Saturday, April 30, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: April 30

Matthew 14:1-2 / Mark 6:14-16 / Luke 9:7-9…

Herod was haunted…

He had put John the Baptist to death, but now another man was going about and through his actions was laying claim to authority, proving it in both word and deed. People were thronging to this new man, and Herod knew he was in trouble. He knew he had wrongly imprisoned and killed John, so he thought that this was a manifestation of menace sent by God to torment him.

Anything that threatens the comfortable status quo of our spirituality sets us on edge. Suddenly our personal power structure is in jeopardy, and we will be looking and listening for anything to relieve our haunted heart. People will come and tell you everything you want to hear, and if you don’t know God, or if you are currently turned away from Him in rebellion, you will naturally incline towards whatever it is that resonates with your rebellious soul.

People will use all sorts of amusement, medication, busyness and whatever else their mind can think of to try and avoid and abate their own torment. But you can’t kill a guilty conscience on your own. You have to let Jesus be Jesus, or you will suffer in superstition. Yes, you can harden yourself, but even the calcified conscience can be crushed open by the power of God. This new man must take over (Galatians 4:19 / Ephesians 4:17-24). When Jesus begins to ascend the throne, you had better abdicate or you will be a miserable shell of self-menace trapped in the haunted prison of your own heart.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: April 29

Matthew 10:17-42…

I tell you…

Imagine what these disciples must have been thinking and feeling. There was certainly an air of anticipation, but there surely was also an air of apprehension. They were now going to be “out front” as it were, “without” Jesus in the way they were used to. How often it is that we fear leaving the comfortable confines of church and community, and striking out into the situations of other lives on behalf of Jesus.

This is especially so when we are reminded that many will not receive our message. Some will be excited, but some will be enraged (2 Thessalonians 3:2). Even some people who seem close to us might “throw us under the bus”. People will rise up against you because they are victims of the Enemy (2 Timothy 2:26), and the enemy wishes to cause them to rise against Jesus, who is the victor over you (2 Corinthians 5:14-19). Still, the Lord is with us (2 Thessalonians 3:3).

He tells them to prepare for the worst. Yet even when it seems like all is despair, there are still moments of deliverance (2 Corinthians 1:8-10). Even when faced with death, there is still final deliverance; and our final answer (1 Peter 3:15) will be made right (Daniel 3:16-18 / 2 Timothy 4:18). This is all part of being conformed to the image of our Master (Philippians 3:10).

Jesus has got us covered. His eye is on the sparrow, He knows our every move, our gains and losses. He is most intimately involved with those who are His. And we are the most precious thing to Him. Jesus came to deliver us from the fear of death (Hebrews 2:14-15), and our whole Christian lives are journeys where we are being delivered from fear and into faith. Jesus comforted them and He comforts us with these same truths (Hebrews 13:5-6).

There will be reward for those who lose their former lives for the sake of Jesus, and those who hear Him will be granted the ability to speak for Him, and to hear Him all the more. It is a glorious thing to know, that we would be able to declare the eternal truth about our eternal God and to be a member of the eternal family in our coming eternal home. This is the antidote to the terror of the temporary.

I tell you the truth.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: April 28

Matthew 10:1-16 / Mark 6:7-13 / Luke 9:1-6…

I send you…

Now Jesus applies what He had said to them; they were going to be the answer to their own prayers He asked them to pray about sending laborers into the harvest (Matthew 9:37-38). He is applying this to you as well. You are to pray for laborers to be sent for the harvest, and be about laboring in the harvest too.

So now these disciples who have seen Jesus do all these wonderful things, but who have also seen Jesus be rejected, they are gathered by Him, empowered by Him, and sent out. They probably reasoned within themselves that they would not be able to do what He had called them to do. But if Jesus has the power, and is the power, then He has the power to give the power.

You know yourself and your failures, flaws, fears, and frustrations, all too well. You know who Jesus is, too. You protest, saying, “I haven’t been given the powers they have”. Haven’t you? It is no real surprise that Jesus calls on you to do something extraordinary, although you wonder why He would choose you to do it. But you’re no different than the original disciples. Jesus has always been the master at turning weaknesses into strengths and making useless people useful.

It isn’t that Jesus is giving us all the power to physically raise the dead, but to be involved in raising the spiritually dead. He has given us the power to raise ourselves from out of the worldly dead and into the godly people we ought to be, to die to self (Mark 8:35 / John 12:26 / 1 Peter 4:1-12) and become people who can live for Christ (Philippians 1:21 / Galatians 2:20), win others to Christ (1 Corinthians 9:19-27 / James 5:19-20 / Proverbs 11:30 / Luke 5:10), and edify our brothers and sisters in Christ (Ephesians 5:18-21 / Romans 15:1-6).

That takes as much supernatural, Holy Spirit power as anything any other disciple has ever done.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: April 27

Matthew 9:35-38…

I pray for you…

Jesus was going about His business, teaching, preaching, and healing, showing His power over all affliction and disease as proof of who He was and is. Yet the demonstration of who He is was not just through power, but also through pity (Matthew 14:14, 15:32).

He was meeting needs in great numbers, but He saw greater needs than numbers. People had problems, but their greatest problem is that they were lost, and had no one to guide them. Jesus is the One to whom we guide people, and Jesus will guide them when He has them, but who will guide them to Jesus in the first place? Who will continue to shepherd them as a servant of Jesus through the problems of life?

You may have strong and right convictions, but the bridge between your conviction and their connection is true compassion (Ephesians 4:15). Do we bear witness to the truth by our compassion for the crowds, the masses of lost people in our own little slice of the world? If you think you are a devoted disciple, but are not developing a compassion for others, you’re not loving God as well as you think you are (Leviticus 19:18 / Matthew 7:12, 22:35-40 / Mark 12:28-34 / Luke 10:25-28 / Romans 13:8-10 / Galatians 5:14 / James 2:8).

This is a call to souls. This is not just a prayer for missionary workers, or evangelists, but for true disciples, who are always about the missionary task because they are always out to serve the Lord by living for Christ, winning others to Christ, and edifying their brothers and sisters in Christ. So whether it is saving souls, strengthening saints, or sending servants, they are living witnesses. We must pray, and we must also realize that we are the answer to the prayer that someone would “pass by” the one in need. Put your hands together to pray for the harvest, and stretch your hands out to gather it.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: April 26

Matthew 13:53-58 / Mark 6:1-6…

I marvel at you…

Jesus was coming back to Nazareth, where He grew up (Luke 4:16), but where He had been violently rejected (Luke 4:29). The disciples followed along, because true disciples follow their Master (John 8:12, 10:27, 12:26). We don’t walk perfectly, but as we get to know Him we will follow along even when it means risk (Acts 15:25-26).

Jesus went to church and taught the Bible, just as He had done before (Luke 4:17-21). At first they were impressed by His teaching, astonished by His wisdom and power. Soon, however, they were offended, and their unbelief was manifest. Familiarity had bred contempt.

Is not this the carpenter…? The people that have known you, the folks that have seen you grow up, and the community that knows where you came from, it can be hard for these people to accept your advances in the faith. Many times others don’t accept the “new you” because they haven’t known the power of change themselves. But you have to believe that people can change, because if you don’t, you are denying the power of God, and you have no hope for people, and that includes yourself. God can change that stubborn person; He changed you, didn’t He?

And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief. It was not that that He couldn’t but that He wouldn’t. Sometimes we get so settled in our routines, or so satisfied by other things that the things that ought to be continually cherished become the mere motions of a soul empty of energy. Contempt for the preaching of the gospel, corporate worship and Communion will not go unnoticed by God (2 Chronicles 36:15-16). The progression from apathy to abandonment and antagonism of God’s Word will lead to spiritual starvation (Amos 8:11-14).

While on earth, there were two things that made Jesus marvel. He marveled at the faith of those who we would expect to have unbelief (Matthew 8:5-13 / cf. Matthew 15:21-28), and at the unbelief of those who we would expect to have faith.

Jesus marvels at you, but which way?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: April 25

Matthew 9:32-34…

I hear you…

Of course, Jesus is once again fulfilling His messianic call (Isaiah 35:5).

Of course, just because Jesus ordered the demon out of the man, and his speech resumed immediately doesn’t mean that anyone who cannot see, speak, or hear is demon possessed or has some curse (cf. John 9:1-5).

Of course, it wasn’t that all of them thought all the right things about Jesus. Some were beginning to recognize who He was, but many were just enthralled at the spectacle.

Of course, the religious leaders would have none of it. How we interpret the movements of God, and the facts about Jesus reveals the condition of our heart. Are you happy when people are helped, or do you immediately attribute everything to ulterior motives and sinister means?

Of course, Jesus knew that this would be so (Matthew 13:14-15). Those that have no fellowship have no faith, and therefore have no reason to see or hear what Jesus has to say, even denying His obvious presence among them in power.

Of course, for those whom it is granted to see and hear, the move of God is a wonderful thing to behold and be a part of (Matthew 13:16 / Acts 10:38).

Of course, it can be quite easy to slip into cynicism and lose sight of the truth in the search to prove or preserve our position.

Of course, you can hear what I’m saying, can’t you?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: April 24

Matthew 9:27-31…

I see you…

And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed him. Think about it; blind men found Him. The news of Jesus raising the little girl from the dead would have caused quite a commotion, and the crowd obviously was a signal that Jesus was coming near. Are we discerning God’s movements?

Have mercy on us, Son of David. These men realized who Jesus was. “Son of David” was a messianic title (Romans 1:3), and the healing of the blind a messianic hope (Isaiah 35:5). This miracle shows yet another realm of the authority of Jesus; He can give sight.

Do you believe that I am able to do this? Jesus gives them the opportunity to pour out their whole heart. Yes, Jesus is God, and He knows our heart (Hebrews 4:12-13), but He wants us to strive for His heart (Hebrews 11:6).

According to your faith be it done to you. This does not mean that the amount of healing depends on the amount of faith. Rather, it simply means that these blind men received their sight from Jesus because they believed Him to be the Messiah. They had faith based on what they knew the scripture predicted and what they had heard Jesus was doing. We see the scriptures, and we hear the testimonies, but will we have faith? Keep looking, and keep changing (2 Corinthians 3:18).

See that no one knows about it. Jesus was revealing Himself as the Messiah, but at that time He was trying to control the situation because He was first and foremost coming for the problem of sin, and that would take the cross, not the throne. It was and is always more about the spiritual than the physical. Now that His death and resurrection have happened, we are supposed to go and tell everyone. Unbelievers are held captive by the enemy and are blind to the liberating truth, but Jesus has the power to give sight (2 Corinthians 4:4-6).

Do you see Jesus as He is, or is He just some guy that people are talking about?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: April 23

Matthew 9:23-26 / Mark 5:35-43 / Luke 8:49-56…

Time for breakfast…

Why does Jesus say that the girl is just sleeping, when it is clear that He understands she’s dead? The answer is that Jesus is giving us an understanding of His power over death (Hebrews 2:14-15). He spoke to her as if she was alive because God “gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist” (Romans 4:17).

Jesus basically tells the girl, “Honey, it is time to get up.” Jesus is saying by His actions, “If I have you by the hand, death itself is nothing but sleep.”

We view our problems differently than God. We have a finite perspective and power, we are limited. God has an infinite perspective and power. He is not limited. We see Jesus as misinformed of our situation, and incapable of doing what we need. What we may see as a crisis, God sees as something else. We think it is too late, but God is always right on time.

The ordeal takes the people surrounding the place from weeping, to scornful laughter, to wondrous awe. That seems to be the way of most people who are born again by the Spirit of God. Not that the people in this story were born again, but that many people start out in the place of sorrow, and when Jesus is presented to them, they immediately act with scorn, but then after Jesus makes His true person and power known to them, they now stand in awe of their Savior.

Notice that she was given something to eat. She was brought back to life, but she would still have to live out her days in natural ways. You may have received the new birth, but you need new food. Whom the Son sets free is free indeed, so let us not run back to the jail cell, or be so hasty to place the shackles back on our feet. We must feed on Christ.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: April 22

Matthew 9:20-22 / Mark 5:25-34 / Luke 8:43-48…

Dealing with issues…

This woman had endured many years of suffering and shame because of her issue of blood. Others would have considered her unclean (Leviticus 15:25-27), causing social and emotional hurt on top of the physical problems. She had to deal with loneliness because family and friends would have to remain distant, and she couldn’t worship with others in the prescribed way. Not only that, she spent all her money on physicians that could not heal her.

Many are like this woman was; many things can be the “issue” that seems to ruin anything we try to do. It may be emotional, some sort of obsession or other personality trait, or a problem area you want to let go of but can’t seem to get free from. You live with a poison, and though you have tried, you can’t seem to be rid of it. Just when you start to find your way out of the den of discouragement, that same something fouls it up and you find your way back “home” again.

Observe this scene, and realize the love of Jesus, who rescues those whose hope is dying.

She came in, to get what she needed. Jesus was on His way somewhere else, but the woman presses through the crowd, and she gets a hold of Him. That which went out of Jesus stopped that which was coming out of the woman. Jesus makes time for those who press in (Hebrews 11:6).

He calls out, drawing her near. Jesus becomes the pursuer, brushing aside the protest of the disciples, stopping the procession of people, searching for a person who knew they needed Him. Jesus is still looking for hurting people (Matthew 9:12-13).

She came back, knowing she could not hide, confessed and worshipped (cf. Hebrews 4:12-16). Jesus offers a word of extreme inclusion and acceptance; He calls her daughter. Jesus takes those on the outside and makes them part of the ultimate “in” crowd (Galatians 3:28).

She came to touch Him because of her faith; she was made whole because she fell down in humility, her pride crucified in front of the crowd. We just want our little piece of Jesus, but our confession and worship will have to go public if we truly want to deal with all the issues surrounding our “issue”. Perhaps it’s time to air out your dirty laundry (James 5:16).

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: April 21

Matthew 9:18-19 / Mark 5:21-24 / Luke 8:40-42…

Welcome party…

This short passage doesn’t seem to get to the point, does it? However, even without the conclusion a few verses later, we can see several things we need to know about “setting the table” for God to move. Would Jesus be welcome at our table?

The first thing we see is the attitude of the people. Jesus was driven from one place, and like most of us, He goes where He is welcome. They were waiting on Him. This is the same whether it is the city, church, home, or the individual life. Does He feel invited today, wherever you are? What spiritual food are you feeding on? Are you appreciative – does Jesus control your diet, or are you just inviting Him over as a guest?

There is also the point of asking (James 4:2). He approaches near to those who come near to Him (James 4:8). The crowds massed about and caved in on Jesus, but one man made sure he got close. He had come from his own place and earnestly implored Jesus to help his daughter. Jesus responds to the faith of the man. Do you ask Him to move in your life, and on behalf of others? Are you active – do you put legs to your prayers?

Finally, we see anticipation when Jesus begins to move on behalf of the man. The crowd reacts to the movements of Jesus. They went walking with Him. People want to see what Jesus will do. Do you move and expect Him to follow, or are you the one who is the follower? Are you paying attention – Jesus is on the move, but are you following along in expectant faith?

Just who is the servant at that table, anyway (Luke 17:7-10)?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: April 20

Matthew 8:33-34 / Mark 5:14-20 / Luke 8:34-39…

Pigs before people…

Sometimes we can be like those townspeople. They knew that Jesus was responsible for the deliverance of the demon possessed and that He had sent the demons into the pigs. This caused them great fear; not only in awe of the power of Jesus, but at the thought that they too might have to lose something to help someone. They weren’t willing to give up their livelihood, they were afraid of the sight of a changed man and what it cost them, and they asked Jesus to leave. The demons didn’t mind leaving the man as long as they could stick around that town. Why? The people cared more about the pigs than others.

People want God to do something, but when He does it in a way that makes them count the cost, they are unwilling to pay it. It might get a little messy; it might cost you something personally for God to move in someone else’s life. And you might not get to sacrifice the things you are ready to lose. It might be that God takes away something you want to give something they need. God in His sovereign will brings things to pass through means, and that means if you want it you will have to be sacrificing some time, some money, and some comfort.

Many today, however, by our lack of prayer and care, are asking Jesus to leave. We say we want that man to be set free, but all we really want is for him to settle down and be quiet, not to disturb our peaceful life. We don’t want to help him if it is going to cost us something. Our lack of care in prayer shows the truth that we either have nothing at stake, or don’t want to put ourselves at risk. But revival, deliverance, repentance and restoration are going to cost you something, and an empty altar receives no fire.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: April 19

Matthew 8:28-32 / Mark 5:1-13 / Luke 8:26-33…

Jesus and the demons…

Because we believe in the authority of the Bible, we cannot look at the vivid demonic encounters as just the imaginations of superstitious people in an ancient society. Jesus dealt with Satan as a real person, and demons spoke to Him. This wasn’t simple minded people who were just using the language of the spiritual battle to identify psychological problems. There are several symptoms of demonic activity indicated: unusual physical strength, fits of rage, self-mutilation, resistance to spiritual things, occult-like awareness, an alteration of voice, and of course, the transference of the demons from the man into the swine.

In this episode, the people tried to control the situation, and could not. Jesus asserts His authority over the demonic realm (Matthew 9:31-33, 12:22-28 / Mark 1:32-34 / Luke 6:17-19, 9:37-42). People can have their whole lives ruined by indulging in the demonic, but Jesus is the answer, He comes to rescue, redeem, and restore (John 10:10 / Acts 10:38).

Mental torment, physical abuse of the body such as cutting and other forms of self-mutilation, murder, suicide, and the like; the thoughts that lead to these things are not from God. However, life can be under the infernal influence without having seen these obvious signs (John 8:44). Wrong attitudes about God, rebellion, sinful activity, false religion, false unity, the exaltation of other things, including mankind, as equal to or above Jesus, these are also demonically driven.

There are always as many demonically informed, inspired, and even indwelt among “polite society” as there are down in the gutters. The power of deception is that you don’t know it. Yet even pigs know they don’t want demons, so stop swimming in the cesspool of Satan (2 Peter 2:22).

Monday, April 18, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: April 18

Matthew 8:23-27 / Mark 4:35-41 / Luke 8:22-25...

Calm down…

It was no small storm that came upon the disciples, and often we can feel overwhelmed in the midst of life. This is the place where faith gets tested, and trust gets proven. Often we don’t trust God. We believe His ability, but we doubt His awareness. Either we think that because Jesus is with us we won’t have to face storms or that if we are in a storm that He isn’t with us at all.

Remember that this story is about Jesus before it is about you. People say “it’s all about Jesus”, or “it’s not about you” all the time, but they never seem to apply it when it comes to themselves. Yes you have a part to play in the drama, but we must see the big picture first before we can accurately apply it. These things are signs; the visible manifestations of divine power inspire awe and teach us about God. The lesson isn’t that we need to have faith to see miracles; it is that we have faith to know that Jesus has got control even if we think He is asleep.

The big picture here is not that Jesus can shelter you from the storms of life; He can. Or even that we must trust Him in the storms of life; we should. It is that Jesus was giving evidence of a new era. He had come to restore man and creation from the chaos resulting from sin (Romans 8:19-23). He had come to restore and to save, and when Jesus Christ comes on the scene nature immediately recognizes its master.

The question is, do you?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: April 17

Matthew 13:51-52…

Master messengers…

Jesus asked the disciples if they had understood what He had been teaching them, and they replied, “Yes”. Jesus said that anyone who understands what He is teaching is someone who is being trained in the kingdom of heaven, that is, to be able to see what God is doing, know His ways, and teach other people how to live.

A true “spiritual scribe” is one who can see what is coming and can process what is happening in light of God’s truth. They know God. They know His ways. They trust and treasure Him. They don’t just have knowledge, but wisdom, and they don’t just know doctrine, they have real devotion and from them we see demonstration. They have lived this thing out, and so they are the most mature and discerning among us (Hebrews 5:11-14). They live and learn and love in the power of God. Their life is full of His life and so they bring that life to any and every situation. People are better off spiritually for having been around them. They can use past experience but also move about with God in a fresh fruitfulness. Oh how we need such people today!

Do you want to meet people like this? Do you want to BE a person like this? It all starts with understanding, and being trained. That is a reward of recognizing and realizing (making it real, cashing in on) this relationship. Keep following the Master, find out what He means, and do what He says, and He will make you a master messenger. Being able to have old gold and fresh fruit, it is the best way to live a treasured life.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: April 16

Matthew 13:47-50…

Jesus the fisherman…

Here the Master speaks of the gospel as a sort of drag-net that sweeps along and pulls everything toward it. The gospel goes out and is heard all over the world and from this net will be taken “fish” of every sort (Revelation 7:9-10). Yet only some fish will be staying for supper (Revelation 19:6-9). The net captures many kinds of fish, but at the end of the day, the fisherman judiciously separates the bad from the good, and keeps the edible fish but throws away those that are no good to him.

The gospel is for all people, and all people groups, and Jesus is the only Savior, the only way we can have eternal life (John 14:6 / Acts 4:12 / 1 Timothy 2:5). The call of salvation wasn’t localized to a particular place or people and is not limited to a particular time period (Romans 10:18 / Colossians 1:6, 23 / 1 Timothy 4:10 / Titus 2:11 / 1 John 2:2). From every nation God will get Himself a people, but not all people will come to Him in faith and be saved, of this we are sure (Matthew 7:21).

There are people who hear the gospel but deny it (2 Thessalonians 1:8), devalue it (Romans 10:16), distort it (Galatians 1:6-9), dismiss it (Hebrews 6:4-8), or who are otherwise deceived about it (2 Corinthians 11:4) and dead to it (2 Corinthians 4:3-4). This includes many people in the visible church. They appear to be “good fish”, and they are visibly in the net, but nevertheless they are not the children of God.

The call of the gospel is like a net, it is indeed universal, but only those who will receive it are saved (John 1:12, 17:3 / Romans 10:9-13). The question is whether or not you are following along in faithful trust or just getting taken along for the ride.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: April 15

Matthew 13:45-46…

Jesus the jeweler…

The merchant in the parable is Jesus. He left the glories of heaven (Philippians 2:5-11) to bring many others to glory (Hebrews 2:10 / 1 Peter 3:18).

The merchandise is the Church. The pearl in this parable is not a Savior whom the sinner has to “buy.” It is the sinners who are bought by the Savior (1 Peter 1:18-19). The Church is the pearl bought with a price (Acts 20:28), which includes all believers (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

The means of payment is the life of Christ given up to save others (John 3:16 / 1 Timothy 1:15, 3:16 / 1 John 2:2, 4:9-10). Consider how an oyster makes a pearl. The formation of a pearl begins when a foreign substance slips into and irritates the oyster. The mantle covers the irritant with layers of a substance called nacre, the same substance that is used to create its own shell. This eventually forms a pearl. So a pearl is the product of suffering, where a foreign substance is covered with the essence of the oyster, also called mother-of-pearl. The church is the fruit of the suffering of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21).

The iniquity of man had caused the injury to Jesus, but now it has been covered by Him and shares His beautiful nature (Colossians 1:27 / 2 Peter 1:3-4). The Church is clothed with a beauty not its own but with the beauty of the One it had been against. Because of the power of Jesus the jeweler, the germ has now become the gem (Zechariah 9:16 / Malachi 3:17-18).

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: April 14

Matthew 13:44…

Treasure hunt…

Everybody is looking for what they value, their treasure, but whether or not you find it depends on what you are looking for and where you are looking for it. Of course, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. A hidden treasure is something others miss. Sometimes we may come across something that doesn’t seem like treasure, but indeed it is.

Discovering something that you know will greatly benefit you is an experience that motivates us all. Imagine finding such a treasure, one that was worth dropping everything else. Jesus is saying exactly that. When we continually discover all that the gospel implies it is like finding a treasure that has no end, a fountain that ever springs, and a well that never runs dry (Colossians 2:3).

The question is have you discovered this treasure? I didn’t ask if someone had told you about it, I am asking if you truly have it. Perhaps you have seen it and experienced some of it, but haven’t yet dug deep enough to discover its depths. Keep digging, the treasure is just below the seemingly dry and dusty surface.

People say they treasure God but they want it their way, without much digging, or hiding, or buying by selling everything else. When someone is truly in love with something, they will go all out for it; nothing will stop them from getting what they so desperately desire. Jesus said that where your treasure is, that is where your heart will be. He is telling us that the kingdom of heaven is worth everything you have and so much more. We might not believe it yet, but the more God and the gospel become real to us, the more it becomes a joy to sell out for Jesus (Colossians 3:3).

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: April 13

Matthew 13:36-43…

Angelic Agriculture…

Here we have the big picture of the close of this age and the final results of the only two kingdoms there are. Make no mistake, Jesus is telling you that all people will be on one side or the other. There is no neutral ground; it is all a battle ground.

Jesus pictures this as an agricultural battle. We have one field, two farmers, with two types of seeds, and an end time and for all time harvest.

The field of farming is the world. The two farmers are Jesus and the Devil. The seeds of Jesus are the sons of the kingdom of God, those saved by Christ. The seeds of Satan are the sons of his kingdom, the rest of the world. The sowing continues until the time of final revelation.

At the end of this age, Jesus will fully reveal His victory, and His angels will act as the reapers of the harvest. The destiny of the seeds is different (Daniel 12:2). The evil seeds will be sent into eternal destruction along with their father (John 8:44 / Revelation 20:10-15). The good seeds will be sent into eternal glory in the kingdom of their Father (Daniel 12:3 / Revelation 21:1-5).

Jesus says this is no joke; it will go down just like He says (2 Thessalonians 1:5-10).

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: April 12

Matthew 13:34-35 / Mark 4:33-34…

Do you hear Him…

Have you ever tried to explain something but no matter how hard you tried, the other person just didn’t get it? Have you ever been the “other person”, where someone else did everything they could to try and make you understand something, but it just didn’t make sense to you? You may have understood it intellectually, but not experientially. You just couldn’t apply it.

Have you been having a hard time wanting to read, or a hard time understanding the scriptures? Have they not been “speaking to you” very much lately, or ever? Well, Jesus, in this whole section of scripture, has been teaching us that we cannot “hear” Him unless we are willing to “have” Him, to follow Him, to worship Him, to listen and to live out what He is saying to us and teaching us. “…he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it.

“…to his own disciples he explained everything.” Have you ever been trying to learn something, and having a very hard time, but then one day you read, hear, or otherwise find something that makes it all come together? What would have happened if you hadn’t been there to see that thing on that day? You would have continued in frustration. God wants you to continue to follow Him, even when it doesn’t seem to make sense, because eventually, if you keep following Him, there will come a point when it all comes together.

Yes, there are things in scripture that are easier to understand, and easier to digest than others, but what I am talking about is something else. I am speaking about being able to know these things, not just by a mental grasp, but by an experiential power. Jesus is teaching us in His Word that we must commit and continue to follow Him, and then we will experience the explanation for ourselves, we will know that we know that we know (John 8:30-32). If you turn back from His Word, you will turn back into someone who is having a hard time hearing. Instead of travelling with Jesus, you will travel a path that goes from apathy, to abandonment, and finally to an antagonism of God’s Word (Amos 8:11-14).

Sometimes we can be listening, but we just aren’t hearing what someone else is saying. Are you on the road of hearing?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: April 11

Matthew 13:33 / Luke 13:20-21…

Rolling in the dough…

Leaven, or yeast, affects the whole batch of dough; it has a penetrating and assimilating nature. Leaven mainly has the idea of something in the past being brought into something in the present. A little of the previous batch had been used as a starter to make the next batch, like when they make sourdough bread. The little piece of leaven turned the new batch into something completely different. Jesus was announcing that the kingdom of God would spread throughout the earth. We should desire that the kingdom of God would spread throughout our life.

The active power in our lives will affect the whole quantity and quality of our life, whether it be the right kind of leaven, the gospel, which is what is being spoken of here, or the wrong kind of leaven, like the corrupting influence of false doctrine and false teachers (Matthew 16:12 / 1 Corinthians 5:6 / Galatians 5:9). Jesus wanted His disciples to be implanted with the leaven of heaven and not with the leaven of legalism. The gospel should inform and inspire all that we do (1 Corinthians 6:18-20, 10:31 / 2 Corinthians 8:7, 9, 9:12-13, 15 / Galatians 2:20 / Ephesians 4:32, 5:25 / Titus 2:11-14).

You are being leavened by the true or the false. It can only be hid for so long before the truth rises up. The inward growth of the active agent will produce the outward manifestation of what is really going on inside you. The bread that is produced proves what ingredients you are using in the bakery of your life. What are you rolling in the dough of your daily living?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: April 10

Matthew 13:31-32 / Mark 4:30-32 / Luke 13:18-19…

Big things in small packages…

Jesus tells us that although the kingdom of God seems like a tiny seed when it is first sown, it can grow to tremendous proportions. He is telling us that He can live big in our lives if we will keep planting Him into the soil of our situations. Think about this “tree” clearly; Jesus is saying that the kingdom of God, and the Word of God in you, will provide for us growth, shelter, blessedness, and ministry opportunity. It is a mighty seed indeed.

The kingdom of God provides for the eternal desires we all have. If you watch television, notice the movies that are released, read the paper, look at the banner ads on your computer, or the social networking sites, you will see that there is no end to the search for significance, the desire for sufficiency, and the need to feel secure.

To put it another way, every person who was and who will ever be born is really looking for only three things: safety, satisfaction, and rest. Think about it and you will agree that any desire can fall into one or more of these categories.

We seek out temporal means of obtaining the eternal desires of our soul, things that can only lead to more needs and less actual safety, satisfaction, and rest. Most would agree that the reason many of us medicate ourselves with food, drugs, alcohol, sex, or any number of addictions is because we are not having our needs met in one of these areas.

This is why it is so critical that Christians understand that it isn’t who we are, but whose we are. Jesus said that if we seek to find our life we would lose it, but that if we lost it for His sake we would find it (Matthew 16:25). Instead of needing a certain social or political status, religious, professional or community standing, we need to identify with who we are in Christ.

The seed is our need.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: April 9

Matthew 13:24-30…

What about the weeds…

The field is the world not the church (Matthew 13:38). The children of God are sown into the world as good seed. When we look at all the instances where it is mentioned, we discover that the kingdom of God refers to both the King’s dominion, which is all of creation (and where it is sometimes questioned, for now), and His special domain that His children are under, and will be “in” when in heaven, and where His reign is not questioned, the church.

When Christ comes again He will separate the wheat and the weeds, the sheep and the goats. God allowing both to grow together means that the weeds, the goats, are not finally judged yet. The wheat and the weeds live side by side in a composite human society, for now, and God’s people live as a subset of that, until Jesus comes again. Christians are in the world but not of it. They are not supposed to try and dominate society or isolate from society.

Wheat and weeds together doesn’t mean we must let them grow in the church but in the world. Having said this, in the church we might not know if a person is a weed at first. However, the nature of a weed is that it wants to overrun the good ground. A reliable measure is that when you give a person power you will see who they are come into focus. Many of our troubles come because we elevate a person who is a weed into a leadership position and they lose a sense of humility after a while. They feel like money or power entitles them to do what they want without reprise, extra room to be obnoxious. Eventually their real self comes to the fore (1 Timothy 5:24). Then we see the weed as it really is.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: April 8

Mark 4:26-29…

The process of patience…

Jesus explains the essence of kingdom growth, both with evangelism and discipleship, both our efforts to others and for our own selves.

The man does what he is supposed to; he scatters seed on the ground. The man sleeps, and he rests, and he doesn’t know exactly how it grows, the earth does the work itself. The secret of growth is in the seed, not in the soil, nor in the weather, nor in the cultivating. These all help, but the seed spontaneously works according to its own nature. If it is spread on good ground it does grow, and if you are saved you are good ground, but you have to keep sowing it and sharing it. It is a process, and it takes patience. A good farmer knows what he is looking for, and he waits till the crop is ready before he tries to harvest it.

Crops are planted every season, and we have to keep on planting the Word in our lives. Again, it is use it or lose it. Even then, we have to be patient because growth means time and commitment. It also means growing pains. If we do not continue to renew our minds (Romans 12:12 / Ephesians 4:23) we will always be moving before the time is right. Once we are practiced, we can mature in the process, and we can move with patient diligence (Hebrews 5:14 / James 5:7-8).

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: April 7

Mark 4:21-25 / Luke 8:16-18…

Use it or lose it…

When we were kids we may have been given good biblical instruction, but too often we were just oblivious to it. We have to listen up in order to light up. We have a never ending supply of spiritual strength, but our spiritual batteries are designed to keep us plugged into the source, and they run out without it.

Life and growth depends not just on what we hear but how we hear (Luke 8:18). The person to whom “more will be given”, is the one who “keeps on having”, where you stay in tune with the sound of the scriptures. Be careful what you hear, don’t let the bad stuff in, and be careful how you hear, keep pouring the good stuff into your life and out to others.

The more you use the more you will have, the more you spread the more seed you get, and the greater the possibility of a greater harvest. This is why Jesus said to take heed, because this is your call to increase for the glory of God. He had said that the size of the harvest will vary, and our increase in harvest is determined by our increase in use. Think about it. It makes perfect spiritual sense. This is the whole set up for the Christian life, and a big problem for many Christians. We haven’t grown up, things don’t resonate, there is no depth, and it doesn’t really matter to us yet.

The way to make it relevant, and effective, is to keep spreading it around to others as well as yourself. We keep learning and we keep using and we keep teaching. We are called to evangelize ourselves and evangelize others, we are called to be discipled ourselves and to disciple others. You say, “I’m too busy for all that, I have three children”. Well then you have three disciples, don’t you? Or do you? You can’t blame God because His Word is true. The problem for Christians is if and how the seed is used. The reason we have no harvest isn’t something blocking the soil, it is that we don’t use what we have on ourselves and for others.

What we use to minister that comes from what we have heard is going to reflect how we are spiritually fed ourselves.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: April 6

Matthew 13:18-23 / Mark 4:13-20 / Luke 8:11-15…

The sound of the seed…

Understanding this parable is the key to all parables. The Word of God is like a seed, and while there is a spiritual truth to each story, not all soil is good ground to plant in. This is a lesson for anyone who sows seed, it may land in the weeds, or it may seem like fertile ground but just underneath the soil is rocks, or the devil just steals it away.

The point is that we are not the issue in evangelism, it is not our power, eloquence, skill, or methods, people get saved because of the power of the gospel itself and the power of God.

Yes we should be informed, inspiring, and intentional (Colossians 4:5-6 / 1 Peter 3:15), but the seed is its own “miracle grow”. It isn’t that we must find some new way to plead, prod or persuade it is that we need to be faithful to plant. It is not about fixing the soil or removing some “block” that keeps the seed from sinking in, there are only two types of soil, that which can receive and that which cannot.

That being said, and considering our own lives, if we are good ground, having been born again by the Word of God (James 1:18 / 1 Peter 1:23) we can still hinder our own spiritual health. We can fall back into the old ways if we do not keep attached to the new way (John 15:4-6).

Who are we listening to? We see here that for most it is the false teaching of the world (Mark 4:18-19), the flesh (Mark 4:16-17), and the devil (Mark 4:15) that are doing the talking and being listened to. Those who listen to God hear His Word, accept it, and it bears fruit (Mark 4:20).

The present truth for you is whether or not you are paying attention to what is being planted.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: April 5

Matthew 13:10-17 / Mark 4:10-12 / Luke 8:9-10…

Puzzled about parables…

The disciples wanted to know why Jesus would teach in a way that communicated truth to those who were His disciples, while those who were not would not understand. He answers them with an astonishing truth; not everyone is supposed to understand. Only those whose hearts God has opened to the truth will receive it with repentance and faith (Acts 13:48, 16:14). Disciples are given the secrets of the kingdom, but those who are in willful blindness will reject God’s truth even when it stares at them in the face and shouts at them in their ears (1 Corinthians 2:14).

Jesus was not teaching so that men would ask the question, “What kind of ground am I?” Those who were hearing now were already good ground. As we study the parables we have to start by asking: “Lord, what are you teaching to those who are following you?” Jesus was teaching His disciples that success wasn’t about making everyone believe. He was also teaching them the key to the success of the seed in their own lives.

It is about being faithful. The Bible is God’s Word and His way of opening up our hearts. It shows us that God knows everything about us (Hebrews 4:12-13), more than we know about ourselves (Psalm 19:12-13). We are not the final arbiter of His truth, we have to yield our will to His Word if we are to understand it (John 7:17, 8:31-32 / Philippians 3:15-16). We cannot put it in our pocket; we must put it into practice.

The nature of God’s Word is that when we harden our hearts we become hard of hearing. We can only please God by having a faith that seeks God diligently (Hebrews 11:6), and faith comes by hearing the Word of Christ (Romans 10:17). God wants us to be filled with the Word of Christ (Colossians 3:16), but you’ll never be full of the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18) unless you want to be full of His Word.

Maybe your life is a puzzle because you only want the pieces of God that seem to fit your own will.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: April 4

Matthew 13:11-9 / Mark 4:1-9 / Luke 8:4-8…

Can you hear me now...

Jesus was unveiling the secret of the kingdom of God, using parables. The big picture here is that the kingdom has come like a tiny seed. The glory of the kingdom is somewhat veiled for now. In biblical times sowing preceded plowing, and seed was plowed into many places, and rocky places that were covered by a thin layer of soil would only become visible after plowing.

Still, Jesus was announcing that His kingdom was advancing. The largest possible natural harvest might be six fold; Jesus was referring to something beyond normal. Only those granted ears to hear will actually hear it in the way Jesus means. Not everyone will be able to receive it, but those who do will bear miraculous fruit.

The disciples were commissioned to spread this seed out and so are we. We are not responsible for the results we are responsible to spread the seed, which is representative of the kingdom’s manifestation in the person of Jesus (Luke 17:21).

We are to spread His Word, and to the extent we are faithful to that we will be rewarded. Yet this is not only about the harvest of evangelism but also the harvest in our own lives. It is about knowing God and understanding the kingdom of Christ, and it is supposed to work itself out in every area of our life. Jesus said there would be 30, 60, 100 fold. There is a way the kingdom works, and Jesus is just about to give us a real clue on how we can experience an increase in our effectiveness for the glory of God in our lives.

The question is have you really heard what He has already said?

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: April 3

Matthew 12:46-50 / Mark 3:31-35 / Luke 8:19-21…

Family matters…

Jesus was going about His spiritual business full tilt, and His family thought He was out of sorts (Mark 3:21). They couldn’t reach Him for the crowd, but called to Him, hoping to get Him out of the place He was in and back home, it seems.

Jesus indicated that His disciples are His family, and so it is with us. It wasn’t that Jesus was being disrespectful or snide, but that He was pointing us to the truth about who can claim Him (Matthew 7:21-23).

Not all people are the children of God. Jesus told the Pharisees that they were of their father, the devil (John 8:44). You are not a child of God just by being born in America, or having godly parents, or going to church, or taking Communion, or being this or that religion. No, you must be adopted into the family of God (Galatians 4:4-7). Jesus wasn’t against family, He was affirming the fact that while we are all born into the kingdom of men, we must be born again into the kingdom of God (Galatians 3:26). We belong to one kingdom or the other, and we are all called children of darkness before we are called to be children of light (Ephesians 2:2-3, 5:6-8 / Colossians 3:6 / 1 Thessalonians 5:5 / 1 John 3:10).

Will Jesus claim you when the most important family reunion in history happens (Matthew 25:31-46 / Revelation 19:6-9)?

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: April 2

Luke 8:1-3…

Blessed to bless…

Women didn’t get much respect in the days of Jesus, but Jesus was changing that tune with His truth. He had just shown us how a lowly woman knew how to worship better than a ministry man. Humility trumps hypocrisy every time.

Now we see that the ladies lead the way in applying the truth once again. Jesus is being followed around by a bunch of grateful women who had become the prime benefactors of His ministry. Those that have been touched by grace become gracious. Those who have been given the greatest gift become great givers.

Think about it. He allowed them to minister unto Him. He could have made money from nothing; He created the universe that way. He knew where all the loose change was lying around (Matthew 17:27). He could have fed everyone by turning scraps into supper as He did with the crowds at times (Matthew 14:19-21, 15:32-38). But He wanted them to be further blessed by becoming a blessing.

Do you look to bless God? Then bless His people (Galatians 6:10 / 1 Timothy 6:17-19), His work (2 Corinthians 8:3-4, 9:10) and bless those in need (Ephesians 4:28 / 1 John 3:17).

How many say they love God, but turn away and don’t follow Him?

How many follow, but only so as to get something, never looking to give something?

Invite the blessing of God by investing your blessings on others.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Friday, April 01, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: April 1

Luke 7:36-50…

How hypocrisy happens…

The scope of your forgiveness determines the size of your love. What exactly are you looking at when you are in the presence of God? The man was thinking about what a great sinner this woman was. The woman was thinking about what a great savior Jesus was. We shouldn’t look down on others, but up to Him. No matter how much higher or lower you might be compared to someone else, compared to Jesus we are all at the bottom floor.

She had the attitudes of worship; humility, reverence, and service. She took the actions of worship; adoration and sacrifice. We can be like her or we can be like the man, where we stop worshipping God and we start exalting self. Any looking down on anyone else immediately places us in the position of being self-righteous.

We cannot measure how far we are removed from someone else’s sin, because the minute we do that, we remove our eyes from Jesus and lose all sense of the true measure. Are you measuring the meager distance between you and some other person? Do you not see the great chasm between you and Christ? Do you forget how far down He had to reach to get you? Perhaps you fail to see Him in His exaltation because of your hypocritical eye.

When you see the depths of your depravity compared to the heights of His holiness, it is then you can see the measure of His love. This will only increase as we enter eternity. We will have been perfected, but we will continue to revel in the revelation of His perfections. If we believe it, there will be a difference in how we live now (1 John 3:2-3), but also how we look at others.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©