Sunday Devotional: Luke 15:1-7

“All the tax collectors and sinners were approaching to listen to Him. And the Pharisees and scribes were complaining, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them!”

So He told them this parable:  “What man among you, who has 100 sheep and loses one of them, does not leave the 99 in the open field and go after the lost one until he finds it? When he has found it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders,  and coming home, he calls his friends and neighbors together, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, because I have found my lost sheep!’  I tell you, in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous people who don’t need repentance.” (Luke 15:1-7)

This was the first of three parables Jesus shared to the crowds after hearing the Pharisees and scribes complaining.  This one dealt with a shepherd who had lost a sheep.  He had the 99 out in the open field safe and sound but one was missing.  The shepherd went and searched for it and eventually found it.  When he did, he brought it home.  Not only that, he called all his friends and neighbors to let them know what had happened.  The shepherd was joyous that all 100 were back in the open field again.

There is that same kind of joy that happens when one sinner repents and follows Jesus.  There is great celebration that takes place.  One was lost but now is found.  We should celebrate like that when we hear such great news.  We should be sharing that good news so that others who are lost can be found.  This week let us share that joy and share that good news of salvation to a world that needs it.

Sunday Devotional: John 11:47-52

So the chief priests and the Pharisees convened the Sanhedrin and said, “What are we going to do since this man does many signs? If we let Him continue in this way, everyone will believe in Him! Then the Romans will come and remove both our place and our nation.”

One of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all!  You’re not considering that it is to your advantage that one man should die for the people rather than the whole nation perish.”  He did not say this on his own, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation,  and not for the nation only, but also to unite the scattered children of God.”

Last week was the celebration of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.  It is the salvation we are able to receive because of the payment for our sins by Jesus dying for our sins.  He freely gave His life for us but the chief priests, scribes and the people were a part of how that came about.

The chief priests and scribes conspired to kill Jesus because they were threatened by Him.  Several times they tried to kill Jesus   But after the time that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, the plot to conspire to kill Jesus was really put into effect.

But even with all this, truth shone out.  The words that Caiaphas spoke saying “that it is to your advantage that one man should die for the people rather than the whole nation perish” served as prophetic words.  Jesus would die for the people so that the people would not perish.  But not only that, He died so that Jews and Gentiles alike, all nations, all people, all languages would be gathered together to be apart of the family of God.

Even though the season of Easter has passed, the hope that came from it does not.  It is an everyday hope that all followers of Jesus have.  Because of one man dying for the sins of the world, we have hope.  Because of His resurrection, we have hope.  Let us share that hope with others.

Sunday Devotional: Ephesians 2:11-18

“Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands—  remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.  But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace,  and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.  And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.  For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.” (Ephesians 2:11-18)

Paul, in this letter to the church in Ephesus, like many of his letters to various churches wanted to encourage and exhort his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.  Here he wanted to remind them of what brings us all together and that’s Jesus Christ and what He did on the cross.  At one time the Gentiles (non Jews or the “uncircumcision”) were far away from God and the promises that God gives to His people.  There was no hope.  However because of Jesus Christ and what He has done, He made a way not just the Jews but the Gentiles as well.

Because of Jesus Christ, we can not only be reconciled to the Father but we can be reconciled with one another as well.  Jesus brings peace to those who were “far off” and to those who were “near”.  All have the opportunity to be reconciled and to be at peace.

This week, let us be reminded of this great news.  We are not left without hope.  We have hope in Jesus Christ.  We are not left without peace.  We have peace through Jesus Christ.  And we get to share that message with the world to everyone.

Sunday Devotional: Luke 5:27-32

“After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, “Follow me.”  And leaving everything, he rose and followed him.

And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them. And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”  And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”  (Luke 5:27-32)

These verses share the story of how Levi (also known as Matthew) became one of Jesus’ disciples.  It is a great reminder that Jesus calls everyone to follow Him.  Tax collectors in that time were looked upon as the lowest people because they were considered “sellouts” to the Romans and were greedy and stole from fellow Jews.

Matthew was one such tax collector.  However, when he encountered Jesus, his life changed.  He began to follow Him and became one of Jesus’ disciples.  Not only that, he invited all his friends to hear Jesus teach.  He wanted others to follow Jesus too.  Matthew would later go on to write one of the four Gospels.

This encounter is a great reminder that Jesus loves us no matter where we are.  He wants us to follow Him.  He gives us the same opportunity.  Let us take that opportunity and let us share the good news with others.

Sunday Devotional: Psalm 40:11-17

“As for you, O Lord, you will not restrain
    your mercy from me;
your steadfast love and your faithfulness will
    ever preserve me!
For evils have encompassed me
    beyond number;
my iniquities have overtaken me,
    and I cannot see;
they are more than the hairs of my head;
    my heart fails me.

Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me!
    O Lord, make haste to help me!
Let those be put to shame and disappointed altogether
    who seek to snatch away my life;
let those be turned back and brought to dishonor
    who delight in my hurt!
Let those be appalled because of their shame
    who say to me, “Aha, Aha!”

But may all who seek you
    rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who love your salvation
    say continually, “Great is the Lord!”
As for me, I am poor and needy,
    but the Lord takes thought for me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
    do not delay, O my God!” (Psalm 40:11-17)

The last couple of Sundays, I’ve looked at the previous 10 verses in Psalm 40.  This week is the remaining verses in the psalm.  Here David is continuing to share about God’s steadfast love and faithfulness.  It is not boring nor is it bothersome for David to repeat over and over this theme.  It is so important to him that he continues to sing this over and over.

David knows that the one who is faithful is the one who is able to deliver from sin and evil.  David knows that the one who is steadfast is the one who rightly deserves to be praised.  The one who it should be said “Great is the Lord!”  God is all that and so much more.

Like David, we struggle.  We endure pain and loss.  We are poor and needy.  But thankfully the Lord takes thought of us like he took thought of David.  Let us rejoice in that.  Let us celebrate that we are not left alone but that He loves us and wants to deliver us.

This week, let us be mindful of this.  And let us continually repeat over and over again in our hearts and minds God’s steadfast love and faithfulness.

Sunday Devotional: Luke 1:46-55

“And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
    For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name.
 And his mercy is for those who fear him
    from generation to generation.
 He has shown strength with his arm;
    he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
    and exalted those of humble estate;
 he has filled the hungry with good things,
    and the rich he has sent away empty.
 He has helped his servant Israel,
    in remembrance of his mercy,
 as he spoke to our fathers,
    to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

These words were shared by Mary after hearing from the angel Gabriel, who told her about the part she would play in God’s redemption plan.  She would be the one who would give birth to the savior of the world.  Upon hearing this news, this was her response.

The first thing she does is praise the Lord.  Our response to whatever comes our way is to remember and praise the Lord.  She also mentions how the Lord has remembered Israel and her people.  For 400 years or so there was no word from the Lord but now here was God’s response.  And that response has been such a blessing to us as well.

This Christmas season, let us remember the gift that God has given to us through Jesus and let us give thanks throughout the year because of it.

Thursday Quote Day: Tim Keller

For this week’s “Thursday Quote Day” here is another quote from pastor and author Tim Keller:

“We must love many things—and when these good things are taken away, it will hurt. And yet, if we cultivate within ourselves a deep rest in God, an existential grasp of His love for us, then we will find that suffering can sting and cause pain, but it can’t uproot us, overthrow us. Because suffering can’t touch our main thing—God, His love and His salvation.” (Tim Keller Walking with God through Pain and Suffering)