Bible Study

07/25/14 Daily Devotion – Jesus is an ‘either/or’ choice for our soul!

“What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?” (Luke 9:25, NIV84)

I imagine that we make hundreds, even thousands, of choices every day. Most of them do not amount to much. We decide what we should have for breakfast. Should I have another cup of coffee? What should I wear to work? You get my point? Choosing is something we do continuously throughout our lives. Our verse today challenges us to step back from these daily choices to see one major (global) choice we make that has huge implications. Jesus wants to know whether we in general are living for the kingdom of this world or the kingdom of God. Notice the “or.” This is not a “both/and.” It is an “either/or.” We either live for the kingdom of God or we don’t.

Jesus tells us that the implication is the gaining or losing of our very souls. Read the verse again: “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?” What good is it, my friends, if we gain everything this world can offer? How long do fame, fortune, health and relationships last? Think a minute. Exactly! They last until they are taken away, or we die. But the key is that they don’t last forever. Only the things of the kingdom of God last for all eternity. So what is the choice we all face? We are given the choice to live for this world and find that we lose our souls along with all the stuff when we die. Or we choose the truths of the kingdom of the God who gives us life for now and for eternity.

So, what is the answer to Jesus’ question? “No good!” It is no good for a man to gain the whole world but lose his very soul.



07/24/2014 Daily Devotion – Repeat after me: Jesus is not an add-on!

“Then he said to them all: ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.’” (Luke 9:23–24, NIV84)

I titled a devotion not too long ago “Jesus is not an add-on!” Today’s devotion bears the same title. Too many Christians think that being a Christian is as simple as adding Jesus to what already exists (an add-on). In our verse today Jesus blows that idea apart. He states that “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” The first thing Jesus says is that we need to deny ourselves. Jesus doesn’t get added on, He replaces that which is denied and dead, hence Jesus’ mention of daily taking up our cross. The cross was the most violent and feared way to die. Jesus says that the old sinful man in each of us must daily die so that Jesus can fill the void. So, as He says in the verse a little later, “whoever loses his life for Me will save it.” Jesus cannot be added to that which is dead. But once dead, Jesus can give new life and make one born again.

As I type these words I find that they are self-incriminating. I am guilty of not wanting to go through the daily dying (repentance) process. I want the quick fix. I want to treat Jesus like an add-on. But He will NOT have it! He requires that we die to ourselves before He can have a significant place in our lives. We need to DAILY go through the repentance process. We need to take up our cross Daily and die to the old sinful man in us so that we might be set free by the power of the Gospel and receive the life that Jesus alone provides.

Today, let’s commit to the daily repentance process, no matter how painful it is, so that we might receive the life Jesus gives.



07/23/14 Daily Devotion – The bigger picture is only seen with His eyes!

“Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone. And he said, ‘The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.’” (Luke 9:21–22, NIV84)

So, have you ever thought you finally figured God out? I mean, has He does something so clearly in your life that you were certain what the next step should be? Well if that’s the case, these two short verses are for you (me)! Jesus had just asked the most profound question that can be asked in this life: “Who do you say that I am?” Peter, yes Peter, got the answer right and declared that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah God promised He would send. After that amazing proclamation you might have expected Jesus to send the disciples out again two by two to spread the news. But He did just the opposite. He “strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone.” Peter had to be saying to himself, “Lord, You have to be kidding! I finally get one right and you want me to be quiet about it?” (LOL!) But more seriously, why not spread the news? Why not shout it from the mountaintops?

Because Jesus first needed to suffer, die and rise again before the message could be proclaimed. Wait one minute. Did you catch that? Jesus told them ahead of time that He would suffer, die and rise again. So why were they caught by surprise on Good Friday? Probably the same reason we seem to be caught by surprise when God acts in our lives just like He says He will (in the Bible). We never have enough “sight” to see it all. We live with the eyes of faith trusting that we have a God who sees it all. But back to this text. Jesus clearly told His disciples that the Messiah came as a sacrificial Messiah (read Isaiah 53). He came to redeem humanity, and until that was accomplished, the entire truth about Him could not be revealed. The work of redemption needed to take place first.

Well, that work of redemption has taken place and there is no reason for us to be silent. We can, and are called to, share the good news. We can shout it from the mountaintops if we would like. Jesus has suffered, died and risen from the dead. Our Savior is not a dead prophet but a living Lord!



07/22/14 Daily Devotion – Who do you say Jesus is?

“‘But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’ Peter answered, ‘The Christ of God.’” (Luke 9:20, NIV84)

There are many questions to ponder in life. Some seem so immense they are intimidating. I am here this morning to tell you that the question in this verse is the most important question ever asked. There isn’t a more important question to ponder and answer than this one. I contend that if this question is answered properly, then many other deep questions in life become answerable. In our verse for today, Jesus turns to His disciples (and you and me) and asks, “Who do you say I am?” Human beings all over the globe are facing that question daily. People from every nation and ethnic group are coming to terms with who Jesus is to them. The question has been traveling around our planet for more than 2,000 years. How one answers this question has eternal implications.

Some say He was a great teacher. Some conclude that He was a fine moral leader. Others claim He was a miracle worker. But it doesn’t matter what others conclude about Jesus. Jesus wants to know what you conclude about Him. To that question Peter responded, “You are the Christ of God.” He claimed that Jesus was (and is) the long-awaited Messiah who was sent by God to redeem and to save humanity from its brokenness and sin. This is the only conclusion about Jesus that provides eternal security of life and salvation. All other conclusions about Jesus leave our hopes and assurances in this world.

Once we conclude that Jesus is our Savior and Lord, we then can begin to ponder some of the other deep questions of life. But now we ask them from a frame of reference that knows that there is a loving God who has provided us a Savior. We get to ask the deep questions, accepting the presuppositions that God cares about us, knows our needs, loves us anyway and works things to the good of those who love Him. These presuppositions help us in grasping the possible answers to the tough questions of life.

So, have you thought about it lately? Have you been asked the most important question of life directly? If not, here it is: Who do you say Jesus is? Who is Jesus to you? Answer that question correctly and watch everything else come into perspective.



07/21/14 Daily Devotion – His ways are not our ways, so look outside the box!

“Late in the afternoon the Twelve came to him and said, ‘Send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food and lodging, because we are in a remote place here.’ He replied, ‘You give them something to eat.’ They answered, ‘We have only five loaves of bread and two fish — unless we go and buy food for all this crowd.’” (Luke 9:12–13, NIV84)

In Isaiah 55:8-9, the prophet quotes the Lord saying, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” This had to be a common theme in the hearts and minds of the disciples. Every time they thought they understood, Jesus would stretch them one more time and reveal that they didn’t fully comprehend Him and His will. It is no different in our verses today. Reason alone would cause one to conclude that the crowd should be sent into the surrounding towns to find food to eat. There is no way they could have anticipated that Jesus wanted to perform a miracle at that point and feed them all with just a little fish and bread.

So what’s my point? I wonder, in my own life, if I haven’t reduced my Lord to the borders and boundaries of my reason and logic. I am wondering today how often I have missed what He could have done because I reduced His ways and thoughts to my ways and thoughts. We need to understand the truth behind the verses in Isaiah and the miraculous event of Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000. God doesn’t fit into definitions and boxes! His ways and thoughts are always higher, better and more powerful than ours. To this idea, the Apostle Paul says, “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly more than we can ask or imagine” (Eph. 2:20). When was the last time you imagined the high and lofty plans God has for your life? It’s time!

Today, may we see beyond our own will and reason and seek to know the higher ways of Him who loves us!



07/20/14 Daily Devotion – Our God’s Good News hasn’t changed!

“And he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” (Luke 9:2, NIV84)

They were on their way. The disciples, that is. They were off to preach the very message that John the Baptist and Jesus started their ministry with: “The kingdom of God is at hand!” God’s kingdom had touched our planet with the most amazing work of redemption. Jesus came to tell us, and show us, that this world and its suffering are not all there is. Now His disciples were going out preaching to the community that Jesus is the promised Messiah and that He is the source of hope, forgiveness, and healing for our bodies and souls.

More than 2,000 years later the message is the same. It gives me chills to think that we share in the same powerful message. The message of the kingdom of God hasn’t grown old or outdated. It hasn’t lost its power. It still has the ability to save, redeem, heal and provide hope and peace to the one who hears and accepts it.

So what keeps this from happening? I believe the No. 1 temptation of Satan in the lives of 21st-century Christians is distractions. There are so many voices speaking to our ears it is tough to discipline ourselves to hear the right voices. We need to be discerning enough to distinguish between the voices of the kingdom of God and the voices of the kingdom of this world.

May we clearly set our minds on what is above (the kingdom of God).



07/18/14 Daily Devotion – It’s His call — we’re just the instruments!

“When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” (Luke 9:1–2, NIV84)

Jesus was getting ready to send out the twelve apostles for the first time on their own. It was time for the students to go out and practice what they had learned. It was time for them to practice what they believed and had been taught. I remember still today the feeling I had when, after 6 years of schooling, I finally had my vicarage/intern year. All of a sudden I was out of the classroom and into the real world. It was a pretty intimidating experience. Do you recall the first time Jesus called you out of training mode and in to ministry mode? All of a sudden you weren’t just growing from your personal time with Jesus, but now He had placed people in your life who needed you to minister to them. Pretty intimidating, wasn’t it?

But we made it through the experience. As we look back it wasn’t as bad as we feared. Why? Because Jesus is faithful to His promise to never leave us alone. He gave the disciples, as He gives you and me today, the power and authority of the Holy Spirit to do what He called us to do. It was more about letting God use us as His instrument than it was about us accomplishing something on our own.

But let’s be certain about what the call is. The call is to “preach the kingdom of God.” The healings and exorcisms are simply signs of the kingdom of God. The key is to introduce the kingdom of God to people so that they too might be redeemed and saved for all eternity. A healing only lasts for a time. Even Lazarus, who died and was raised from the dead, died again. Eternal destiny is the focus of the ministry of the kingdom of God. As we allow the Spirit of God to work in and through our lives that work has eternal implications.

Like the disciples, you and I have been called to the highest purpose!




07/17/14 Daily Devotion – Despite what we see, we must believe!

“While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. ‘Your daughter is dead,’ he said. ‘Don’t bother the teacher any more.’ Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, ‘Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.’” (Luke 8:49–50, NIV84)

Jesus had stopped everyone on the way to Jairus’ house, where He was heading to heal his daughter, because a woman who had been sick for 12 years had reached out to Jesus with a faith-filled touch. He had stopped to address the woman, only to hear the news that the girl He was going to heal was now dead. Have you ever had one of those days, filled with good things but not enough time to get them all done? In the end, you feel terrible because someone was missed. I often feel like that in Haiti, where people stand in line for hours to get glasses or see a doctor or a dentist and then have to be turned away because we just couldn’t see them all. This is like the situation experienced by Jesus and everyone surrounding this event. It was too late! Jesus didn’t get there in time. So Jairus’ friends told him, “Don’t bother the teacher any more.” I can’t imagine what Jairus was feeling! The despair had to be intense. But the good news is that the event did not end there.

Jesus then told Jairus not to worry and He continued to make His way to Jairus’ house. Jesus told Jairus, “Just believe, and she will be healed.” At this point, what else was there to do but believe? But believe what? Believe that Jesus was who He said He was. He is not bound by the natural laws, because He created them. Believe that the one who gave life could bring it back again. It had happened before; in the days of Elijah and Elisha things like that took place. Jairus believed Jesus and was blessed to experience his daughter brought back to life by Jesus.

We, too, need to walk by the eyes of faith and believe that Jesus can meet our needs. Nothing is too difficult for God! We need to believe and live our lives with this confidence.



07/16/14 Daily Devotion – Our brushes with God should not be incidental!

“’Who touched me?’ Jesus asked. When they all denied it, Peter said, ‘Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.’” (Luke 8:45, NIV84)

Jesus and His disciples were on the busy streets working their way to Jairus’ house to heal his daughter, who was very ill. As they were walking among the crowds of people, a woman who had been sick for more than a decade reached out to touch Jesus’ garment, believing that simple touch of would bring her healing. And it did! A simple but faith-filled touch brought healing to a woman no one else could heal. No one knew that the touch or the healing took place, except for Jesus. Jesus asked, “Who touched Me?” Peter’s response was understandable. With all the people on the street touching and brushing by one another, how could anyone know who Jesus could be talking about?

Jesus knew! He knew that someone touched Him believing she could be healed and the power to heal left Him and went to the woman. Jesus’ question could be asked more specifically, “who touched Me believing she could be healed by that touch, and then was healed by that touch?” As we read the rest of the story, the woman admits to the faith-filled touch and testifies to her healing. Jesus tells her that her faith made the healing possible.

So what is our take-away? Every day, certainly every Sunday, people crowd around Jesus. They brush by His word, His actions, His death and resurrection. The question today is, who does it believing? Who does it like the woman in our text? She reached out to Jesus knowing that He had what she needed. Do we reach out to Jesus with that same faith-filled touch? Or, are we all brushing past the Master, gaining nothing from the touch because there isn’t a heart ready to be touched? Friends in Christ, let it never be said of us that we brushed up against the Savior of the world and had no idea it happened.



07/15/14 Daily Devotion – Tell how much God has done for you!

“The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, ‘Return home and tell how much God has done for you.’ So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.” (Luke 8:38–39, NIV84)

There aren’t too many instances that someone who was touched by Jesus’ mercy begged to follow Him. In fact, there’s just this one. Most went back to their homes and lived out their lives. This demon-possessed man was so moved by Jesus’ mercy that he wanted to become a disciple and follow Him. Jesus had set him free from the terror he was living in (hell); he couldn’t see any other life than one dedicated to his Savior. Given his desire to spend the rest of his life following Jesus, I am surprised by Jesus’ response. Jesus tells him no. Jesus tells him, “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” And that is exactly what the man did. He witnessed to the people of his community about his Lord and Savior who set him free from the bondage of sin and demon possession. We know this, because in the book of Acts, there is already a church in the Decapolis area, which is attributed to the ministry of this former demoniac.

What does this mean to you and me? Well, you might not be a pastor or teacher like I am. But we have the same calling. We all are called to return home and tell what great things God has done for us. Witnessing to Jesus Christ is not difficult. All Jesus expects of us is to share with others what we have heard and experienced from God in our lives. Who has God placed in your life that He desires you to share your story of faith with? I know there is someone. God always places people in the lives of Christians who need to hear of God’s mercy, grace and compassion.

Since God has so graciously redeemed and saved us from our brokenness and bondage, may we dedicate our lives to testify to His awesome works in us. May our motivation be one of gratitude to God for all He has done, and compassion for the world around that needs to know the love of God.