

Peace!

Pastor Tom


10/29/14 Daily Devotion – Prayer from God’s perspective!


“And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?” (Luke 18:6–7, NIV84)

Even an unjust judge will eventually respond to the repeated requests of an individual crying for justice.  Just to get someone off of our back we might concede and take care of whatever it is the person wants us to do.  We’ve all been there!  If we’re honest, we have probably been on both sides of that equation.  But what in the world does this very pragmatic snapshot of how our world works have to do with our spiritual walk with God?  Everything, if we are talking about prayer!  In contrast to the unjust judge who pragmatically decides to hear the case of the woman who repeatedly cries out to him for help, God is our heavenly Father who justly desires to listen to our prayers and work everything out for our good.  Our motivation to reach out to the Lord in prayer should be as natural as a child reaching out to their parents for something they need/want.

I think we sometimes make prayer all about us.  We believe we have to put the perfect prayer together in order for God to hear us.  We think that we have to say our prayers at a certain time, or in a certain way for God to respond.  Jesus is reminding us that it is not about us and our requests, but rather it is about God.  It is about our God who faithfully hears our prayers, no matter how feeble, and responds to them as a loving Father would for His children.  We are His chosen ones!  As the psalmist declares in Psalm 116, “He inclines His ear to me…”  Every time we pray God bends toward us and turns His head so that He might give our petition His full attention.

What a beautiful picture of what prayer is from God’s perspective.

Peace!

Pastor Tom


10/28/14 Daily Devotion – The more important question is…


“Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.”” (Luke 17:20–21, NIV84)

Just like some today who feel they can with precision predict the return of Jesus, the Pharisees were convinced that they were ushering in the coming of the kingdom of God with their self-righteous lives. The irony within the Pharisees’ eschatology is that the kingdom of God had come in their lifetime in the person of Jesus Christ. But to all the religious scholars and prophets who today think they know when Jesus is going to return: don’t you listen to Jesus’ Word? He says more than once in the gospels that His return is not predictable. Jesus tells us in our verses for today that the day of Jesus’ return cannot be calculated by careful observation. People are not going to say, “Here it is,” or “There it is…”. Jesus’ repeated message is, since we cannot know the day of His return, we must always be ready. We must be ready every day of our life for Jesus to return.

How can we know that we are ready? Jesus tells us in our verses for today that “the kingdom of God is within us.” Because we believe in Jesus Christ and have the Spirit of God dwelling in us, we are God’s temple/sanctuary. The Lord dwells within us and therefore we are citizens of the kingdom of God. You see, the most important question to ask is not, “When is Jesus returning?”  The ‘when” is a heavenly mystery. The most important question is, “Are we ready for His return? If you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior, then you are ready! As we live out our days on this earth awaiting Jesus’ return, let us stay firmly rooted in God’s Word. Let us be devoted to consistent prayer, and may we live each day to bring others into the kingdom of God.

Peace!

Pastor Tom


10/24/14 Daily Devotion – Let’s stop to thank the Lord!


One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. (Luke 17:15 NIV84)

This verse comes from Luke’s account of when Jesus healed ten people who had leprosy. As you know, leprosy was a very contageous deadly disease. People who contracted leprosy were called the “walking dead”. They were required to live outside the city until they died. Jesus meets ten lepers outside the city. They cry out to Jesus to have mercy on them. Jesus tells them to go into the city and show themselves to the priest. The priests had the responsibility of confirming all healings of leprosy. As the ten lepers went into the city, they were healed. Note their faith is in Jesus’ word. He did not touch them or pray over them. He simply commanded them to go, and they did. May we have a similar faith. May Jesus’ words be enough.

But only one of the lepers who realized that he was healed by Jesus stops what he is doing to praise God. Instead of continuing on to the priest’s inspection, he returns to Jesus to praise and thank Him for His healing. Today, this has me thinking whether I am acknowledging the awesome things God does in my life with proper praise. And what about you? Do we stop what we are doing to give God praise when it is proper to do so? Do we go back to make sure He knows that we are thankful for what He has done for us?

I pray that today, and always, we find it necessary to stop and praise the Lord for the awesome things He does in our lives.

Peace!

Pastor Tom


10/23/14 Daily Devotion – “…not even if someone rises from the dead.”


“Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’ ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’  He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’” (Luke 16:29-31 NIV84)

Jesus ends His parable of the rich man and Lazarus with a startling statement about how important the Word of God is to one’s salvation. The rich man, who is in torment in hell, is asking Abraham to send Lazarus to his brothers to warn them of the outcome for those who die without a right relationship with God. The rich man’s point is that if Lazarus would come back from the dead and go warn his brothers of their impending doom, they would be shocked into believing and would listen to Lazarus. Abraham tells the rich man, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” You see, we do not get shocked into believing! We get born again through the power of the Word of God. If we reject God’s Word, then no miracle, no matter how spectacular, is going to convince us to believe. It’s the Word of God that matters most! Want more proof?

Jesus died and rose again nearly 2,000 years ago. Yes, He rose from the dead! He came back to life. He spent weeks and weeks with His disciples after His resurrection. He is the only teacher, philosopher, prophet, religious leader to ever come back from the dead. And then, as today, there are those who remain unconvinced. They are unconvinced because they reject the very Word of God, which has the power to create faith. They reject the Word of God that clearly predicted that Jesus would rise from the dead. Miracles, no matter how spectacular, only affirm the Word of God.

We must clearly be beacons of light to this dark world. We must share the Word of God with those whom God has placed in our lives. God’s Word is the most powerful entity in the universe. His Word created all that is, and it sustains creation to this day. Our focus must be on the transforming power of the Word of God and not miracles and wonders.

Today, may our internal faith and our external witness be firmly rooted in the Word of God.

Peace!

Pastor Tom


10/22/14 Daily Devotion – Servanthood!


“So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’ ” (Luke 17:10, NIV84)

Understanding one’s role in life is very important. Confusion about this might cause conflict and pain as one searches for self-worth and meaning. Jesus says a servant knows s/he is a servant. Knowing their title helps them understand their purpose. Their purpose is to serve their master. They are paid to be at their master’s bidding. The servant finds worth and meaning in working for the master to the best of his/her ability.

In our verse for today, Jesus says that it is also important for us to understand our role as His servants. Did you hear that? We are servants! No matter who we are in this life we are never more than a servant in the kingdom of God. As servant, we are called to do the bidding of our Lord and Master. Our self-worth and meaning are derived from properly understanding our role as God’s servant. Jesus never asked His disciples to lead. No, He asked them to “follow Me!” Our job is to spend the rest of our lives following Jesus so that we might serve Him in His kingdom.

Let’s be servants today!

Peace!

Pastor Tom


10/21/14 Daily Devotion – Reality Check!!!!


““The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried.” (Luke 16:22, NIV84)

This verse comes from the parable of the rich man and Lazarus.  This parable forces us into a reality check because it challenges our perspective.  It is easy to picture the event of this parable as Jesus tells it.  There is a rich man who lives in a big house.  He has many friends and is not in want for anything.  At the same time there is a poor beggar who lives at the front gate of the rich man’s house.  He is always in want with  little to no friends.  The contrast of their two lives is stark.  It almost makes us uncomfortable.  Jesus tells us in the parable that both men die on the same day.  Can you picture it?  A servant or someone finds the rich man dead in his bed and the wailing begins.  First it is the household, but soon the whole town is reacting to the death of one of its important and powerful members.  The funeral of the rich man would have been crowded with people paying their last respects.  On the other hand, the poor beggar Lazarus, who was found dead at the gate of the rich man’s house, would have been scooped up by someone responsible for cleaning the streets and  then buried.  That’s it!  Done!  That’s how it would look from our perspective.

But God’s perspective is very different.  Solomon says in the book of Proverbs, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” (Prov. 14:12)  God sees things differently than we do.  Do you find it interesting that Jesus names the poor beggar (Lazarus), while the rich man is the one who is nameless?  I find it not only interesting, but hugely profound.  It is clear that we do not always see things as they are.  From Jesus’ perspective (the only reality that matters), it is the nameless rich man who simply dies and is buried.  But for Lazarus, an angel from heaven comes down to greet him upon his death and take him to heaven.  What a beautiful picture!  What an amazing contrast of realities!  It is so important that we seek the wisdom and discernment of God so that we can see things as we ought.  We need to see things through His eyes.

Stop for a minute and evaluate what currently matters most to you.  Are you certain that it is what matters most to God?  It may be time for a reality check.  We need to make sure that we see our lives and the world around us through the eyes of Christ.  He alone has a perfect perspective of reality.

Peace!

Pastor Tom


10/16/14 Daily Devotion – How certain can we be about the Word of God?


“It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law.” (Luke 16:17, NIV84)

There seems to be a lot of debate in Christian circles today about what the Word of God is. I mean, how much of the Bible is God’s Word, and how much of it is man’s additions? I have to tell you up front that I have a strong bias on this topic. My commitment to arguing that the entire Bible is the Word of God ties to verses like this one.  Jesus Himself says that it would be “easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law.” We face warnings in the book of Revelation about adding to and subtracting from the Bible. I would just as soon let the entire Bible be the Word of God and not enter eternity telling God I thought I know better than He did.

Given that strong bias, I believe that there is a wonderful blessing that comes with it. I can be certain about what God tells me in the Bible because I hold it as His Word. I can be certain about the truths and the promises that are contained in it. If I had to figure out what was and what wasn’t God’s word, how could I ever be certain about anything? And ultimately, upon whom would my certainty lie? It would have to lie on me or some scholar who is telling me what parts I could be certain of. I am not sure I want my certainty of the Bible to rest on me (or any other person). I am not something to be certain about. But if God is the Author of this amazing book, and not even the stroke of a pen can be removed from it, then I can be certain in God rather than in me (man).

Today, let’s be as certain about God’s Word as we are about God. Oh yeah, it’s in the Bible that we learn be certain about Him.

Peace!

Pastor Tom


10/14/14 Daily Devotion – Jesus treats sin seriously!


“Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.”  (Luke 17:1&2 NIV 84)

We live in a sinful world, and in a sinful world sin is “bound to come”.  Although not acceptable to a holy God, Jesus accepts the fact that it is man’s current condition.  Jesus understands our condition and the effects that the broken world around us have on our daily lives.  We misinterpret situations; we make bad decisions; we speak and act in ways that we shouldn’t.  Jesus knows that these things are bound to happen.  There is a little comfort in knowing that Jesus understands our condition/dilemma.  He came into this world, not only so that He could relate to our temptations and trials, but that He might be victorious over them.  Jesus is our sinless substitute.  God placed all that is broken about us and our world on Jesus as He suffered and died on the cross.  Jesus was not a victim, but a victor, as He hung on that cross as the Savior of the world.

But let’s not miss Jesus’ “woe”.  Jesus sternly warns that the individual who feeds off of man’s brokenness and leads him deeper into sin has much to worry about.  Jesus states that these individuals will face certain judgment, not from the hands of men, but from God.  Jesus says that it would be better if that person were thrown into the depths of the sea with a millstone tied around his feet.  It would be better that he face some type of earthly judgment that would cause him to die before leading one of God’s children into temptation.  God is serious about sin!  The devil and our sinful nature are not to be played with.  They are to be continually put to death so that we are not led astray or do not cause anyone else to be led astray.

Today, let’s take seriously Jesus’ words of warning.  Let’s live lives free from Jesus’ woes.  Let’s lead people toward Jesus, rather than away from him.

Peace!

Pastor Tom