What Shall I Do? I Will Send My Son.

Luke 20

Luke 20 13

Merry Christmas!

May your day be full of sweet reminders of God’s love.  And may you pass along that love to others.

It is easy to lose sight of the whole picture of Jesus when we gather to feast and exchange presents amid the tinsel, lights, tree, and nativity scene.  A pregnant virgin, a faithful fiancé, a holy night, an angel assembly, a crew of shepherds, traveling wise men, pass the ham, and unwrap the presents.  But wait . . . why??? And then what????

It appears Jesus didn’t spend time preaching about his miraculous and incredibly true birth.  In fact, only two of the four gospels record bits and pieces of his birth story.  But here in Luke 20 Jesus taught the Parable of the Tenants.  And while it isn’t likely used in very many Christmas sermons or devotions, it actually paints a very fitting picture of why Jesus was sent – and what was “the rest of the story” – beyond the shepherds and wise men.

In this parable God plays the role of the vineyard owner.  He entrusts his vineyard (earth) to mankind as farm tenants to care for his vineyard.  The owner sends back several servants (Old Testament prophets) to the vineyard to retrieve some fruit for the owner.  Instead the selfish, greedy tenants mistreat the servants and send them back with nothing for the master.   

“Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.’ (Luke 20:13).  And so, the Son of God is given a mission for his Father: go to the vineyard to represent his Father to attain what belongs to his Father – the fruit of the vineyard.  God could have done this in so many ways.  He could have sent a violent and powerful son to use force to swiftly get the Father’s work done and repay the tenants for their selfish, greedy wickedness.  But instead the Son was given – a baby – as the Son of Man and Son of God.  And the angels rejoiced.   And the shepherds were in awe as they found things just as they had been told and then joyfully shared the news.

And the Son of God “grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” – the tenants of the vineyard. (Luke 2:52).   And the son of the vineyard owner teaches and preaches and performs miracles to display and prove the goodness and sovereignty and master plan of the vineyard owner.  But, they still don’t get it.  Forsaking the master’s plan, as well as his very son, they conspire together and the tenants kill the son.  Now, they figure, the vineyard will be theirs.  There is no longer an heir.  And so, the tenants triumph for a time and seem to have free reign of the vineyard.

But, that is not the end of the story.   In his parable Jesus now switches from past tense to future tense as he says, “What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them?  He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.”  So, too, there is a future in our Christmas story today.  And, there is a price that will be paid for all tenants who have chosen to forsake the son.  

In your celebrating today, and in your work tomorrow, in your heart and mind and actions, in your time, in your giving, in your whole living – do not forsake the son.

-Marcia Railton

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Live a Changed Life

Luke 12

Be PreparedforHis Return

In the Old Testament God set up the Jewish religious system through Moses as a way to set them apart.  By the time of Jesus the Israelites had turned away from God so many times it gets hard to count, and they had turned the law into something unrecognizable from its original intent and had given into greed, hypocrisy and selfishness.  Jesus spent much of his time on earth battling and rebuking the Pharisees who epitomized all of the flaws with the Jewish religious system of the time.  Knowing that the church will have a strong Jewish culture with these traditions and tendencies and that they will be persecuted after he is gone, Jesus gives the advice found in Luke 12.

First in Luke 12:1-3  he warns them against hypocrisy because that is the quickest way to errode the witness and testimony of the church.  Similarly for us today, if we want to reach those around us for Christ, then we have to be consistent in our actions and words.  If you are a different person on Sunday than the rest of the week, or if your friends outside of church are genuinely surprised that you are a Christian because they cannot tell by your actions, then you need to evaluate your heart.

 

Then in Luke 12:4-12 he warns them to fear God more than the world and the government and people who are persecuting them.  We are also given a promise that when we boldly stand up for Jesus despite the physical consequences he will stand up for us before God.  As believers in Jesus we cannot stand idly on the sidelines.  Now that we have the knowledge of our sin, and the fact that Jesus died for our sins and requires us to live a life set apart we have to make a choice and stand up for it every day.

 

In Luke 12:13-34 Jesus warns his disciples against greed, and being bad stewards of the things that God has given us.  Of those who are given much, much will be required.  This is true for riches as well and talents and abilities.  If we knowingly put ourselves before the Kingdom and spend all our time and talents on ourselves and buying worldly items and position and popularity then we will be held accountable for those actions.  If we are living a truly changed life for the gospel then we should be using our money and talents to further the gospel in any way we can.  If we put God first in this then he will take care of our physical needs as well.

 

Finally in the rest of the chapter he tells them to be watchful for his return, and to not grow complacent.  The entire Old Testament led up to the ministry of Jesus and everybody in Israel knew the scriptures and should have known that Jesus was the Messiah, but they did not interpret the events correctly, and their hearts were not ready.  Similarly we have been given a promise of the return of Jesus in the future and need to be always ready for his return.  We cannot grow complacent in our Christianity.  We cannot let sin creep back into our lives and we cannot allow our passion and fire for the gospel to dwindle.   We should also be familiar with the prophecies of his return so that when they start to be fulfilled we can be prepared for his return.  We do not want to miss out like many of the Israelites of Jesus’ time did.

-Chris Mattison

The Lord’s Prayer

Luke 11

Luke 11 2

In Luke 11 the disciples ask Jesus how to pray and he gives them the Lord’s prayer, which you probably heard before.

 

1 One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”

2 He said to them, “When you pray, say: “‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. 3 Give us each day our daily bread. 4 Forgive us our sins,   for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.’”

There are several parts of this prayer that are important and that I think we sometimes miss.  First he praises God and asks for the kingdom to come.  I think it is important to start our prayers by focusing on God, because he deserves the respect and it helps to remind us that he is more important and greater than our problems.  Then it is important to remind ourselves that we are sinners in need of forgiveness and that we need to forgive others as well.  Also, when praying for ourselves we need to keep it simple, by only asking for the basics of our physical needs and for God to guide us spiritually.

Then later he goes on.

9 “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. 10 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

 

God is very good at giving gifts, and he is not looking to hide himself from us.  If you need something then ask for it.  If you need more wisdom or patience to deal with an issue in your life, then ask God for it, and keep on asking God for it. Just make sure to check your motives as it says in James 4:3.  If you are asking for your own selfish reasons then you may need to rethink your request.  But if you are asking for something for the reason of helping to further the kingdom and the gospel then God is excited to give to his children.

-Chris Mattison

Saved – by Your Faith

Luke 7

Luke 7_50

In Luke 7:1-10 we find the story of the centurion’s servant.  The centurion was a conqueror and a foreigner, but despite this we find that he is a God fearing man who supports the Jews by building a synagogue for them.  He has a servant who is dying so he sends messengers to Jesus to have Jesus heal the servant. He shows great humility and faith in Jesus through his actions and the servant is healed because of his great faith. Faith unequalled in all of Israel according to Jesus.

 

I think there are a couple of important lessons in this.

First, maybe you are like the centurion, maybe you didn’t grow up in the church and are a new believer, and maybe you are looking at Christianity from the outside and wondering if you can even be a part of this community.  Of course you can! Salvation and God’s work in the world is based on faith, not upbringing or culture or works. So don’t worry about your past, because God can work powerfully in your life no matter what is in your past!

Second, maybe you are like the Israelites in this story, you grew up in church or have been a Christian for a while and are maturing in your walk with God. I think for you this story has an encouragement and a warning. I encourage you to be like the Jewish people that the centurion sent to Jesus that were able to see past the fact that the centurion was a foreigner and conqueror and see the faith he had and to then recommend that Jesus help him. We should always be ready to welcome new believers based on their faith, and not judging them the way the world might judge them.

 I also warn you to not be complacent or lukewarm like much of the Jewish community was when Jesus was with them. Jesus said that this centurion had more faith than any other in Israel. Many in Israel missed out on being healed and having their sins forgiven in Israel because they were out of tune with God and were not able to see when he was moving. I encourage you to be disciplined in your prayer life and in reading the scriptures so that your relationship with God will not grow stale.

 

I encourage you to read the rest of Luke 7, and especially verses 36-50, and to ask yourself a couple of questions.

Do I show my gratitude for Jesus’s sacrifice for my sins like the Pharisee or like the woman?

When I give God my time or money or talents do I give my best or do I give the leftovers?

-Chris Mattison

Allow Me to Introduce You to Luke…

Luke 1_4

 

 “I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus,  so that you may know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed.”    Luke 1:3-4

If you have grown up in the church like myself, you were probably taught basic theology at a young age. I sang the songs, made the crafts, remembered my memory verses, and before I realized it, I had formed beliefs. Everything seemed so simple.

As we grow older, everything becomes complicated. We look at all the denominations around us, with many differing perspectives, and that child-like belief starts to become muddled by all of the confusion. This is the point where we ask ourselves, “What do I really believe?”

This is why I love Luke. His in-depth account of the Lord Jesus Christ from his birth through his resurrection not only gives us insight into the Son of God in an intimate way, it gives us backing to the beliefs that we hold dear.

Regardless of any creed, doctrine, or ideal, I know, without a doubt, that I can sit down and read Luke’s account of the story of Jesus and know that it is true. That validity is such a faith builder and invigorates me to dive deeper into the gospel.

This week, we are going back to our roots. Let’s start from the beginning together shall we? Because, sometimes, in order to jump forward, we have to get back to the basics.

 

-Leslie Jones

Entitled

David

man after my own heart

Acts 13:22, 2 Sam 11:1-17, 2 Samuel 12:7-14

If you grew up in church your Sunday school classes were probably full of the stories of David’s triumphs. He was the shepherd boy who killed lions, bears, Goliath and eventually became King. His triumphs were nothing short of amazing. David was even called a “Man after God’s own heart” in Acts 13:22. Yet just like the other characters we have discussed, David was flawed.

In arguably the most famous story of his flaws David ultimately caused catastrophe to befall his entire Kingdom. First off, in 2 Samuel 11:1 it says that David stayed home in his cozy palace instead of going off to war as he was supposed to. Next, since he wasn’t where he was supposed to be he saw a beautiful woman named Bathsheba bathing on her roof. Even though she was married to a man who was serving in David’s army David decided to send messengers to bring her to him. We find out in verse 5 that she became pregnant.

In an attempt to cover up what he had done David asks for Bathsheba’s husband Uriah to come home from battle but Uriah is honorable and refuses to sleep in the comfort of his home knowing the other men in his army are not able to do the same. Frustrated David sends a note with Uriah as he goes back to the battle front. The note carries Uriah’s death sentence as it commands the commander of the army to send Uriah to the front line of the fiercest battle. With Uriah out of the way David takes Bathsheba to be his wife and she gave birth to a son who later died because of David’s sin. Not only that but David was later driven out of his own Kingdom because of the sin he committed. Everyone suffered because of the flaw that David allowed himself to be entitled to do as he pleased.

David suffered for his actions and repented for it. Despite his flaws through grace God used David to establish the throne of Israel even making Jesus a decedent of David. No matter what you have done God sees your potential and can use you in amazing ways.

-Lacey Dunn

Hupernikao!

Friday –

Romans 8-37

Confession time.  I hate running more than almost anything in the world. (Excel spreadsheets are also on that list)  That didn’t stop me, however, from trying to do a ‘couch to 5k’ running program a few years ago.  To motivate myself, I’d listen to inspiring music.

One afternoon, as I was trudging along, Mandisa’s song “Overcomer” came on.

As she sang to me, “You’re an overcomer!” I’d argue back, “No, Mandisa, I’m not.  I’m a quitter. A big quitting quitter.”

So I get feeling like giving up!  But here’s the thing, God doesn’t accept our lame excuses.  He keeps reminding us that we are indeed overcomers.

We read Romans 8:28 yesterday that said,

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

That verse comes in the middle of a passage about hardships and weakness and yet somehow strength and victory.  In all of the crap that we struggle with, there’s an amazing truth to take hold of today, found in verse 37.  Let’s look at a couple of different translations.

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (NIV)

But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. (NASB)

No, in all these things we are more than victorious through Him who loved us.  (HCB)

There is a word in Greek that means “to win, to be victorious”.  That word is “nikao”. That is NOT the word that Paul chose to use in this passage.

The word he chose to use is “hupernikao”.  Hupernikao means “to vanquish beyond recognition, to conquer exceedingly, a decisive victory.”

Do you want to stand up and cheer a little at that definition?  Just me?

With God, you are able to vanquish beyond recognition anything that stands in your way!

You are able to claim a decisive victory over sin in your life (not a just-squeaked-by victory).  A decisive victory.

What would that kind of overcoming look like in your life today?  I’m praying for you to agree with God on a little hupernikao in your life.  No quitters here.

Sneak Peek at tomorrow’s devotion:  As we start to see who we are in God’s eyes, it enables us to live boldly.

-Susan Landry