Psalm 34:8

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In today’s Bible reading, Jesus has predicted his betrayal and each of His Disciples has claimed he will never deny Jesus. (Matthew 26:35)

And yet, just a few hours later, Jesus finds Himself praying alone in the Garden. Although they have not denied Him out loud, they have abandoned Him in His time of greatest need.

Prayer is a very private Spiritual Discipline. And if you haven’t been flexing those “muscles” in private, you won’t have the strength when you need it the most. Perhaps hears earlier, His Disciples asked Him to teach them to pray. (Luke 11:1)) Not how to pray, but to pray. Evidently, they haven’t taken it to heart.

When I call prayer a “Spiritual Discipline”, I mean it’s a spiritual activity that you can/should practice. Some other Spiritual Disciplines are Bible reading, Bible memory, Bible study, giving, worship, and evangelism. All of these activities are designed to help you grow closer in your relationship with Jesus.

Application

How do you pray? How often? What do you pray for? Do you find it difficult to pray for extended periods of time? Could you stay awake to pray for an hour? Maybe prayer is a Spiritual Discipline you need to work on a little more, or a little more frequently. The only way you’ll get better is to do it more.

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Jesus uses parables in today’s Bible reading to illustrate stewardship. Normally we think of stewardship as pertaining to money. Stewardship includes the wise use of money, but it isn’t limited to money. God’s people are called to be good stewards with everything we’ve been entrusted.

The foolish virgins weren’t good stewards of their oil; they didn’t have enough to make it through the night. And had the wise virgins shared their oil with the foolish virgins, no one would have had light to last through the night.

The servants in Jesus’ parable were entrusted with the master’s talents. We tend to think of talents as, well, “talents”. But the talents Jesus referred to in His parable was a measure of money. Last year when I preached through Jesus’ parables, I presented the following information so our people could grasp the tremendous amount of wealth that the master had entrusted to his servants.

  • 1 danarius = 1 day’s wage
  • 1 mina = 3 months’ wages
  • 1 talent = 60 minas = 180 months’ wage = 15 years’ wages

  • 1 talent = 15 years’ wages
  • 2 talents = 30 years’ wages
  • 5 talents = 75 years’ wages

Two of the servants were good stewards and made a good return on their master’s investments. However, one of the stewards was foolish in the way that he simply buried his master’s talent in the ground. Though not doubling the original amount like the wise servants, the foolish servant could have taken his master’s talent to the bank and the fifteen years’ wages would have generated interest.

I used to think that it was cruel for the master to take the talent from the foolish servant and give it to the servant who had the ten talents. That is, until I read the parable a little more closely.

Matthew 25:14, 18, 27 highlights the key to understanding why the master was not cruel to take the foolish servant’s talent: It was the master’s talent! At no point in the parable are the talents given to the servants; the entire time, the talents remained the property of the master. The servants are merely given stewardship of the talents and they are responsible to the master for their use of his talents. (Matthew 25:14)

Application

If you are like most people, God has entrusted you with a lot: your body, food, housing, vehicle(s), and employment. He has also given you friends, coworkers, family members and extended family members. Granted, He probably hasn’t entrusted multiple years’ wages to you in one lump sum. But still, He has entrusted you with a lot.

So what are you doing with what He has entrusted to you?

Each of us has twenty-four hours each day. Each of us has seven days each week, twelve months each year, etc. How are you investing His time?

How are you stewarding your body, food, housing, vehicles, employment, friends, coworkers, family members, extended family members?

Remember, all of these belong to Him. How can you better steward what belongs to Him?

Don’t you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price. So glorify God with your body. 1 Corinthians 6:19–20 (CSB)

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It never ceases to amaze me. Despite Jesus’ clear words in today’s Bible reading, people still think they’ve figured out when Jesus will return.

Pre-millennial. A-millennial. Post-millennial. Pre-Trib. Post-Trib. Mid-Trib. The theological term is eschatology, the study of the End Times. I admit it, I’m not convinced of the details of the End Times. But I do know that Jesus will return for His bride.

Jesus gives us things to look for, but He never tells us when but He says you can tell the seasons by looking at a fig tree. (Matthew 24:32)

Why would Jesus not tell his disciples when He will return? Well, for one thing, He didn’t know! (Matthew 24:36) Other than that, I think the most convincing reason He didn’t tell them/us when He will return is that He knows our hearts. He knows that if He said He wouldn’t return until the Twenty-First Century, the missions movement of the past one hundred-fifty years probably wouldn’t have taken place. We think we can wait until the last minute to get right with God and get busy with Kingdom affairs.

Look around. Do you see a sense of urgency in the lives of churches around your town? Do you see a sense of urgency in the lives of the leaders in those churches?

Application

There’s no reason to fear the end-times … if you are a believer. Your eternal destiny is secure. But if you aren’t a believer, you have a lot to fear! Don’t hesitate! No one knows when Jesus will return! And no one knows when their own time is up! Don’t wait! Get right with God now!

Now, if you are a believer, your work isn’t done yet! Sure, your eternity is secure, but don’t you want to bring as many into the Kingdom of God as possible (here and now, as well as then!)? If you have breath in your lungs and if your heart is still beating, your work isn’t done yet! You can still tell people about Jesus. And you can still pray! Pray for God to create a spiritual awakening, that people will be drawn to Christ and that believers will pursue Gospel-centered conversations with lost friends and loved ones.

No, the work of God’s people is not yet done yet. And Jesus won’t return until it is. So, let’s engage in His business until He returns! (Luke 19:13)

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Jesus weeps over religion

Today’s Bible reading records some of the saddest times of Jesus’ life. He weeps over the religious leaders of His day, pointing out their hypocrisy, and He weeps over Jerusalem for killing the prophets God sent to her.

In pointing out the hypocrisy of the religious leaders, he also tells His disciples and the crowd to listen and obey what the leaders’ say when they sit in Moses’ seat. (Matthew 23:3) There may be two reasons Jesus told them to do this:

  1. Sitting in Moses’ seat confers God’s authority. Regardless of their personal lives, these leaders are still speaking God’s truth. To disobey the leaders is to disobey God.
  2. Even on this side of the cross, obedience is still required. Just because Jesus has paid our sin-debt doesn’t mean that we can live however we want. I preach grace. I preach mercy. I preach these things because I have received so much grace and mercy. I preach these things because I believe these are important truths for God’s people to hear. But grace and mercy are not opposed to obedience. They empower obedience!

Application

As you contemplate the grace and mercy that God has given to you as a believer, do you think you can live however you want? Are believers no longer bound to live moral, God-pleasing lives? Let me ask you, “What Bible verses are you getting that from?”

If believers were released from obedience, then why do the Apostles give commands in the book of Acts and in their letters? Even in the fifty days between the Resurrection and the Day of Pentecost, Jesus gave His disciples commands to obey:

  • Go back to Jerusalem and wait for the promised Holy Spirit
  • Make disciples by baptizing and teaching obedience

Obedience on this side of the cross is empowered by justification. It is empowered by grace and mercy. It is empowered by the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives. We don’t obey in order to get God’s favor. Rather, we already have God’s favor which empowers us to want to obey Him. (Galatians 5:16, Romans 1:5)

Until we cross over to the other side of eternity, we will experience the tension between our “already justification” and our “not-yet justification”. Like Paul in Romans 7, we will do things we don’t want to do, and we won’t do the things we do want to do. (Romans 7:15-24)

And while we struggle in our conflicting desires on this side of eternity, Paul reminds us in Romans 8:1, there is no condemnation for believers.

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reading One Book

In today’s Bible reading, we see a couple of occasions when the Jewish leaders posed “academic” questions, trying to entrap him, or at least distract him. “Should we pay taxes or not?” “Who will be a woman’s husband in the resurrection if her husband dies, her next husband dies, etc.?” “Which is the greatest commandment?” “What is the Messiah’s relationship to David?”

To think… The Sadducees asked Jesus questions about a Resurrection they didn’t even believe in.

Only one of these questions really mattered. I confess, it’s easy to get distracted with “academic” questions. I remember spending many late nights discussing deep theological issues in the stairway in the Men’s Dorm at Southwestern Seminary. Some of the questions were good and challenging. Many were just distractions from studies and many were distractions from my walk with the Lord.

I’m glad that someone asked Jesus which is the greatest commandment. The Jewish leaders had developed a commentary on the Old Covenant Law. Then they developed a commentary on the commentary. By this point, they had over six hundred laws that divided hairs on what could and what couldn’t be done without breaking the Sabbath. At least someone had the guts to ask Jesus that question!

As He often did, He cut right through all of the “academics” and went straight for the heart: The greatest commandment is to love God with all that you are and to love others as you love yourself.

Application

I’ve been there. I’ve done that. I have several T-shirts to spare. It’s easy to get distracted with the “academics” and miss the “heart of the matter” which is actually the “matter of the heart”. It’s so easy to amass a library of hundreds of books about the Bible, prayer, the Christian life, etc. written by godly people and not read the one Book that God wrote. Making the connections between my head and my heart is a daily struggle.

How about you? Do you find yourself talking about God or talking with God? Do you find yourself reading about the Bible or reading the Bible? Do you find yourself talking about loving others or loving others? Do you find yourself talking about holiness or pursuing it?

Take some time today to think about what you think about. Then take some time to get to know the One you talk about by taking some time to actually open your Bible and read it, study it, and meditate on it.

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