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Discipleship

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Lost and Found

Have you ever lost something that you treasure? Maybe it was a family heirloom. Maybe it was a gold coin that you put in a “safe place” so you wouldn’t lose it, but you lost it because you forgot where the “safe place” was. If you’ve been around church for very long, you’ve heard the three parables that Jesus uses in today’s Bible reading from Luke 15: The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin, and the Lost Son.

I think we have named these parables incorrectly. The parables aren’t about what was lost, but rather the seeker who doesn’t stop seeking until what was lost has been found. With each story, Jesus says that there’s a party once what was lost was found. It’s a cause for celebration! Whether it’s a celebration in the neighborhood, in Heaven, or around the backyard barbecue pit, everyone celebrates with the person who found what was lost. Perhaps these parables should be named The Searching Shepherd, The Searching Woman, and the Searching Father.

Leaving ninety-nine sheep may seem pretty foolish. Think about it. What if while you’re looking for the one lost sheep, several of the other sheep wander off? Then you have to look for all the other lost sheep. You’re only down 1% of your original flock. Why not just count your losses? Why risk running into the bear that’s enjoying its fresh lamb chops? You still have ninety-nine sheep that need to be tended to. Yes, it seems pretty foolish to leave the ninety-nine. Unless you’re the one lost sheep. Once you find the sheep, you have to share the joy; it’s uncontainable and it doesn’t seem like the joy is complete until you share it!

You lose one of your ten silver coins. Where did you leave it? Maybe your other pocket? No, it’s not there. Maybe in a mug in the cupboard? No, it’s not there either. Where could it be? You’ve lost 10% of your coins. Ten percent of your savings. You’ve got to find it! So you turn on the lights and open the blinds. You make an excuse to rearrange the furniture so you can vacuum up the dust bunnies and look for that lost coin. And when you find it, you want to share your joy with your friends and family! You have to share the joy; it’s uncontainable and it doesn’t seem like the joy is complete until you share it!

One of your sons runs away from home, taking a third of your assets with him. (The older son gets a “double-portion” when you die, so the second son gets a third) You’ve just lost half of your offspring. This hurts a lot worse than losing one percent of your sheep. This hurts a lot worse than losing ten percent of your assets. You still have your older son who works alongside you. He never complains about the hard work he does out in the hot field.

Then one day, as you scan the horizon — just as you’ve done every day since your younger son left — you see something moving toward you. Is it a deer? Maybe a bear? As whatever it is comes closer you squint a little more to try to figure out what that is. And then… Could it be? No, it can’t be! Surely your mind is playing tricks on you. No, it’s HIM! It’s your long-lost son! You’ve searched the horizon every single long day since he left, longing for his shadow to grace your property again. You drop everything and run toward him. It’s been years since the last time you ran. So you huff and puff, gasping for breath as you get closer. He looks a little skinnier than when he left. His clothes are very worn and dirty. Wow, you’ve never seen him with a beard, and man, is his hair shaggy! And just before you get to him, it hits you. It’s so strong it takes your breath away. You’ve never smelled such stench ever before! Ever! Oh, it’s horrible! He must not have bathed in months! In addition to the nose-hair-curling BO, he smells like … pigs! DISGUSTING! There’s nothing nastier than pigs! You raised him to be better than this!

But despite all of the disgust you feel, despite all of the disgust you smell, your heart melts as he falls at your feet. You throw your arms around him and give him the biggest bear hug ever! He’s home! He’s finally home! Your lost son has been found! He starts mumbling, asking something about coming back as a servant. What? How could you ever treat him as a servant? He’s your son! He’s always been your son. And he’ll always be your son! You shout to your servants! “We’re having a party! You, go grab the family ring! And you, go kill the best-of-show steer!”

One of your servants whispers something in your ear that rips away the celebratory mood. So you set out looking for your older son. You’re just as intent to find him as you were to find your younger son. As he angrily shares his heart you discover that he too was lost. He was right beside you all these years, but he was so far away. Your work is cut out for you. You have to build relationships with both sons to restore both of them back to their rightful place in your family.

Application

That’s your Father’s heart! Maybe you rebelled and sowed your wild oats. Or maybe you sulked your oats in bitterness as you watched other people experience God’s blessings. Regardless of how, just like all of us, you rebelled. But your Father has been waiting. Not passively waiting, but actively waiting. Actually, He pursued you in your rebellion. It may seem like you ran so far away. He may have seemed to be so far in the distance. But He never lost sight of you. And He’s ready to restore you to your rightful place as His son or daughter.

Repent. Come back.

And watch Him celebrate!

The Lord your God is among you, a warrior who saves.
He will rejoice over you with gladness.
He will be quiet in his love.
He will delight in you with singing.
Zephaniah 3:17 (CSB)

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Count the cost of following Jesus

Once again, Jesus teaches that His disciples must count the cost to be His disciple in today’s Bible reading. It seems to be a recurring theme. I’ve said it many times, if you see words or a concept repeated in the Bible, it’s probably pretty important and you need to take note of it.

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, and even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:26–27 (CSB)

Jesus begins this section with a figure of speech called hyperbole. Hyperbole is an exaggeration that’s not intended to be taken literally.[1] Jesus uses it to compare how much His disciples must be willing to give up to follow Him. A few chapters back, Jesus’ invitation to follow Him was met with, “Ok, but first I need to ….”

No, Jesus told us to put His Kingdom and His righteousness first. (Matthew 6:33; Luke 12:31)

First.

Remember when Jesus called Peter, James, and John after their monster fish catch. No, they didn’t catch a monster fish. They had a monstrous catch of fish. (See my devotional on Luke 5) Instead of taking two boatloads of fish to the market, they left the fish. They left the nets. They left the boats. Compared to the value of following Jesus, nothing was of any value. (Philippians 3:8)

When you think about it, based on the very definition of the word, it’s impossible to say, “No, Lord.” If He is truly Lord, you have to say, “Yes”. If you say, “No”, then He isn’t truly Lord. Everything that Jesus says about following Him emphatically states or implies that if someone wants to follow Him, He must be seen as “Lord“. There is no other option!

Application

Oftentimes, I have heard people say something like, “I accepted Jesus as my Savior when I was x years old. But I accepted Jesus as my Lord when I was y years old.” A few days ago, I referred to a comment one of my seminary professors made about knowing Jesus as Savior and then later knowing Jesus as Lord: You can come to Jesus as Savior and later come to know Him more as Lord, but you cannot come to Jesus as Savior and reject Him as Lord.

How about you? Do you know Jesus as your Lord? Or do you know Him merely as Savior so you can have “Fire Insurance” (so you can go to heaven when you die)?

Uhm… I’ve read through the Book a few times, and I’ve never seen anything about a concept of having “fire insurance”. You either come to Him on His terms, or you don’t come to Him at all.

[1] Source: Dictionary.Com

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Jesus has some hard words for would-be disciples in today’s Bible reading. Many would say that Jesus wouldn’t turn away anyone, but He actually does! In Luke 9:23, He says, “Then he said to them all, ‘If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.'” He implies that if someone wants to follow Him, but doesn’t deny himself, or if someone wants to follow Him and doesn’t take up his cross daily, he cannot follow Jesus. In fact, later in the chapter, Jesus says, “But Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:62 (CSB)

A few years ago, John MacArthur wrote a controversial book, The Gospel According to Jesus. He looks at verses like these and rightly asserts that there is no such thing as salvation that doesn’t include Lordship. I remember one of my seminary professors, Dr. Roy Fish, said that you can come to Jesus as Savior and later come to understand Him as Lord, but you cannot come to Jesus as Savior and reject Him as Lord. I think that’s what Jesus is getting at here. Elsewhere, He says that a would-be disciple must count the cost. (Luke 14:28)

Instead, in an effort to count nickels and noses, preachers have softened their evangelistic invitations and offered a cheap grace that doesn’t require a commitment.

But that isn’t the Gospel Jesus preached!

Application

Grace is free, but it isn’t cheap! If you came to Jesus as a response to a preacher’s invitation, yet have never “made Him Lord”, you need to go back and revisit your salvation experience! He is Lord of all, or He is not Lord at all.

I know, it’s easy to “backslide”. But right now, do you have an interest in the things of God? Do you desire to know God more than anything else? Yes, all believers can and should grow in our desire for God and the things of God (not the stuff from God, but the things of God). But do you have a hunger for God? Do you desire to know Him more? Or are you content to do religious things and hope to go to heaven when you die? Let me tell you, that won’t work! Biblically speaking, you don’t have a leg to stand on if you choose to bet your eternal destiny on merely doing religious things. You cannot separate salvation from a desire to know God. (John 17:3)

Spend a little time today asking God to give you a deeper hunger for Him and the things of God. (Colossians 3:1-2) Ask Him to give you a hunger and thirst for His righteousness. (Matthew 5:6) Ask Him to help you seek His Kingdom and His righteousness first. (Matthew 6:33)

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Jesus is tempted
Image Source: Sweet Publishing / FreeBibleimages.org

In today’s Bible reading, we get a glimpse of the secret to Jesus’ success in His ministry. It’s very easy to look at Jesus in His temptation and say, “Well, that was Jesus; He’s the Son of God! I can’t measure up!” Of course, we can’t measure up. But Jesus didn’t give in to temptation because of Who He was. He didn’t give in to temptation because of His secret. So what was Jesus’ secret?

Look at Luke 4:1. “Then Jesus left the Jordan, full of the Holy Spirit, and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness.” (CSB)

Did you catch that? We often think that the Devil leads us into temptation. And a quick read through today’s reading could lead someone to believe that. But Matthew (Matthew 4:1) brings out that Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness for the very purpose of being tempted.

And look at Jesus’ secret after successfully resisting temptation. “Then Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread throughout the entire vicinity.” Luke 4:14 (CSB)

Jesus’ secret was that He was full of the Spirit and He was led by the Spirit. Paul tells us in Ephesians 6:18 to keep on being filled with the Holy Spirit and he tells us in Romans 8:14 that God’s kids are led by the Spirit. Paul further tells us, “I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will certainly not carry out the desire of the flesh.” Galatians 5:16 (CSB)

Application

Jesus’ secret to not giving in to temptation is the same secret available to you: Be filled with and walk by the Holy Spirit. What does that look like? It looks like submitting to His leading. I mentioned a few days ago that the results of being filled with the Spirit and letting God’s Word abide in us are the same. So my takeaway is that being filled with the Spirit is reading God’s Word, studying God’s Word, and memorizing God’s Word. It’s letting God’s Word operate in and through us.

Are you purposefully reading, studying, and memorizing God’s Word on a regular basis? I’m not talking about reading and studying God’s Word on Sunday. You eat more than one day a week, right? Shouldn’t you eat God’s Word just as regularly as you eat food? (Matthew 4:4, Acts 17:11, Joshua 1:8, Proverbs 22:17-18 )

If you don’t have a plan to read the Bible, join me! This year, I’m using the 5x5x5 Bible Reading Plan from the Navigators. You can download a copy here. This plan goes through the entire New Testament over the course of a year (Can you believe we’re halfway through already?!). It only takes about five minutes a day, five days a week. The Bible App will even read out loud the day’s Bible reading for you while you brush your teeth or drive to work. “I don’t have enough time” won’t cut it for an excuse!

Please download the plan or the Bible App (or both) and read through the New Testament (in a translation you can easily understand) with me through the rest of the year. I promise that if you will do this, your life will change!

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devote yourself to prayer

As a pastor, I receive emails from time to time asking me to complete a survey in exchange for a copy of an ebook. I completed one of those surveys this morning. To be honest, I really didn’t like my answers!

Today’s survey questions asked about my prayer life:

  • How much time do you spend praying?
  • What do you spend the most time praying for?
  • How often do you pray with other people?
  • When was the last time you spent more than ten minutes in prayer?
  • When was the last time you spent more than thirty minutes praying?
  • When was the last time you spent more than an hour praying?
  • How satisfied are you with your prayer life?
  • etc.

Like I said, I didn’t like my answers. But they were great questions; questions that believers need to be asked from time to time.

In today’s Bible reading from Colossians 4, Paul tells the Colossians to devote themselves to prayer. In light of today’s survey questions, I thought I’d dig a little into what Paul actually wanted his readers to do.

The English word devote is translated from a couple of different Greek words. But the words Paul uses in Colossians 4:2 are used elsewhere in a similar way. Here are a few examples.

  • They all were continually united in prayer, along with the women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers. Acts 1:14 (CSB)
  • They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer. Acts 2:42 (CSB)
  • Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with joyful and sincere hearts, Acts 2:46 (CSB)
  • But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word. Acts 6:4 (CSB)

One of my Greek lexicons (a fancy word for a dictionary) says that this Greek word means,
1. to adhere to one, be his adherent, to be devoted or constant to one.
2. to be steadfastly attentive unto, to give unremitting care to a thing.
3. to continue all the time in a place.
4. to persevere and not to faint.
5. to show one’s self courageous for.
6. to be in constant readiness for one, wait on constantly.[1]

Another lexicon says this Greek word means, “to continue to do something with intense effort, with the possible implication of despite difficulty—‘to devote oneself to, to keep on, to persist in.’”[2]

Let me merge a couple of those definitions: To give unremitting care to something with intense effort, despite difficulty.

In other words, “devoting oneself to prayer” is much more than “saying your prayers”. It’s much more than going through a list of prayer requests. In the context of praying with other people, it’s much more than merely updating the names of people and their needs on our corporate prayer list.

My answers didn’t fit very well with what Paul was telling the Colossians to do!

Ouch!

Application

How would you answer those questions? Would you be satisfied with your answers?

So what are some practical things you can do today to change your answers to fit more with the actual instructions Paul was giving the Colossian church?

Write your answers in a journal. Then devote yourself to prayer.

Periodically go back and review your answers and see how God has grown you in the spiritual discipline of prayer.

[1] Strong, James. Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon 1995 : n. pag. Print.
[2] Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains 1996 : 662. Print.

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1 2 3 14

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