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Encouragement

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Image source: LumoProject

In today’s Bible reading, John tells us about Jesus’ first miracle. Jesus and His disciples have been invited to attend a multi-day wedding (as was common). Mary, Jesus’ mother tells Him that they ran out of wine. She doesn’t tell Him what to do. John doesn’t tell us what she expected Jesus to do. Jesus responds that this shouldn’t concern Him. He isn’t the groom. It isn’t His party. Today, He might respond, “Not my circus. Not my monkeys!”

Mary tells the servants to do whatever Jesus tells them to do. Jesus doesn’t “do” anything. He doesn’t say anything except to dip water out of the jars and take it to the master of the feast. The master of the feast calls aside the bridegroom and asks why the best wine wasn’t used first. John highlights the fact that the better wine is normally served first and then the cheaper wine is served later. But in this case, Jesus has turned water into the better wine.

Just this past Sunday, I preached on the Parable of the New Wine needs New Wineskins and I included a reference to today’s chapter. I pointed out the fact that until Louis Pasteur discovered Pasteurization in the 1800s, all grape juice was alcoholic. You couldn’t pick up a bottle of Welch’s Grape Juice at the grocery store because they didn’t have a way to keep the juice from fermenting. The implication is clear: Jesus didn’t turn water into juice. He turned water into the “good stuff”. And note: Each of the six jars contained 20-30 gallons of water. That’s 120-180 gallons of good wine!

Application

Why would I highlight this today? Look at the context: Jesus is celebrating marriage with His family and friends. A need arises. And Jesus supplies above and beyond the need.

Just like He always does!

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humility

Peter closes his first letter in today’s Bible reading. He reminds the elders how they should lead their churches: with humility.

Humility goes a long way in leading people! Humility recognizes accountability to someone else.

In any organization, everyone is accountable to someone else. Unless you’re working for yourself, someone else has the ability to terminate your employment. And even then, if you’re working for yourself, you’re selling some kind of product or service, so you are accountable to your customers. The CEO/Chairman of the Board is accountable to the Board of Directors. The Board of Directors is accountable to the stockholders. Everyone is accountable to someone else.

It’s true in a church as well. Everyone is accountable to someone else. Everyone needs to clothe himself/herself in humility. What does that look like? It looks like living the Golden Rule with those under your care. It looks like recognizing my place and recognizing that for everything I do and say, I will give an account before God Himself. And that’s a heavy thought!

That’s what Peter was trying to convey to his elders in 1 Peter 5:1-5, with verse 5 echoing Paul’s instruction in Ephesians 5:21.

submitting to one another in the fear of Christ.
Ephesians 5:21 (CSB)

Application

John Donne famously said, “No man is an island.” Each of us is connected to all the others. If Peter were a Southerner, his command, verse 5 would sound something like, “Now all y’all need to look after each other! Don’t be all uppity. God’s watchin’ you.”

Everyone is accountable to someone else. If you’ve been given authority over someone, always remember that you’re accountable to someone else for how you lead those in your care. This applies to church elders. It also applies to parenting and employment situations as well as others.

To whom are you accountable? Live the Golden Rule with those under your care.

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source: Moody Publishers / FreeBibleimages.org

With today’s Bible reading, we begin reading Peter’s First Letter. Peter wrote his letter to Believers who were being persecuted for their faith. Like most other letters from the Apostles to the churches, Peter begins his with the standard greeting, “Grace to you”. But he does it a little differently than every other Apostle writes his greetings.

“Grace to you” was a typical greeting you would receive from a Greek friend in the First Century, regardless of whether or not your friend was a fellow Believer. It would sound like a “Howdy!” you’d hear on a Texas ranch today. But for Peter, grace was more than a “Howdy”. It was so much more!

Peter gets grace. He understands it intimately and wants everybody to get in on the grace that Jesus offers. In fact, he uses the word ten times in this letter, three of which appear in this first chapter!

Remember, Peter promised Jesus he would never deny Jesus (Matthew 26:35), yet in just a few hours, he denied knowing Jesus three times. He even called down curses on himself in his denial of knowing Jesus. A modern rendering of Matthew 26:74 might be, “I swear to God I don’t know the man.” Immediately, Peter heard a rooster’s crow, signaling a new day had begun.

Several days later, after Jesus’ Resurrection, when Peter saw Jesus for the first time, Jesus asked him three times if Peter loved Him. Three times: one “Do you love me?” question for each time he had denied knowing Jesus. (John 21:15–17)

Peter begins both of his letters the same way, and very differently than do Paul and James. It isn’t just “Grace to you!”, “Howdy!” It’s, “May grace and peace be multiplied to you” (1 Peter 1:2, 2 Peter 1:2)

It’s significant that Peter would begin his letters writing to persecuted believers who were “living as exiles”. (1 Peter 1:1 CSB) Peter’s “May grace and peace be multiplied to you.” is very similar to the greeting King Nebuchadnezzar used in his proclamation (Daniel 4:1) after witnessing God’s miraculous protection of three devout Babylonian exiles. Just before Nebuchadnezzar’s proclamation, he says, “I issue a decree that anyone of any people, nation, or language who says anything offensive against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego will be torn limb from limb and his house made a garbage dump. For there is no other god who is able to deliver like this. (Daniel 3:29)

The Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar witnessed first-hand that God protects His people in their persecution. He observed not only the three young exiles in the “fiery furnace”, but a fourth who looked “like a son of the gods”. (Daniel 3:25)

Application

Peter subtly reminds his persecuted readers of another time — several hundred years earlier — when other persecuted Believers were dramatically and miraculously protected and delivered in their persecution.

Peter’s obvious implication is that, if God can deliver Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from a blazing furnace, He can do that and even more for his readers. Those young men didn’t know if God would deliver the way they expected (Daniel 3:16–18), but they knew that God is enough.

And the obvious application for you is that regardless of your situation, whether it’s religious persecution or just hard times, God is enough. God will deliver you. Not just God can deliver you, but God will deliver you.

God may not deliver you the way you expect, but just like with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, God is in control.

Whatever grace you need,
whatever peace you need,
may God’s grace and peace be multiplied to you.

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The Gospel Comes with a House Key - Rosaria Butterfield

In today’s Bible reading, continues to talk about the importance of walking in both Truth and Love.

Next, John talks about the importance of hospitality toward other Believers. (3 John 1:5-8) People don’t talk much about hospitality these days. But it’s a very important character trait. Back in the First Century, especially as Roman religious persecution grew, it was crucial that Believers support each other as John says above. He concludes his thoughts, urging that Believers should financially support itenerant missionaries. By supporting these people, they actually become a coworker with them in God’s work.

I haven’t read it yet, but Rosaria Butterfield wrote an award-winning book, The Gospel Comes with a House Key: Practicing Radically Ordinary Hospitality in Our Post-Christian World. In it, she talks about how she became a Christian in a large part because some Christian neighbors extended “radically ordinary” hospitality to her.

Application

Think about that. By simply being hospitable, you can have an eternal impact on the lives of lost people. Maybe it’s gladly giving a neighbor a cup of sugar. Maybe it’s loaning a fan to a new neighbor who’s painting some rooms before they move. Definitely, it’s praying for your neighbors. Definitely, it’s being ready to share a “fresh word” of encouragement with them. Definitely, it’s giving a Bible to the coworker who doesn’t have one and is beginning their spiritual walk.

The saying, “Always share your faith and use words when necessary” forgets the fact that unless you use words, people will not know the Gospel. Sure, they may think, “Wow, what a nice gesture.” but they won’t know why you did what you did when you were hospitable. Peter urged his readers to always be ready to gently and respectfully explain your hope. (1 Peter 3:15)

And that requires that we use words.

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The intersection of Truth and Love

John is often called “John the Beloved”; he refers to himself as “The disciple Jesus loved”. (John 20:2)

In today’s Bible reading, John emphasizes the two-pronged approach to pleasing God: Love and Truth. (2 John 1:4-6, 9) If you’re going to walk with Jesus, you can’t have one without the other.

Each day, as I read my Facebook Newsfeed, I see a lot of posts about the importance of Truth. I also see a lot of posts about the importance of Love. Unfortunately, I don’t see a lot of posts that intersect Truth and Love.

Sometimes it’s very discouraging to see truth spoken so harshly by Believers. I often scratch my head asking how these people can be so harsh when they claim to preach grace. It’s also discouraging to see posts by Believers who have little-to-no regard for the Truth as revealed in Scripture, and only promote Love.

But John says we need both Truth and Love.

Application

If you look at the street signs above, you’ll see that we’re standing at the intersection of Truth and Love. Truth and Love aren’t the opposite ends of one street. They actually are two separate streets. Truth Street has Truth at one end and Error at the other end. Love Street has Love at one end and either Hate or Apathy at the other end.

Perhaps I need to be more judicious with the Facebook Groups I read. How about you? Do you tend to lean more toward Truth-Centered or Love-Centered?

As I typed this devotional, I had to go back and correct an easy, but completely wrong conclusion. I originally suggested that we think about how we can be more balanced between Truth and Love.

And then I realized that you don’t have to choose one over the other! Instead, we should look for the intersection of Truth and Love.

Paul tells us we need both Truth and Love to be mature Believers.

But speaking the truth in love,
let us grow in every way into him who is the head—Christ.

(Ephesians 4:15 CSB)

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1 2 3 15

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