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!
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!
This devotional was originally published October 16, 2019.
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.
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.
This devotional was originally published October 5, 2019.
As I was reading today’s Bible reading, God reminded me that He isn’t a stingy God.
Pondering this thought, I can’t think of anywhere in the Bible where God limits Himself in giving of Himself to His people. Actually, I cannot think of anywhere in the Bible where God limits Himself in giving of anything … good or bad. And Paul highlights this in Titus 3:4–7 “But when the kindness of God our Savior and his love for mankind appeared, he saved us—not by works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy—through the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit. He poured out his Spirit on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior so that, having been justified by his grace, we may become heirs with the hope of eternal life.” (CSB)
James tells us, “Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God—who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly—and it will be given to him.” James 1:5 (CSB)
God gives to all “generously and ungrudgingly”. The actual wording Paul uses is, “God Who simply gives without blame” What a great picture of a loving, freely-giving God!
Jesus put it this way,
“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?” Luke 11:9–13 (CSB)
God loves to shower His kids with gifts, mostly the gift of Himself! In saving us, Paul tells Titus, God didn’t hold back. Instead, He poured out His Spirit richly — or abundantly, depending on your English translation. This word richly/abundantly means, “a high point on any scale and having the implication of value as well as abundance”
Yes, God loves to give. And He doesn’t give just a little bit. He gives a lot!
What could be a more appropriate response to His giving than to simply give Him praise, honor, and glory? He is worthy of all of that and more. We are created in His image with an incredible capacity to give. Spend some time today simply asking Him how He would have you to give of yourself to your family, friends, including the lost ones. Ask Him how He would have you to give of your time, your talents, and your treasures to further His Kingdom.
Then simply obey what He tells you to do.
 Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains 1996 : 685. Print.
This devotional was originally published on September 26, 2019.
When Paul talks about honoring the elders in today’s Bible reading, he isn’t talking about honoring your parents or honoring people who are older than you. He’s talking about honoring church elders.
Elders in the First Century church were pastors and mature men who had been called to provide spiritual and financial leadership of the church. Deacons tended to the day-to-day “pastoral care” ministries of the churches.
In most of the churches in my tribe, Baptist Churches, we don’t have elders. Pastors provide spiritual leadership and work with the deacons to administer the financial dealings of the church. Our Congregational polity means that all business decisions must be approved by the church congregation. How minutely the deacons manage the church differs from church to church.
I remember one church where every motion brought before the church in our business meetings came from the “Deacon Board”. And I remember hearing stories of staff members who had to appeal to the deacons to approve everything down to the number of servings of fruit on a Singles Retreat. Yes, seriously!
Admittedly, not all church elders are worthy of respect. But Paul isn’t talking about those people in 1 Timothy 5. He tells Timothy that good leaders who work hard at preaching and teaching should be considered worthy of double honor. Exactly what Paul means here may be a little unclear, but he explains himself when he quotes the Old Testament and talks about letting oxes eat while they work. (Deuteronomy 25:4) He summaries his thoughts with, “The worker is worthy of his wages.” (1 Timothy 5:18)
Unfortunately, not every church treats its pastor as well as I have been treated. Just this week, I talked with a pastor-friend about new opportunities before him. He hesitated whether to take the next steps with a new church because with the church-provided parsonage, he might end up with less in his pocket every month, despite the slightly higher salary. Most pastor search committees — and churches in general for that matter — are unaware of the financial downside to living in a parsonage. The IRS sees the parsonage as a taxable asset in the salary package. This means the pastor must pay income taxes on a “fair market rental value” for the parsonage. So for this friend, going to this new opportunity may not be the financial increase he and his family were hoping for. I deeply hope that churches are just unaware of situations like this, rather than being uncaring about them. Many churches have no idea just how poorly they are treating their “elders”. It’s wrong and God will hold them to account for their mistreatment of these servants.
You can honor your “elders” in many ways.
How do you feel about your pastor and church ministry staff? Do you appreciate them? Do you tell them? Sometimes a reassuring or affirming word goes a long way.
Do you pray for your church staff? Have you asked them how you can pray for them?
Sometimes a gift certificate to a restaurant and an offer to keep the kids so a staff member can take his wife on a date night can go a long way.
I haven’t met anyone who goes into vocational ministry for the money. In most churches, there’s no money to be in it for anyway! But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be paid for their work. Is your church fairly compensating your church staff? When was the last time your pastor or staff received a raise or a special gift to show your appreciation? Maybe it’s time to talk with your church leaders about addressing these issues.
I hope that you and your church honor your elders. Honor them, not as unto men, but as unto God. (Colossians 3:23–24)
This devotional was originally published on September 14, 2019.
Paul continues to address the Corinthians regarding the financial support of God’s work in today’s Bible reading. He summarizes his appeal, “The point is this: The person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously will also reap generously.” 2 Corinthians 9:6 (CSB)
Note that Paul doesn’t use manipulation. He doesn’t twist Scripture to promise health and wealth if the Corinthians would just plant a seed of faith. No, Paul just puts it out there, saying that God will reward generosity with generosity.
Although Corinth was a thriving metropolis when Paul wrote this letter, the citizens must have had a concept of sowing and reaping. If you want a harvest, you have to sow seeds. If you want a bountiful harvest, you have to sow a lot of seeds. Paul tapped into the people’s understanding of agriculture and presented this principle of sowing and reaping.
It’s easy to look at your paycheck and panic when you see how much of the “gross” is taken before you ever see the “net”. Between taxes, Social Security, insurance premiums, it can seem like there’s not enough left over. As the month goes on, sometimes it can seem like the month goes longer than the paycheck.
So where does God fit in the discussion of money? Well, if you’re a growing Christ-follower, God should fit right in the middle of your budgeting. Don’t just give God leftovers. Give Him your best! Give regularly. Give generously. Give sacrificially. And give wisely.
Give, and it will be given to you;
a good measure—pressed down, shaken together,
and running over—will be poured into your lap.
For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.
Luke 6:38 (CSB)
This devotional was originally published on September 3, 2019.