21 Day Challenge – Day 17

Parable of the Sower   |   Zack DeBerry

Scripture: Matthew 13:1-9

Later that same day Jesus left the house and sat beside the lake.  A large crowd soon gathered around him, so he got into a boat. Then he sat there and taught as the people stood on the shore.  He told many stories in the form of parables, such as this one: Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seeds.  As he scattered them across his field, some seeds fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate them.  Other seeds fell on shallow soil with underlying rock.

The seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow.  But the plants soon wilted under the hot sun, and since they didn’t have deep roots, they died.  Other seeds fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants.  Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted!  Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.

Observation

In today’€™s text we hear what has become known as the Parable of the Sower.  In Jesus’ day sowing seeds was generally the way that wheat was planted.  The sower would broadcast the seeds in a sweeping left to right swing of the arm.  As the seeds are thrown from the sower’s hand, they cover a larger area, so not every seed ends up exactly where it should be. Everyone in Jesus’ audience knew that seeds thus scattered would end up in very different places.

Even though the sower is the first thing mentioned in the parable, he is not the main character; he is only the catalyst to get the seeds and the various soils together. The parable is actually more about the seed and soil than the sower, who is not mentioned again after the planting. Some of the seeds fell on the path, where some alert birds saw them and ate them. Some fell in rocky soil, sprang up quickly and succumbed to the heat of the sun. Some seeds were choked out by the thorns and weeds as they grew. However, some fell on good soil and did exactly what it was supposed to do, produce abundantly.

Application

As a parable of the kingdom, the meaning has to do with how the kingdom is received by various groups and individuals. If we are anywhere to be found in this parable, we as hearers of the word are the soil. It is a little humbling for us to be dirt, but there you are. As soil, the question that the parable asks us is, “€œHow have you responded to the good news message of the kingdom of God?” Have we allowed it to be snatched away from us and eaten? Did we not allow the roots to sink deep, so that it has withered and dried up in our lives? Have we allowed the worries and cares of the world to choke out the joy of the kingdom? Are we producing as good soil should, spreading the good news and enabling growth for ourselves and others?

These are not easy questions to answer, even if we know the answers. We need to be honest in looking at what kind of soil we actually are. My father was a nurseryman and in his greenhouse, when he seeded plants, he used his own soil mixture. He knew exactly what each plant would need, so he put those elements together in a modified cement mixer and produced the perfect soil to match the seed.

Likewise, God knows exactly what kind of soil you need to be for the seed he has placed in you. Though it may sound old fashioned to some folk, I think that the best place to get the right mixture is in God’s greenhouse, the Church. It is in the Church that we find the right nutrients that will bring the seed within us to full maturity.

Each one of us needs to take a soil sample and analyze what is going on in our lives. We do not have to be county agricultural agents to know whether or not we are producing. What do you need to become the “good soil” that God intended? Get in there, get dirty and find out.

Prayer

God, may we accurately and honestly look at our lives and look at what we are producing and sowing.   I pray that we would be mindful as we daily scatter seeds that will point people either to You or to something or someone else.  I pray that we would be people that Humbly point others to You. 

Amen.

21 Day Challenge – Day 16

The Good Samaritan    Christina McConnell

Scripture: Luke 10:25-37

“One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: ‘Teacher, what must I do to receive eternal life?’ Jesus replied, ‘What does the law of Moses say?  How do you read it?’  The man answered, ”You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’  And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”  “Right!” Jesus told him.  “Do this and you will live!”  The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”  Jesus replied with an illustration: “A Jewish man was traveling on a trip from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits.  They stripped him of his clothes and money, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.” 

By chance a Jewish priest came along; but when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by.  A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side.  “Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt deep pity.  Kneeling beside him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with medicine and bandaged them.  Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him.  The next day he handed the innkeeper two pieces of silver and told him to take care of the man.  ‘If his bill runs higher than that,’ he said, ‘I’ll pay the difference the next time I am here.’  “Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.  The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.”  Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”

Observation

When I think about this illustration of loving others, I see three principles:

  1. We often justify our lack of love for certain people.   It is actually pretty easy to do most of the time but it is never right.  Every person in this world was created by God, in His image, and deserves to be loved;
  2. Our neighbor is anyone of any race, creed, culture, religion, or social background who is in need.  We cannot discriminate; and
  3. Real love means doing something to meet that other person’s need.

The Samaritan could have felt justified in walking away from the Jewish man, who very likely may have walked away from him if roles were reversed.  Jews and Samaritans didn’t get along any better than most ultra-conservative “Christians” and extremist “Muslims” of today.  He could have told himself he would help only if it turned out the man was another Samaritan.

And even still, he could have simply tended to his wounds and left; or even just taken him to another Jew to be helped.  But he took it upon himself to soothe his wounds with medicine and bandages, gave up his own ride so the guy didn’t have to walk, spent the evening with him helping him feel better, and then gave his own money so the guy would continue to be cared for in his absence.  He gave of himself with abundance, holding nothing back.

The Samaritan in this parable shows me God’s boundless mercy for me and illustrates so well how I am supposed to love and serve other people.

Application

I can sometimes easily justify not helping someone who has a need.  I’m too busy.  I have other commitments.  My kids need this or that.  I already do enough other things, surely God doesn’t want me to try to do everything!

We should consider this story when we are presented with an opportunity to help someone.  I don’t think God wants us to over-commit, but I do believe he puts people in our path for a reason.  Whether its the guy in the cubicle next to us whose complaining drives you nuts, or the other mom at school who is constantly bragging about her kids, or the homeless dude holding the sign on the street corner.  Perhaps its the kid in the picture who desperately needs a sponsor or a forever family, or the old lady who just wants someone to spend some time with her, or a whole family on the other side of the world who just needs access to clean water.  If we feel a tug on our heart to do something that could show others that they are loved, we need to take action and trust that God is doing the real work in us and through us.  He is making himself known through our love.

Sometimes we can be the legal expert, asking Jesus to justify how we love, or don’t love, other people.  Sometimes we are the priest who is knowledgeable about the “law”, reading our Bible, going to church, doing all the right things, but still walking away from the opportunities he gives us to serve others.  And sometimes we are the Jew, desperately hoping for mercy from the people around us.  I think Jesus just wants us to see that if we truly love Him, He can give us the capacity to be the good Samaritan and to love others no matter what.  He helps us to also see how much we need His love and the love of others.

Prayer

Father God,

Thank you for always showing mercy to me.  Thank you for teaching me how to love others.  Your amazing love for me has no boundaries, no discrimination, no restrictions.  Help me to love my neighbors, my co-workers, my family, my friends; people who are different from me, strangers who seem weird, folks who rub me the wrong way.  Give me a capacity to love and serve and do for others as you would.

Gently nudge me when I am prone to walk away.  Lovingly remind me that I could easily be the one who has been robbed and beaten, and that the mercy and love I crave is what I should freely give.

Help me to be who you want me to be.  Use me to serve your children, no matter who and no matter where.

Fill me with your grace, so that I may offer it freely to others.

In Jesus Name,

Amen

21 Day Challenge – Day 15

The Prodigal Son   |   Chris Denning

Scripture: Luke 15:11-32

“And he said, “There was a man who had two sons.  And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’   And he divided his property between them.  Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living.  And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need.  So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs.  And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.

“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger!  I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.  I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’  And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.  And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.  I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’  But the father said to his servants,‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet.  And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate.  For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

“Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing.  And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant.  And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’  But he was angry and refused to go in.  His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends.  But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’  And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.  It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”

Observation

When I consider my relationship with God, I tend to focus more easily on how I feel about God or, more simply, my perspective in the relationship.  I’ll focus on how I want to love God more or how I need to be better about the time I spend with him.

However, I easily forget the other side of the relationship: how God feels about me.  When I read this parable about the Prodigal Son, I see myself in both sons, but I also see God in the father’s reaction.

With the son that ran away only to return, the father expresses extreme joy and excitement at his return. I see this in verse 24, where the father says, “For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.”

With the son that faithfully stayed and felt slighted by the celebration, the father responds with gentleness, reminding him of what truly matters.  I see this in verse 31-22, where the father speaks to the second son, saying, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is your. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.”

The father in this story reveals part of God’s heart for me.  He finds great joy when I turn back to him after I turn away, but he also responds gently to refocus my perspective when I lose my way.

Application

As I said earlier, I have a hard time remembering God’s perspective of my relationship with Him.  I can easily get down on myself when I don’t feel that I’m doing enough or have been falling short in my walk with Him.  However, His perspective of me is just as important.

We need to take time everyday to remember how God sees us: as his sons and daughters, that He finds great joy in and wants to gently help.

I want to challenge you today to think of an area in your walk with God where you’re especially hard on yourself.  It could be consistently spending time with him, taking time to pray, serving others, or anything else.

Then, remind yourself that even though you will fail, fall, and turn from him, he finds great joy in you and only wants to gently help you correct your perspective.

Lets use that truth to be encouraged to follow him more closely today.

Prayer

Father, 

Thank for being just that: a loving father.  Your great love for me is hard to accept sometimes, but it always present and never–changing.  Help me today to remember that even though I will fail, fall, and turn from you, that you will always welcome me with open arms.  

Remind me of the joy you find in me being your son or daughter.  

Help me to grow by gently correcting my perspective in life.  

Give me grace to follow you more closely today.  In your name I ask and pray, 

Amen.

21 Day Challenge – Day 14

Jesus & the Blind Man  |  Matt Dawson

Scripture: John 9:1-7

“As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth.  “Rabbi,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?”  “It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered.  “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.  We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us.  The night is coming, and then no one can work.  But while I am here in the world, I am the light of the world.” 

Then he spit on the ground, made mud with the saliva, and spread the mud over the blind man’s eyes.   He told him, “Go wash yourself in the pool of Siloam” (Siloam means “sent”). So the man went and washed and came back seeing!”

Observation

I know most people see this as another miracle story, but I see it differently.  I think the most important part of this story is the question that the disciples ask.   The question they ask tells us so much about their perspective on life, and what expectations that have for Jesus.  They didn’t ask Jesus to heal him. They just asked why did this “bad thing” happen… and whose fault was it?

I’ve spent a good part of my Christians life asking very similar question. WHY?  Why did this bad thing happen – WHO is to blame?  I ask that about myself, and others in my life.  I don’t immediately ask for healing or strength or even a miracle.  I guess I think if I “understand” something that somehow it will be better for ME.

Jesus says the words we don’t like to hear when trying to understand something… He says it’s no ones fault but God’s.  It’s on opportunity for God to show up in the brokenness of this world and display His love through the people that He has sent.  Jesus says – right now that person is me.  Soon it will be others.

And then He heals him. He tells a blind man to “make his way” to the pool called SENT.  He does, and comes back seeing!

Application

I’m not sure how this applies to me because I still find myself asking those same questions.  I still struggle to see things the way God does and so I guess part of this devotion for me is to keep asking God to reveal more of Himself and His love to me.

What if every time we saw someone hurting, or broken, or we witnessed struggle in this world – we didn’t rush to figure out WHY it is happening – but we rushed in to show the LOVE OF GOD to those in the midst.  That the reason may not be known, but maybe it’s just one more opportunity for God to show up through HIS PEOPLE who are SENT to love those that are struggling today.

Prayer

God, may you open up my eyes and allow me to see those hurting around me everyday.  Help me stop trying to “figure it out” by asking why or trying to find out who to cast the blame on.  Show me the opportunities to share your love with a hopeless world. 

SEND me.

Amen.

21 Day Challenge – Day 13

Feeding the Five Thousand  |  Kayla Beverage

Scripture: Matthew 14:13-21

Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself.  But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns.  When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.  Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 

But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.”  They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.”  And he said, “Bring them here to me.”  Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing.  Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds.  And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over.  And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

Observation

Thousands of people came from miles away to see this man called Jesus. I’m sure many of them were His followers and even more where just curious to see the man that they had heard so much about. When he sees all these people gathered and notices that it is getting late, he could have just sent them away. It really wasn’t his responsibility to feed all of those people. Instead, he shows them compassion. He uses the opportunity to serve them and to demonstrate the character of God. All the disciples and the people had to do was trust that He would provide for them.

I’m sure that many of the men and women were worried. With families to feed and children to care for, how could they not be? Some were probably devising a plan to find food and figure out what they were going to do. That’s human nature. We see problems and then we do everything we can to fix. 5,000 plus people and all they had was 5 loaves and 2 fish. That is a major problem. They simply needed more food then what they had available to them, but Jesus blessed what had been given and God provided.

Application

When we read about Jesus and this miracle he performs, how can we not be in awe of God greatness. He fed 5,000 men plus all of those men’s women and children off 5 loaves and 2 fishes. They even had leftovers!

If they could trust Jesus with such an insurmountable task, why can’t we trust Him with our own lives and our own problems? Through this story Jesus gives us a clear picture that he is trustworthy, that he does what he says he is going to do. Give your worries and trust to God and He will provide for you. Things may not do things according to your plan or in your timeframe, but He is trustworthy to those who are faithful.

Prayer

God,

Please help me to trust you with my worries and problems. Help me to know that you will provide for me. You are worthy of my faith. You are worthy of my love. Thank you so much for everything that you have already given me. 

Amen.

21 Day Challenge – Day 12

The Ten Lepers    Don Gentry

Scripture: Luke 17:11-19 (HCSB)

While traveling to Jerusalem, He passed between Samaria and Galilee.  As He entered a village, ten men with serious skin diseases met Him. They stood at a distance and raised their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”  When He saw them, He told them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.”  And while they were going, they were healed.  But one of them, seeing that he was healed, returned and, with a loud voice, gave glory to God.  He fell facedown at His feet, thanking Him. And he was a Samaritan.  Then Jesus said, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine?  Didn’t any return to give glory to God except this foreigner?”  And He told him, “Get up and go on your way. Your faith has made you well.”

Observation

I love how Jesus is just walking along the road going about his daily business and he comes upon a group of diseased men and changes their lives.  Here we have a group of ten men most likely plagued with leprosy but it could have been some other type of disease.   Back in the day if you had a skin disease you had to walk around calling out “unclean, unclean” wherever you went.  This was to let everyone know you had a contagious disease.  It was a very lonely life so they would often find others with the same disease and walk together.  Misery does love company.

This group of men saw Jesus and recognized their opportunity for healing.  Jesus looked at them and knew they needed His healing touch.  He told them to go the local priest because he was the only one that could sign off on the fact that they were truly clean.  The priest was like a doctor and could officially declare they no longer had to yell out unclean.  All ten men were cleansed on their way to the priest.  It took a step of faith on their part to trust that by the time they got to the priest their disease would be healed.

Of the ten a Samaritan was the only one that returned to show praise and gratitude.  It is interesting that the outcast of outcasts was the only one to say thank you.  Back in the day, Jews and Samaritans didn’t mix.  Samaritans were hated.  A good Jew would avoid all contact with a Samaritan, and the Samaritans didn’t really like the Jews either.  Yet this Samaritan returned and was rewarded with an even greater healing.

Jesus not only took the time to associate with unclean people he took the time to change the life of the most despised people.

Application

Jesus is so amazing.  Healing those who need healed, showing compassion on the outcasts, taking time out of his day for people who were despised.  He brings hope to all who ask for it even if they show no thanks.  Wow, what a savior!

This is such a convicting passage for me.  These are some of the questions that I ask myself after reading this passage.  Do I take time for those I despise?  Did I do anything for the homeless man I passed the other day?  Did I pray for the Muslim terrorist today?  Have I trusted Jesus to help heal me from…?  Have I taken a step of faith believing God at His word?  Have I thanked God for what He has done in my life? Do I show compassion to the marginalized and vulnerable? Do I still care for those who are ungrateful?

I challenge you to take a few moments and answer each one of these questions and create your own questions from this passage.  God so worthy of our praise and His model for life is so worth following!

Prayer

Thank you Jesus for taking time to show me love and forgiveness.  Thank you for being an example of how I should treat and care for others and the “outcasts” of society.  Forgive me for all the times I have failed to treat others the way that you would want me to treat them, and forgive me for not taking the time to thank you for all that you have done in my life.  You have given me so much more than I deserve, help me to be to be aware of my surroundings so that I can be that type of a blessing to others.

Amen.

21 Day Challenge – Day 11

The Centurion   |   Zack DeBerry

Scripture: Luke 7:1-“10 (NLT)

When Jesus had finished saying all this to the people, he returned to Capernaum.  At that time the highly valued slave of a Roman officer was sick and near death.  When the officer heard about Jesus, he sent some respected Jewish elders to ask him to come and heal his slave.  So they earnestly begged Jesus to help the man. “If anyone deserves your help, he does,€ they said, for he loves the Jewish people and even built a synagogue for us.€  So Jesus went with them. But just before they arrived at the house, the officer sent some friends to say, Lord, don’t trouble yourself by coming to my home, for I am not worthy of such an honor.  I am not even worthy to come and meet you. Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed.  I know this because I am under the authority of my superior officers, and I have authority over my soldiers.  I only need to say, Go, and they go, or Come, and they come.  And if I say to my slaves, €˜Do this, they do it.  When Jesus heard this, he was amazed. Turning to the crowd that was following him, he said, “I tell you, I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel!  And when the officer’€™s friends returned to his house, they found the slave completely healed.

Observation

A Roman centurion hears of Jesus and sends for Him to heal his slave who is very sick. Jesus is on His way when the centurion sends word to Him not to come all the way to his house because he isn’t worthy to receive the Lord; instead he asks Jesus to just say the word and his slave will be healed. He recognizes Jesus has such great authority He doesn’t have to be present to heal the slave. Jesus tells the crowds this faith has not been seen in Israel, and the slave is healed.

Application

How great is my faith in Jesus? When He seems distant, do I still believe He is watching over me and working in the background? Or do I begin to fear He’s forgotten me? My faith should be so great that any doubt can be easily put out of my mind.

Prayer

Lord, I believe that You can do anything. There are moments when I wonder if You hear my prayers and if You’ll ever answer them, but I know that You are at work in my life even when I don’t know what You’re doing. I trust that You know what’s best, and that the prayers I pray will be answered at the appropriate time. Thank You for always taking care of me.

In Christ Jesus I pray, Amen.

21 Day Challenge – Day 10

The Widow’s Offering    Tia McNelly

Scripture: Mark 12:41-44

Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts.  But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.  Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.  They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

Observation

Jesus was not impressed with those who were giving out of their abundance in the temple that day. There was no dependence on God for their gifts; no sacrifice was made in order to contribute. Jesus identified with the widow’s sacrificial gift because His gift of salvation for all through His death on the cross was the ultimate sacrifice. In this moment, Jesus sought to point out that if we are to follow Him, we must give out of our lack. In order to do so we must first recognize our own poverty.

One of my greatest pleasures in life is hearing travelers reflect on their experiences and observations during devotional time in Kilgoris, Kenya. The most common discovery for first-timers is that “the people here have so little, yet they are so full of joy” and that “their faith is so much stronger here”. James 2:5 confirms that this is actually God’s design. He chose those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith. Through discussing this, the usual conclusion is that if the materially poor are rich in faith, conversely, the materially rich are often poor in faith.

It was a simple act of obedience for the widow to give all she had. She was well practiced in depending on God to provide for her every need. Her experiences with God’s faithfulness grew her faith and allowed her to lay down everything in obedience to His will for her. If our physical needs are met and we lack nothing materially, it can be difficult to determine how to give with the same heart as the widow. This is a true first world problem. Our material wealth can stunt our Spiritual growth in that we don’t see the need to depend on God. As we fend for ourselves, we are not aware of our own poverty.

Application

Throughout the Bible, being poor means to depend on God. Whether physical or Spiritual, this dependence is born of our recognition of the fact that we lack the resources to secure our own future and even our present wellbeing. Sometimes the very thing we need is faith to believe that He is our greatest resource.

Most of the time it’s easy for us to give out of our abundance, but how can we give out of our poverty? First we must identify our lack. Ask God to reveal your own poverty. Perhaps you are poor in health or friendship or self-control. How can you give out of your lack? Maybe your simple act of obedience is making that dreaded medical appointment and depending on God for strength to sort out your health issues. You may need to pay someone a visit to resolve tension and depend on Jesus for the grace to forgive or be forgiven. Maybe your sacrificial offering is one of sleep and time and your act of obedience it to set an alarm so that you can spend time reading the Bible each morning.

Trust the Holy Spirit to guide you and provide for you as you put everything in the Spiritual offering basket, all for his glory.

Prayer

Jesus,

Thank you for leaving your glory behind to become poor for my sake. Thank you for the ultimate sacrifice you made on my behalf. You alone are God and worthy to be praised.

Though I may be rich in possessions, I am poor in Spirit, Lord. Show me the ways in which I can give it all to you as I walk through this day. Help me identify my own lack and humbly depend on you for provision. Grow my faith as I depend on you and see that you are faithful.

Amen

Additional meditation: Listen to Kristian Stanfill’s version of Jesus Paid It All.

21 Day Challenge – Day 9

A Woman Caught in Adultery    Joel McNelly

Scripture: John 8:1-11

But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.  At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them.  The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery.  They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery.  In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”  They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.  When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”  Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.  At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.  Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”  “No one, sir,” she said.  “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Observation

I’m sure everyone has heard the term that “we are all in the same boat.” Jesus points out just how true that is in this story. Our main character has just been caught in an adulterous situation that allows a death sentence of stoning. Once the woman was found guilty, the accuser got to cast the first stone, the judge the second, and then if the person was not yet dead, everyone present would throw a barrage of softball sized stones until the accused was dead.

Like many other times, Jesus, a Jew himself, flipped Jewish tradition on its head. Knowing that he would soon be crucified for this and every other sin, Jesus launched a laser guided verbal missile into the boat.  “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” This was not so much a judgment of the laws, but of the heart. Jesus pointed out the big flaw; that we are all broken in the same way as this woman, that as the intended “Bride of Christ” we have all been unfaithful. Jesus’ heart of compassion for those that would soon cause his death was on display for all to see. Jesus was always concerned about healing the heart first.

But in case you think that he was condoning her sin or just letting her walk away, look again at the last words of Jesus. “I don’t condemn you, but don’t keep doing that!” (My paraphrase). The main point of this story is not about adultery or being judgmental, it is about the fact that Jesus took the death penalty for the things that we have done and then points out the response that he requires of us. If we end at the forgiveness of Jesus, we miss a major point of our faith- REPENTANCE.

Application

Repentance is the response of a heart that is grateful for the gift of forgiveness. Sin is a ticking bomb, ready to blow up your life, causing damage in your relationship with God and others. Repentance is literally turning your back on that sin. When you realize that there is a bomb, you don’t keep walking toward it, you run away. That is exactly what repentance is, turning your back on your sin and running away from it and toward God.

Embrace the fact that Christ took the stones intended for you, embrace the fact that he dove on the bomb for you. Embrace that the price has been paid. Now stop! Fill your heart and your mind with the goodness of God’s word, talk to Him in prayer, tell him your struggles, and ask for help in resisting temptation. He is faithful when we just ask.

Romans 8:1 says “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Believe that! Instead of seeing yourself as this miserable wreck, see yourself as forgiven and no longer condemned because Jesus himself snatched that away from you and gave you His heart

Prayer

Thank you Jesus, that you have rescued me from my brokenness. Thank you for taking the just penalty for my sin. Thank you for welcoming me into your kingdom and not condemning me. I recognize you as the only one qualified to stand in my place, as the sinless son of God, as the only one that I serve. I confess that I have sinned against you in my thoughts, in the things that I have done, and in the things that I have failed to do. I turn my back on that and run to you. Fortify me so that I can faithfully serve you, trusting that you are perfect and faithful. 

Amen.

21 Day Challenge – Day 8

Jesus Walks On Water  |  Matt Dawson

Scripture: Matthew 14:23-33

After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray.  Night fell while he was there alone.  Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves.  About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water.  When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. 

In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!”  But Jesus spoke to them at once.  “Don’t be afraid,” he said.  “Take courage. I am here!”  Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”  “Yes, come,” Jesus said.  So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus.  But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink.

“Save me, Lord!” he shouted.  Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”  When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped.  Then the disciples worshiped him. “You really are the Son of God!” they exclaimed.

Observation

Fear, then Faith, then Fear again.  This is what I see in this story.  I see a group of guys who have already seen some amazing and miraculous signs from Jesus.  They’ve been instructed to push out into the lake and some strong wind has come up.   When they see Jesus in the middle of the night – they are FEARFUL.  Then, when Peter hears that it’s Jesus, he request that Jesus put his faith to the test.  He says – “tell me to do something that I can’t do…” or “instruct me to do something that is an act of faith”.  So Jesus tells him, yes – come on out.  Peter knew this was an act of faith.  No one steps out of a boat on purpose.   But he did it – and he was walking on the water.  He was doing the impossible.

However, as soon as the wind picked back up and he saw the waves around him, he went right back to fear.  Fear of what was going to happen, fear of the reality that he shouldn’t even be able to do what he is doing.  He takes his eyes of Jesus, and puts it back on his fear.

Jesus uses this time to teach them once again about faith and trust.

Application

What if there was a way to skip steps 1 and 3 (fear) and always live in step 2 (faith).  I think there might be… but then again – I don’t want to under play the importance of fear in our lives.  I don’t think fear is something to ask God never to experience.  I think it’s natural, and I think that God uses what is natural to help us experience something supernatural.

So better question – I wonder if I can avoid step 3 – returning back to fear.  I think that is what this story is about.  The fear we start with is natural, it’s in us.  It shows up and we feel it.  However, that is when courage, trust, and faith can kick in.  This is the time to rise up and be FEARLESS even though the elements of fear are still all around us.   

It is in the TRUSTING that this FAITH we have cannot fail us if we keep our eyes on Jesus.  That is where victory lies.  Not in trying NOT to be afraid.  But to allow our natural fear to move us to a place of FEARLESS faith and trust in the one who holds our hand.  To not allow the crashing waves (that will always be around) distract us from the author and finisher of our faith.

Prayer

Jesus, we don’t like to thank you for our fear – but thank you.  We know that this fear comes is natural, but it gives us the opportunity to choose something different – something supernatural to replace it with.  It is not the removal of fear that helps us – but the overcoming of fear that moves us forward in our faith.   So thank you for the things that we fear – it is only then that we can choose something better – YOU.

Amen.