Bible Study

09/02/14 Daily Devotion – Warning! Do not distort the word of God!


“Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.” (Luke 11:52, NIV84)

“Woe to you…” Words of warning that would cause any one of us to pause for a moment to assess the source and the context. A parent might warn a child about potential punishment for poor choices that might be made. A friend might warn another friend about the pitfalls he sees his friend falling into. A boss might warn an employee about poor performance and potential termination if the poor performance continues. But, the source of warning in our verse for today is Jesus, and the context is the knowledge of salvation. Woe! God Himself is warning the Pharisees, Scribes, and teachers of the law that they have so distorted the truth that they have disqualified themselves and anyone who might listen to them. Not a warning any of us would want to hear.

So, what were their issues and what can we learn from them so we do not put ourselves in a position to face a similar warning. In each case, they put their interpretation of God’s Word in priority to its intended meaning. The Pharisees, Scribes and teachers of the law were famous for adding and adding and adding to God’s Word. They had over 600 commandments when God began with 10, and most knew that they could all be boiled down to two (love God and your fellow man). In adding all these laws to God’s Word they robbed God’s Word of its authority and power. They saw themselves as master’s of the Word of God instead of being mastered by by the Word of God.

Even today we need to be cautious and heed Jesus’ warning to not distort His Word. We need to let God’s Word be God’s Word. We need to surrender our minds, hearts and faiths to its Lordship. Let’s make sure that we remain overwhelmed by God and His Word and not our own brilliance and knowledge. We bring nothing to the table but a broken life that needs the touch of the Great Physician of body and soul.

Peace!

Pastor Tom

www.firmlyrooted.org


08/29/14 Daily Devotion – Live in the light of Christ!


“Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are good, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are bad, your body also is full of darkness. See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness. Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be completely lighted, as when the light of a lamp shines on you.” (Luke 11:34–36, NIV84)

Some great theologians and philosophers have made a distinction between seeing “with” and “through” our eyes.  What they mean is that if we see “with” our eyes, then our eyes are no different from a pane of glass. Everything on the other side of the glass comes directly to our mind, heart and soul; but if we see “through” our eyes then there is an implied filter that interprets what’s on the other side. If we see through our eyes, we are forced to be discerning. We understand that our eyes are simply conduits of images and information. Our eyes need to filter everything they see with the truths of God’s Word. We naturally protect our mind, heart and soul when we choose to see through our eyes.

Jesus tells us that our eyes are the lamp of our body. If our eyes are bad (seeing with our eyes) then our bodies will be filled with darkness. Our hearts and souls will be flooded with images and information that only produce confusion and pain. But if our eyes are good (seeing through our eyes) then our hearts, minds and souls will be protected from the flood of damaging images and information. God’s Word will filter out the bad and the ugly and our bodies will be filled with light.

May the Light of Christ shine upon us and through us. May we daily choose to see the world around us “through” the truths of God’s Word.

Peace!

Pastor Tom

www.firmlyrooted.org


08/27/14 Daily Devotion – “Hide it under a bushel…No!”


““No one lights a lamp and puts it in a place where it will be hidden, or under a bowl. Instead he puts it on its stand, so that those who come in may see the light.” (Luke 11:33, NIV84)

Could Jesus have said anything more obvious? No one lights a lamp and then “puts it in a place where it will be hidden.” Of course not! That would be ridiculous! It would make no sense! If someone lights a lamp, he puts it on a stand so that its light might be seen. So what is Jesus driving at? Sadly, He is telling us that, way too often, we do the most ridiculous thing that makes no sense. We take the light of Jesus Christ that the Holy Spirit has placed in our hearts and we hide it. Why do we do that? Why would we hide light from shining?

I can only think of three possible reasons. One, we are ashamed of the light and would rather live in darkness. We don’t want others to know that we live in the light of Jesus because we may experience persecution and ridicule. The danger here is that the light not only fails to reach out to others, but it also no longer can meet our needs because we have hidden it. Two, we just don’t understand why it is light that Jesus has placed in our hearts. We need to understand that God intentionally put light in our lives for our benefit and the good of others. Three, we don’t understand how threatened our enemy (Satan) would be if we were to live in the light of Jesus.

The light of the Holy Spirit provides us wisdom and discernment as we live out our daily lives in a dark and sinful world. Only Satan would not want us to live in that light. The Spirit’s light also shines through us so that those living in darkness can be drawn to the light of Christ. Again, only Satan would want our light to never reach out to enlighten another. It’s time to stand up to Satan! It’s time for obedience to God’s Word. It’s time to let our light shine!

Peace!

Pastor Tom

www.firmlyrooted.org


08/26/14 Daily Devotion – “Father, please remove all obstacles!


“As the crowds increased, Jesus said, “This is a wicked generation. It asks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah. For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will the Son of Man be to this generation. The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now one greater than Solomon is here. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here.” (Luke 11:29–32, NIV84)

One more wise than Solomon and more powerful with words than Jonah was in the presence of these people and they were unaffected by His work.  Their hearts were so closed off to the truth that when Truth itself was standing in front of them they did not recognize Him.  Wisdom itself was laying pearls before them and their hard-heartedness was deafening their ears to hear.  There are two things that come to my mind as I think of these verses.

First, everyone must stand before Christ and account for their acceptance or rejection of Him.  How we feel or what we conclude doesn’t change that He is the King of kings and Lord of lords.  Regardless of what an individual believes about Jesus, he will end up in judgment before Him.  And who will be there in judgment?  The people of Nineveh were evil and corrupt but recognized in the preaching of Jonah the voice of Truth and repented of their sins.  They will be saying to those who reject Jesus, “We repented from our sin after hearing God’s Word preached to us from a reluctant preacher (Jonah).  How could you not repent after hearing the same message preached from God Himself?”

Secondly, I think that our most significant obstacle  to hearing and understanding the truth of God’s Word is ourselves.  We are so entrenched into our own frame of reference that we are unwilling to hear the truth.  We are so convinced that we get it, that we sense all other thoughts as a threat to our perception of reality.  But what if our perception is wrong?  Jesus says, “Let him who has ears to hear, let him hear!”  We need to be open to the Holy Spirit’s prodding that there might be another perspective.  Jesus came to proclaim the truths of the kingdom of God to us so that we might gain life and salvation through His words.

“Father, remove any and all obstacles that stand in the way of us hearing you clearly!”

Peace!

Pastor Tom

www.firmlyrooted.org


08/25/14 Daily Devotion – Let’s hear the word of God and obey it!


“As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, ‘Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.’ He replied, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.’” (Luke 11:27–28, NIV84)

A very wise teacher once said that “the shortest but most difficult distance to travel is the distance between our heads and our hearts.” Jesus, throughout His ministry, tried to get people to not just hear and assent to God’s words, but to live them, too. Our minds can acknowledge and assent to many things, but that does not necessarily mean we will follow that up with action. Only when our hearts (faith and trust) are in sync with our heads will we see obedience in our lives. Think about it for a minute. We do not live according to what we know. We live according to what we believe. We might know it is wrong to speed, cheat, lust, etc.  But that doesn’t mean we don’t do those things. The truth about what we know has to be significant enough to be believed in. Once we believe in something, our lives will naturally follow.

With that as a backdrop, Jesus is telling this woman (and us) that those who are truly blessed are those who hear and live according to the Word of God. The blessed know that the Lord’s Word is true and believe in it with all their heart.  They believe it is necessary to live according to God’s truths. All this makes perfect sense! So, why is the distance between our head and heart the shortest but most difficult distance to travel? Because so many voices and worldly distractions block the path. We must pray that the Holy Spirit makes His truths clear to us so that we hear, know, believe and live according to the truths of God’s Word.

As James says, “Prove yourselves to be doers of the Word, and not only hearers who delude themselves.” (James 1:22)

Peace!

Pastor Tom

www.firmlyrooted.org


08/22/14 Daily Devotion – Don’t make this mistake!


“But some of them said, “By Beelzebub, the prince of demons, he is driving out demons.” (Luke 11:15, NIV84)

Do you doubt Jesus sometimes?  That’s all right!  Have you ever been confused as to why He did or said a certain thing that is recorded in the Bible?  You’re not alone, and it is all right!  But, have you ever called one of His works a work of the Devil?  If so, shudder!  Jesus took/takes a lot from us fallen creatures, but one thing He refuses to take is the false accusation that His gracious divine acts are really acts of the devil.  In our text for today, Jesus exorcized a demon from a man.  Many who witnessed the act marveled and praised God.  But some countered their praise with the accusation that He performed the exorcism with power from below rather than from above.  At this point they tread on dangerous territory.  Jesus tells us in the Gospel of Matthew, “Any sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.” (Matt. 12:31)

Jesus is willing to debate any proposition of truth.  He doesn’t mind the theological wrestling matches we have with Him.  He actually encourages them.  But He (God Almighty) will not allow His acts of divine grace and mercy to be attributed to the forces of evil.  At that moment you will face immediate opposition from Jesus, and the people who made the statement in our text got exactly that.  Jesus says in verses 19&20,  “Now if I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your followers drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come to you.” (Luke 11:19–20, NIV84)  Jesus could not, and did not, let their accusation stand.  For the sake of God’s glory and the hearts of the people who were properly moved by the event, Jesus made sure that one and all knew that this act was done by the finger of God.  In fact, He went so far as to tell them that the false accusation was evidence that they were missing the bigger picture, that the kingdom of God was at hand.  He was bluntly telling them that they were on the wrong side and members of the wrong kingdom.

May we today, and always, give God the glory and praise due Him for what He has done.

Peace!

Pastor Tom

www.firmlyrooted.org


08/21/14 Daily Devotion – Ask, Seek and Knock!


““So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”” (Luke 11:9–13, NIV84)

These are wonderful promises from Jesus about the certainty that our prayers are answered by our loving heavenly Father.  These are wonderful words of promise that have been often misunderstood and abused by many Christians.  I know of many Christians who use these verses to support the “name it and claim it” approach to prayer.  They say that if you pray in faith for anything, God will grant it to you.  Let’s clarify this right away.  The text does not say “ask, seek and knock for anything you want and God will give it to you.”  It actually says “…Ask and IT will be given to you…”  The question to ask is, what is the IT?  Jesus tells us in verse 13, “…how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.”

Jesus is telling us that in our prayers we should be asking, seeking and knocking on the throne of God that He would give to us His Holy Spirit.  By giving us His Holy Spirit, He has given us the greatest gift one could get in this life.  By acquiring the Holy Spirit, we will grow in wisdom and discernment to know what all the rest of our petitions should be.  I am not saying we should not ask the Father for things.  I absolutely think we should, and I do every day.  But I believe that as I have grown closer to the Lord through the power of His Holy Spirit, I have gained a wisdom to know what to ask and a faith that confidently believes that God will grant me those things according to His will.

The one thing we need to take away from this devotion is that God is not tight fisted when it comes to spiritual provision.  We do not have to bribe or convince God to grant us our desires when it comes to spiritual matters.  Like a loving Father, He promises to lavish upon us His Holy Spirit and all the associated blessings that come from being in contact with that Spirit.

Peace!

Pastor Tom

www.firmlyrooted.org


08/18/14 Daily Devotion – The Lord’s Prayer


“One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say: “ ‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.’ ” (Luke 11:1–4, NIV84)

Prayer was a significant part of Jesus’ life. So much so, that the disciples asked Him to teach them how to pray. The prayer that Jesus taught them is called by most the Lord’s Prayer (because our Lord taught it to the disciples). As one looks at the petitions to the Lord’s Prayer, some striking things come out. First, in prayer we should focus on God, not us. The first three petitions deal with our relationship with God. Jesus lovingly invites us to call God our “Father” and encourages us to give Him honor and glory. He tells us that our prayers should then focus on God’s kingdom coming and His will being done in our lives/world today. Secondly, in the next two petitions we focus on God’s daily and faithful provision for our lives, and then, the need to have sins forgiven (by God and by us). Lastly, in the last two petitions we focus on our enemy. We seek to be led far away from His tempting forces and to be delivered from his grasp when contact with the enemy is made.

It is not just a prayer. I believe it is a formula for prayer. People say they don’t like the Lord’s Prayer because it becomes rote. I contend, if prayed as a form of prayer, it becomes the model of what content should be in every prayer. I sometimes pray the Lord’s Prayer by petition. I focus on one petition a day and let my mind and heart pray whatever comes to mind when meditating on that petition. I encourage you to spend more time on this prayer–if for no other reason than that Jesus Himself taught us to pray this way. Pray it as a prayer in and of itself. At other times stop at every petition and let your spirit go where it takes you as you pray. I know from experience that such a practice will be of great benefit.

Peace!

Pastor Tom

www.firmlyrooted.org


08/14/14 Daily Devotion – Living a Mary life in a Martha world!


““Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”” (Luke 10:41–42, NIV84)

Awhile back I did a presentation for a MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group called “Living a Mary Life in a Martha World.”  You can find the presentation on Vimeo.  It was a challenging presentation because most women today are bothered by this encounter with Jesus, Mary and Martha.  Most women find their lifestyles judged by Jesus, as He seems to take Mary’s side over Martha’s complaint.  And what is her complaint?  She and Mary have important guests at the house and Martha seems to be doing all the work.  As she busily makes preparations, Mary sits at the feet of Jesus listening to Him teach.  Martha comes and asks Jesus to please make Mary come help do the work, and Jesus replies with our verses today, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

So what is Jesus telling women (and men) of today?  He is telling us that sometimes we can be too busy even doing good things.  I know a lot of women who are doing wonderful work for their church, but seem to be burned out and not finding any joy in their labor.  Like Martha, they do and do and do for Jesus, but aren’t finding the time to be with Jesus.  We all need to find a proper balance between our devotional life and our life of service.  We cannot sacrifice one for the other, and we must always focus on our devotional life first.  Mary was honored by Jesus because she made the right choice.  He wasn’t saying that serving is unnecessary.  He is simply saying that it is secondary to spending time with Him.  Only by spending devotional time with Jesus can we keep our service life in balance.

May we all find ways to live a Mary life in a Martha world!

Peace!

Pastor Tom

www.firmlyrooted.org


08/13/14 Daily Devotion – Go and do likewise!


““Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”” (Luke 10:36–37, NIV84)

Jesus ends the parable of the Good Samaritan with a question, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”  In the parable, a man was robbed and beaten.  Both a Levite and a teacher of the law  saw the man but walked on the other side of the street and passed by.  Only the Samaritan stopped to care for the man.  The young man who asked Jesus originally, “Who is my neighbor?” now is forced to answer the question himself.  He says, “The one who had mercy on him.”  And Jesus says, “Go and do likewise.”

At first glance this parable seems easy enough to understand and apply.  But there is a troubling aspect of this parable that gnaws at me.  Why did the other two men walk by and not help?  Didn’t they care?  Something about their religious beliefs moved them to not extend mercy to the beaten man.  Did you catch that?  Something about their religious beliefs.  The very thing that should have caused them to be merciful had gotten so messed up that it actually moved them to do the opposite.  Both of the religious leaders were faced with a dilemma.  First, who was the man?  And secondly, might he be dead?  If he were not a Jew of equal stature to them, he would have been undeserving of their mercy.  If he happened to be dead, or died while they were caring for him, they would have become ceremonially unclean and not able to perform the works of ministry they were on their way to do.  So, they did nothing!  Mercy was not an option.  Mercy was swallowed up in religious legalism.

All this has got me thinking about whether I clearly understand who my neighbor is.  Do I hide behind my religious beliefs in areas that would give me permission to not be merciful.  Jesus is telling us that all mankind is our neighbor and is worthy of mercy.  All mankind!  Everyone from every culture and walk of life is worthy of mercy and grace.  We are to love them as we love ourselves.

Spend some time today pondering whether your idea of love and mercy toward others is inclusive or exclusive.

Peace!

Pastor Tom

www.firmlyrooted.org