Parable of the Moneylender

Today’s reading:  Luke 7:41-43, Psalm 97

In Luke 7, Jesus is having dinner at the house of Simon the Pharisee.  A sinful woman from the town comes to Jesus, washes his feet with her tears, pours perfume on them, kisses them, and wipes them with her hair.  Simon is disgusted.  He uses the situation to challenge Jesus’ authority, saying if he was really a prophet he would know who the woman was and would distance himself from her.  Jesus, in turn, uses the parable of the moneylender to teach Simon a lesson.

“Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”

“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said (Luke 7:41-43).

The sinful woman knew she desperately needed Jesus, showing her great love for him by washing his feet.  Simon, on the other hand, saw himself as a righteous man who dutifully followed the law of Moses.  Simon didn’t feel like he really needed Jesus, or any other Savior for that matter.

The main point of Jesus’ parable about the moneylender is this – your love for your Savior is directly proportional to your understanding of how badly you need Him.  See verse 47 – Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little (Luke 7:47).”  My question for you today is – how bad do you think you need Jesus? Have you ever looked at your neighbor, compared your sins to his, and walked away thinking you are a pretty good person or at least not as bad as other guy?  I have.  This parable is a good reminder –

All sins separate us from God, not just the really big stuff.  Accordingly, Romans 6:23 applies to all sins when it tells us “the wages of sin is death”.  In God’s economy, none of us measure up to his perfect standards on our own.  We all need Jesus.  It is only through his sacrifice on the cross for our sins that we can be acceptable to God.

And this is the testimony that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life (1 John 5:11-12).

https://vimeo.com/20021457

Wise builder

Today’s reading is from Matthew 7:24-27, Luke 6:47-49, and Psalm 96

Matthew 7:24-27 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on the rock. The rain fell, the rivers rose, and the winds blew and pounded that house. Yet it didn’t collapse, because it’s foundation was on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of Mine and doesn’t act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, the rivers rose, the winds blew and pounded that house, and it collapsed. And its collapse was great!”

Growing up I learned about God as my foundation in Sunday school. Thankfully my parents started this for me at a young age. It wasn’t until I had my own storms that I really understood the strength and importance of God as my rock and foundation. There are a handful of moments that I can recall very quickly where I was clinging to my sure foundation for peace in the midst of my storm. When I failed a major class in college, when I became a mother, and when my son was diagnosed as “not typical”. These moments all made me shrivel back in fear and question my abilities, my worth, my significance. Initially I recall trying to reconcile these situations on my own. Study harder, be better, research more. But when these methods still left me feeling empty and exhausted I finally sat quietly with God…..my foundation…..and the peace of God replaced my fear. My perspective changed from the difficulty of the moment to Gods eternal perspective. I began to see the blessing in the trial and I started to grow in faith, love, and grace. My view of the world is much better when I’m sitting on the foundation of who I am in Christ. There is nothing that can change the fact that God loves me and sent His son to die on the cross for my sins. I am His and this life is a gift. I may lose a few shingles here and there but my foundation will not be shaken.

Are you sure of your foundation? In both Matthew and Luke it says that the destruction “is great” to those who do not build their foundation on the rock. The good news is that you don’t have to build it yourself. God already did. Just accept it and build your house on it. Storms will come……you may need to replace a few shingles, shattered windows, or creaky doors but God’s foundation is strong and peaceful.

 

Light of the World

So Jennifer has asked me now for a few days when I plan to change the bulbs that have been out in our house for the last couple weeks. Whether its in our room or in the kitchen I’m sure the darkness cast on these places has made a difference. Same with our life, whether its replacing a bulb, flicking the switch, or maybe you just forgot to plug something in; being in darkness makes a difference. In the dark you can lose sight of some of the detail. For example you may grab two different color socks or papers can build up on the kitchen counter because there is a darkness cast on that part of the counter. That is the same in our life. When there is darkness sin has space to slide in. Things build up without being noticed. What a difference it makes when His light is cast upon us. What a difference it will make when I put in the bulbs this week. 🙂

Jesus said,
14 “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.

And just like the difference it will make of putting those new bulbs in, Jesus said, “We are the light.” In the midst of seasons or circumstances, are we like the bulbs I needed to replace? Do we still shine bright in the midst of our busyness? Are we shining bright when faced with adversity?

Here is our reminder for this Tuesday. By His grace we have been given an eternal kingdom, a Living Word that is breathed by Him. Isn’t it great to know we have a Father that cares more for us then anyone! He willingly sent his own son to live a perfect life and provide us with an example of the light we should be shining for others today. I’m praying our 811 readers are reading today and understand the light you are able to shine on others today. That no matter our current circumstance, God has great plans for us! That on this short term camp out here on Earth we have the opportunity to share this light with others who are still living in darkness. Think of the difference we can make in our workplace, neighborhood, community. Praise God!

Let His light shine today through you.  If you need a new bulb, put it in! If the switch needs to be hit, do it.  Praise God!

This weekend I had the opportunity to share a life verse with my son Jackson as he moves over to the next Sunday school classroom. It was Joshua 1:9.

9 This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

Dear God,

You brought us out of the dark.  You gave us light and asked us to share this good news with other so they can see to.  God help it not to be our words but yours.  God we love you and ask for your support and guidance we need in holding Your name high and sharing,  so all can hear, see, and be part of Your kingdom one day.

Today’s Readings: Matthew 5:14-16
Psalm 95
Come, let us sing to the Lord! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our Salvation.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=4&v=8RpLB7bAlYc

Shine Bright Today!

New Wine in Old Wine Skins

 

Today’s reading  : Matt 9:17, Mark 2:22, Luke 5:37-38 , Psalm 94

Matthew 9:17

17 Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.”

This particular parable has been one that is a constant reminder for me throughout my life.  I have heard this spoken on, debated over, preached on for at least 30 years.  I find myself again with a new take on the parable now.

In the scriptures, John the Baptist’s disciples are questioning Jesus on fasting and Jewish laws. Jesus uses the parable of the wine skins to state that His followers were not trying to get into commune with God and seek unspoken answers. But by being in His presence His disciples were with God, in the form of Christ, and were being filled physically and spiritually.

Jillian and I have recently moved into a new house and this has been such a blessing.  The children are able to have play dates across the street and the people are really warm and welcoming.  A couple of days after moving into the house, we receive a notice that our water main system would be completely remolded and the project would take place between May 1 and August 31, the entire summer.  This was a new issue as a new homeowner that we were not ready, but it is a needed update. The old system seems to have been placed about 70 to 80 years ago and the pipes were 4 inches wide.  The new system is 8 inches wide, which will decrease the current flow by half and increase the efficiency of the system.   The city was looking forward to the future and anticipating the stress of the system with the growth of the community and decided to make the proper plans and mitigate the situation before there are worst complications from the existing pipes.   As with Christ’s disciples, he was making new connections and understandings in the midst of mature and solid doctrine.  Christ didn’t completely destroy the beliefs of the disciples, He upgraded them to hold more capacity and be able to work more efficiently.

With the guidance and direction of the Spirit, I have been mentoring a young man who has had a history of violence and brokenness.  We have on several occasions visited with each other and have created a space of connection and healing.  As we have visited the Spirit has allow each other to come together in peace and understanding.  If we had met several years ago and under different circumstances, we would never have this connection.   As we fellowshipped, the Spirit was physically and spiritually changing both of us, the Spirit was creating New Wine Skins in us. This was truly palpable and awe inspiring.  A young man who has been hardened by life, choices, and circumstances allow the Spirit to transform him into something different and something stronger.  He and I, together have allowed God to transform our Old Wine Skins (the manner in which we perceive people and life) and form New Wine Skins (a renewed life in the Spirit and not allowing others to influence the newness of the change).

New wine skins and Old wine skins are not necessarily talking about people (the Pharisees or John the Baptist’s disciples or others), but the refocus and realignment of our thoughts on how we see and recognize Christ.  If we continue with our old habits and refuse to change, we will not be doing God’s work [Old Wine Skin}.  We would become unfit because we will negate our transformation and testimony.  We have to continuously allow the Spirit to renew our old wine skins to reflect the new and awesome wine that is given to us, [New Wine Skins].  This is essential to increase our efficiency as His Workmanship.  Be Blessed.

New Cloth

I remember when my son was little and would inevitably wear holes in the knees of his jeans. I did not want to go and buy new jeans for him to run around and play in. Jackson and his friends were always climbing in trees, sliding into bases in the backyard, and running from house to house. All his jeans needed were a little patch. I am no seamstress, so I went to the store and found some iron-on jean fabric patches. I took his old worn-out jeans with holes all in the knees and got my iron out. I followed the directions and ironed these new patches on his jeans. Lets just say, it worked while the jeans were cooling on the ironing board, but as soon as Jackson put them on I knew it was too good to be true. The patch did not move with the old fabric. By the time my son went out to play and came back inside, the edges of the new patch were already pulling from the edges of the old fabric.

The parable we are looking at today illustrates exactly what happened to the patch on Jackson’s jeans!

Jesus said in Matthew 9:16: “No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and the tear is made worse.”

So, why is this something Jesus feels we need to know and what is He really saying to us?

To really understand this parable, which is found in Matthew 9:16, Mark 2:21, and also in Luke 5:36, we need to look back on the previous verses. In the few verses before, we see the disciples asking Jesus why He and his disciples did not fast. The disciples and the Pharisees lived a life based on the Old Testament Law. They followed a long list of things they had to do in order to have a right relationship with God. Part of the Law was to fast one or two days a week. The Pharisees became very legalistic about following the rules. They were often fasting with the wrong motives. They did not fast to please and honor God.

In Matthew 9:16, the “old garment” represents the Old Testament law, the old law, the agreement that God had with his people and the things they would do. This was the agreement they had before Jesus Christ came to earth. When Jesus died on the cross and was resurrected into a new life in heaven then the New Testament covenant took place. The Covenant of Grace came into being.

The old garment seems to have a tear in it. The parable here is about the old laws. The people in the Old Testament had to fully follow all of the laws. The problem is that nobody can be perfect and live up to all of the rules. It is impossible to fulfill the law.  Living day by day trying to fulfill the law of God, with the law of God on your mind all the time, will tear you to pieces. You will live with guilt and shame all the time because nobody can follow all the rules all the time.

Jesus’ reference to new cloth was a way of saying that He did not come to patch up an old and worn-out religious system, but to replace it completely with a dynamic new way of teaching. Jesus’ new teaching was salvation by grace through faith in Him. This teaching is not compatible with the teaching of the law under the Old Testament. This new teaching could not be mixed with the old because of the new life and freedom. A new cloth sown on an old garment in Jesus’ day would shrink the first time it was washed and would tear away from the old garment that had already shrunk, making the hole worse. This illustrated that Jesus did not come to patch up the Old Covenant, but to replace it.

Jesus is the new patch, He cannot be combined with the old ways. His way is the gospel of grace. We cannot follow rules to be saved by Christ. He brought salvation to replace our need to follow the Old Covenant rules.

Also for todays reading:  Psalm 93

Parables

Matthew 13:10-16, Psalms 92

When I was young, my favorite bedtime stories were from Aesop’s fables.  While I enjoyed the fantastical stories, I was fully enthralled with the lessons of morality encoded into them.  Now, as an adult, I see that this was my fathers clever strategy for teaching life lessons.  In fact, as I reflect on it, it was quite effective.  You see, fables make you think.  If you are willing to look deep into the story, they go to work on your character, stimulating thoughts about your own life, behaviors and responses.  Jesus, had a similar method.  He spoke in parables.  Instead of just teaching morality, however, he wanted us to see “the secrets of heaven” (Matthew 13:11).     But, there is a catch.  Like the fable, we have to be listening.

Jesus tells us in Matthew 13:11 that we are permitted to understand the secrets of his stories.  He goes on to say that some are not permitted.  Which has me wondering, why are some permitted to know and others are not?  The answer lies in the condition of your heart.  I like the way Eugene Peterson puts it in The Message.   He refers to a ready heart.  It reads, “whenever someone has a ready heart for this, the insights and understandings flow freely.”  Jesus then explains why he speaks in parables.  He says, “That’s why I tell stories: to create readiness, to nudge the people toward receptive insight. In their present state they can stare till doomsday and not see it, listen till they’re blue in the face and not get it” (Matthew 13:13, MSG).

If you haven’t guessed by now, we are going to take BibleJournal through the parables.  In each of these stories, we get a unique opportunity to see the kingdom of God.  I pray that our authors and readers will be listening closely, with ready hearts.  I trust we will as I rely on Jesus promise in Matthew 13:16, “Blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.”

The Word

Today’s reading is Matthew 7:28-29 and Psalm 91.

I’m a big sports fan, but I don’t listen to sports talk radio. Why? I just don’t really see the point. All they do is just talk about their opinions on something that just happened in the past…a game just played and what a player or coach should have done or what a player or coach said after. They also talk about who they think will win an upcoming game or which player is better than the other. But, the bottom line is this…none of it matters. They don’t play the game, and they don’t have the authority to make any decisions to effect outcomes.

Matthew 7:28-29 reads…

“And when Jesus finished these saying, the crowds were astonished by his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority and not as the scribes.”

It’s almost like the people knew at this point after the Sermon on the Mount the scribes were like the sports talk radio people who could just talk and Jesus was a player or coach who could actually do something about it.

John 1:1-5 reads…

“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.”

John 1:14 reads…

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen the glory, glory as of the only Son of the Father full of grace and truth.”

The people knew and sensed Jesus was different. They weren’t just hearing someone talk about God..they were hearing God. He had authority. They were hearing the great “I am.”

I find it very interesting John 1 refers to Jesus at “the Word.” I’m not going to claim I fully know the reason, but I think it’s because everything contained in the book we call the Word is ultimately about Him. From Genesis to Revelation, it all points to Him. And more than anything…the book we call the Word now is our living authority until He returns.

I’ve been to church my whole life and figure I’ve probably heard around 1,500 sermons in my nearly 35 years of life and not to take away from any pastors who I’ve heard preach, but you know when my relationship with God really started to grow? It was when I began to be in the Word daily (preachers and pastors did absolutely help influence adoption of this spiritual discipline). The Word guides us. The Word is our one source of truth (and grace). The Word has authority. The Word causes us to have a relationship with the Word, Jesus.

When I get lackadaisical about being in the Word and miss days, I feel empty. I feel anxious. I feel stressed. I need my GPS. I need my one source of truth and authority. I need Jesus. Then, I have confidence. Then, I have peace.

Psalm 119:105 reads..
“Thy Word is a lamp unto my feed, and a light unto my path.”

Isaiah 26:3 says..

“You keep us in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you because he trusts in you.”

Let us pray…

Dear God..,,please help us to come to the Word daily as our one, true source of authority. Please help us turn to the Word to grow in our relationship and oneness with you. And thank you for sending the Word in flesh for us to see and for giving us the written Word as our guidance system until the Word returns.

 

**Additional thoughts- I love the accessibility we have 24/7 to the Bible through apps. However, in my humble opinion, I believe there is enhanced impact in opening the physical Bible and reading it in addition to the app or the few verses that might be referenced, and even included, right in the text of your daily devotional. When you open the actual Good Book, as opposed to an app or just reading the verses listed in the devotional or blog like this, there is something that says/feels…this is different than just another blog, app, article, or website I go to on my phone or tablet. This book is the one and only source of truth in my life. This book is the Word.

Our firm foundation

The Wise and Foolish Builders

When I first read this verse, I thought I should have traded with BJ! It would have been more appropriate for a builder who is very concerned about the foundation of the homes he builds to write on this topic! So, here goes with the analogy and the non-builder in me! I know there are many different types of foundations based on the type of soil, ground, climate, and geographical location.  Some homes have basements, others do not.  I only have familiarity with the poured cement foundation for a home with a basement.  As I think about the type of foundation for homes here in Central Illinois, I always picture the big open hole in the ground that looks so massive. A truck arrives and pours gravel all over the bottom of this hole.  Massive molds are delivered and set up in this big hole in the ground and supported with wood beams or big metal supports.   Then, the cement trucks arrive and pour the cement into the molds. These molds hold the cement in place until it is firm, dry and solid.  It seems to sit for a bit of time to become rock solid. In my lifetime, I have had the opportunity to watch this process take place twice. It is so interesting to me that those cement walls form together perfectly. The perfectly formed walls outline the edge of the house and in the end, hold the weight of the entire house, with all the wood, brick, furniture, people, etc. These walls have to be so firm and so perfect or the house would collapse. I think of homes in the south near coastlines. They are oftentimes built of huge cinder blocks and then the deck or upper floors extend out of the sand with wood beams supporting them. While the cinder blocks seem very solid, it would make me a bit nervous to have these beams in the sand support the upper deck of my house especially with the ever-present threat of hurricanes.

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

In today’s verse, we read about building our foundation on rock and not building it on sand that could slip away or be washed away. This analogy to a home is easy for us to make. It paints a vivid picture of how to build our personal homes. Obviously, we want to build our faith foundations on God, his word, his teachings and his way of living. He points out the solid rock he can be and is for us. However, we have to do our part. We have to believe in his word and follow it. We have to read it. We have to build our lives on it. We have to build our walls on this foundation. Even when the weight of the world is heavy upon us, he won’t let us down.  We are strong and have to rely on him in tough times.

One more easy-to-relate to story came to mind when reading today’s verse: The Three Little Pigs. We all know this story. The wolf comes along to try to get the first pig, shouting: “I will huff and puff and blow your house down.” He does. Why, because the first home is built of straw.   It happens again to the second pig, who’s home is built of sticks.   “I will huff and puff and blow your house down.”   The story highlights that the first two pigs were lazy in their preparation. They hastily built their homes so they could sing and dance all day. The third pig spent considerable time on his own house. He wanted to be safe and even let the other two pigs in when their homes had been destroyed. When the wolf comes across the third pig’s home built of brick, he again says: “I will huff and puff and blow your house down.” The wolf does not succeed. The firm foundation and walls are too strong. The brick protected the pigs from harm. I think of God as these brick walls and our foundation. No matter how harsh the wind and the world is, he protects us, and we need to build our faith in him. We also need to take time to continue to solidify our foundation by being in the word.  We have to use this firm foundation in God to survive the storms. He is there for us. He is our Rock and our Salvation.   You can sing “The Church is one Foundation” in your head all day like I did after writing this post!

 

Psalm 90

 

 

False Disciples

Today’s reading, Matthew 7:21-23, follows closely our warning of “False Prophets” from yesterday. The leaders and teachers among us aren’t the only ones who can “talk the talk” without truly walking with Christ. There will be those who prophesied in God’s name and did “mighty works” that God does not know.

I can’t help but think right now of some of the criticisms of “church” that I’ve heard from nonbelievers. They go something like, “church is full of hypocrites” and “I know what so and so is like outside of church” and on and on. This has always been a struggle for me because, well…it’s true. But there’s a difference between repentant sinners who are following Christ and trying to live obediently and those who are there just to “look good”. And thankfully, it’s not up to me to judge what’s in someone’s heart. Even so, the true believers – the Christ-followers in a living, breathing relationship with Him, shine out like stars in the night. Not because they’re without sin, or because they show up to church every time the doors are open, or tithe religiously…but because they bear the fruits of the spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control). Not necessarily all of them, and certainly not all of the time – but it’s there and it’s evident.

The past 3 years I’ve been attending Eastview Christian Church. It is, by far, the biggest church I’ve ever been involved in. When I first visited there I was so blinded by the sheer size and dramatics of “contemporary worship” that it took another 2 years of church shopping before my family and I returned and eventually committed to making it our church home. Sure – are probably a lot of people there that don’t truly know God. There may even be false prophets there (although I’ve never encountered any that I’m aware of), but there are also many, many believers who come together to worship and, through serving together, I’ve seen and been encouraged by so many people humbly serving the Lord and bearing those fruits of the spirit.

There are 2 main things I take away from this reading today. First, that so long as we are aware of the existence of false disciples we do not need to be afraid of them. In fact, I don’t think we even need to look for them, but instead look for the disciples (Christ-followers) who are bearing fruit. Commune with them, rejoice with them and be encouraged by them. The second thing is how I’ve come to respond to the criticisms about church and Christians I mentioned above. There are believers and non-believers. The believers and Christ-followers are not without sin, but they are repentant and, while they make mistakes, constantly seek to follow Jesus. The non-believers may act like they are Christians, but if they do not know Him they will not live like they do.

Father in Heaven, even as I write these words I know I fall short of living a Christ-like life. Help me to seek you first in all that I do and to live a fruit-bearing life.

Psalm 89

False Prophets

Today’s Reading: Matthew 7:15-20 and Psalm 88

Jesus told the crowds, “Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheeps clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits.” Matthew 7:15-20

Jesus speaks to us in rich tangible images today. The one and only perfect author writes to us in words that pierce the veil of truth. The primary message Jesus has for us today is to beware of false prophets. As a new Christian, this is something I’ve certainly wrestled with. When I made a dramatic change in the way I worship God, my friends and family questioned whether the pastor at my church was “the real deal.” I was ill equipped to satisfy their concern about stages, sound, lights and the absence of rituals, ordained priests and incense. Jesus commands us to beware of false prophets but how can we spot that wolf in sheep’s clothing? How do we see the rotten apple within when the skin is shiny and red?

Paul writes about the fruits of the spirit to the Galatians in Chapter 5:22-23. He lists love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control as evidence of God’s work. We can use these very practical guidelines as tools for our discernment. We are called to use discernment when evaluating the prophets we choose to direct our spiritual life. As we draw closer to Jesus in prayer, we realize that he is the ultimate source of truth and meaning. Other leaders may inspire and encourage, but I trust Jesus as the truth. Those prophets that speak truth will produce good fruit. When I challenge myself to respond to Jesus in the same rich images about my spiritual health, what are the illustrations I can use to describe my life with Jesus? Is my church community thriving like a lush green rainforest? Is my pastor a firmly rooted tree, shading his congregation with broad healthy leaves and feeding them with firm ripened fruit? Is my small group leader demonstrating those fruits of the spirit described by Paul? Jesus calls us to take this inventory not only of the prophets in our life but also to examine our own heart. We can often identify a bad spirit taking root in another but are we able to turn that discerning lens inward?  Lord, strengthen us in our desire to grow in discipleship with you. Strengthen our character and bless us with the fruits of the Spirit we so crave. Help us to see your truth so that we may come and live a life with you. Amen