The Ultimate Leap – Matthew 6: 24-34

In Quantam Leap, Dr. Sam Bekett was a quantum physicist. He had a scientific experiment go bad and in result became trapped in “quantum leap” traveling from various time frames throughout history.  He was morphed into all body types and had to fix the situation to try to get back home.  He visited the Wild West, became a high school basketball star and even was even a prisoner seated in an electric chair.  Each episode had forms of humor, drama and suspense with Sam hoping each “morphing” would bring him back home.

We know that our forever home will be in God’s Kingdom.  We wish and pray for the Lord’s return.  Unlike Sam in this story, we will be victorious in finally seeing our Heavenly Father.  It is ours.  All we have to do is commit, follow, have faith, lead and serve.  Pray today to follow God’s will to be done in your lives.  Pray for his coming Kingdom. The ultimate leap is coming: rejoice and prepare for that day!

~ Emily Moyer

 

Advertisements

The End of the Christmas Story

nativity

What is the end of the Christmas Story?

Perhaps when Mary was treasuring these things in her heart and the shepherds were  returning and praising God? (Luke 2:19,20)

Or maybe when the magi were worshiping and presenting their treasures? (Matthew 2:11)

Too often, that is where we stop celebrating in December.  A sweet baby (the Son of God) is born in humble surroundings and certain segments of the population respond with fitting praise and wonder.  The end.  But, as we have seen in our devotions this week, that is far from the end of the story.  I have enjoyed reading through Luke especially at this time of year to see once again what we are REALLY celebrating.

Jesus came as a baby – and what a great opening act that was (you, know the opening act that followed thousands of years of God setting the stage)!!  And 30 years later all sorts of people (fishermen, tax-collectors, sinners, chief priests, foreigners, the sick and diseased, teachers of the law, governors and kings and politicians, rich and poor, Jew and Gentile, men, women and children)  all prepare to meet this traveling preacher, teacher, healer, miracle maker, story-teller, leader, servant.  His favorite topic is always the good news of the kingdom of God (Luke 8:1).  Through his teaching, his parables, and his miracles, the world sees a clearer picture of God than they have ever seen before.  The son truly has his Father’s resemblance.

And, he also is committed to doing his Father’s will – even when that means death on the cross, crucified as a criminal, to take away the sins of the world.  His followers are crushed as they were sure this Jesus was going to set up the Kingdom on earth and begin his reign right then.  How could they have been so wrong?

Thankfully, that is still not the end.  Three days later…the tomb is empty!  Joy to the World!!  Jesus appears to his disciples and uses Scripture to explain to them again how the Old Testament foretold what must take place.

44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”  45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.   Luke 24:22-28

A way was needed for both Jews and Gentiles to be washed clean before they could be full citizens of God’s Kingdom.  And Jesus’ death made the way.  And his resurrection gives the hope for a future resurrection.  For there is one more key element that must take place before Jesus will begin his reign over all the world and the Kingdom of God will fully begin.  This is hinted above in Luke 24:47 and spelled out in Matthew 24:14 “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

There have been many godly men and women who have died while preaching the gospel – but still the good news has not reached all people in all nations.  The Church of God mourned the death of a very special and faithful pastor, Rex Cain, just this week.  But the mourning was not without hope because the Christmas story isn’t over yet.

In the final verses of Luke (24:51), Jesus ascends into heaven.  When the same event is recorded in the book of Acts (Luke’s sequel) the disciples are told, “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11).  The best is yet to come!

The end of the Christmas story is a new beginning.  A beginning that is still to come.  When Jesus breaks through the clouds at his Second Coming this will be the start of his reign on Earth over all who have been faithful.  The dead in Christ will rise and we will see Jesus coming – not as a babe but as a triumphant warrior and king.  A new heaven and a new earth will worship him and his Father.

I pray I will be found ready.  And I pray you will be found ready.  Let’s get to work and tell the nations!

“Come, Lord Jesus!”(Revelation 22:20 b)

-Marcia Railton

 

Who is the Son of God?

 

Luke 22

luke 22_46

Yesterday, in Luke 21 Jesus was warning the disciples (and those who would follow) of persecution while encouraging them to stand up under it.  And today, in Luke 22 Jesus himself is cast into a fierce storm of persecution.  He will now be showing – not just telling – the disciples, his contemporaries, and all those who would come after him how to stand up under persecution.

But first, a private dinner with his closest disciples to commemorate the Passover – when God saved his people from slavery by the blood of the lamb.  And very soon a new lamb would be sacrificed to save God’s people from slavery to sin.  Jesus tells his disciples that he will not eat the Passover meal, or drink of the cup again, until the Kingdom of God comes.  Communion services are a great reminder of this promise.  At the dinner, he uses the opportunity to remind them once again the secret to great leadership – be a servant.  Stop fighting over who is best…just serve.

I love how even though Jesus knew ahead of time that Peter would fail him, he had still prayed that Peter’s faith would not fail.  And even though Satan would have the opportunity to “sift all of you as wheat,”  Jesus saw a future for Peter in which Peter would be using those painful experiences to help strengthen his brothers.
And then, in the garden while Jesus is pouring his heart out in prayer – his disciples are sleeping.  I wonder how many times he would prod me and say, “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”  How much better would Peter – or I – stand Satan’s arrows if he – or I – were fully filled up with prayer rather than whatever feels good or most urgent at the moment?

Enter, Judas – and the chief priests and the guards and the great betrayal!  And even in the midst of the hurt and personal persecution – Jesus gives healing as he restores the servant’s ear.

Early the next morning, Jesus is brought before the chief priests and elders and is questioned about who he is. Is he the Messiah?

Jesus answered, “If I tell you, you will not believe me, 68 and if I asked you, you would not answer. 69 But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.”

70 They all asked, “Are you then the Son of God?”

He replied, “You say that I am.”

They didn’t expect the Son of God to have appeared as a baby in a manger.  They didn’t expect the Son of God to have a rag-tag group of followers in the countryside.  They didn’t expect the Son of God to be persecuted at their own hands.  Beware of what you expect from the Son of God.  Keep reading the gospels – and all of God’s Word to see who God really is, and who the Son of God is!

-Marcia Railton

 

 

Jesus is Coming! Jesus is Coming!

Luke 19

luke 19 38

Jesus is Coming!  What preparations do we need to make before Jesus comes?  Climb a tree to get a good vantage point?  Put his money to work?  Spread your cloak on the road?  These were all mentioned in Luke 19 as ways people prepared for Jesus’ coming.

The wealthy, though short, tax collector Zacchaeus was curious about this Jesus who was coming into town.  Not wanting to miss out he climbed a tree to make sure he could see Jesus.

In the Parable of the Ten Minas, during the master’s absence most of the servants took what had been entrusted to them (a mina – about three months wages) and put it to work to earn more – and were rewarded for their work.

When the crowd heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem they gathered to pay him honor as they spread their cloaks in the road in front of the colt carrying Jesus.  And with loud voices they joyfully praised God for the miracles they had witnessed Jesus perform: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!  Peace in heaven and glory in the highest”. (Luke 19:38)

This greeting reminds me of the words spoken by the great company of the heavenly host about 33 years earlier when the angels were telling the shepherds of the birth of Christ.  “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14).

No doubt, today, Christmas Eve, many many preparations will be made – supposedly in preparation to celebrate the birth of a King.  In the midst of our busyness how will we actually prepare for Jesus?   What will we do and say and give and pray TODAY to celebrate his FIRST Coming in a way that will honor him?  Perhaps there will be some things that we decide we will NOT do, in order to better celebrate Jesus’ coming.

And, EVERY day – how will we prepare for his SECOND coming?

Will we take the time and effort to seek out Jesus as Zacchaeus did?  Will we joyfully accept his invitation to meet together and then find ourselves changed – repentant and obedient – because of the time we spend in his presence?

Will we take the talents, time, possessions and minas/money  we have been given and diligently be trustworthy in using them to prepare for the coming return of our Savior – spreading the word, growing the church, and caring for the lost?  Or will we be like the scared servant who just hid away the treasure that he was responsible for – and even what he had was taken from him?

Will we work at honoring Jesus, the Son of God who is indeed coming to be crowned king in a kingdom like no other.   Will we give of ourselves, not afraid to get our clothes a little dirty, not ashamed to speak boldly, not persuaded to keep quiet by the Pharisees in our midst?  For if we don’t speak – even the stones will tell of his greatness (Luke 19:40).

I pray we celebrate his first coming well while we wisely and diligently prepare for his even greater second coming!

Jesus is Coming!

Marcia Railton

 

 

It All Comes Back to His Kingdom

Jesus & Cross

In case you have missed part of this week’s study, here is a quick summary of each of our daily devotions this week:

Sunday –  Luke 13 – The Kingdom of God is Like – Like a virus, a mustard seed, or yeast is the Kingdom of God.  The smallest amount can cause a giant reaction in your life.  You are called to be contagious; constantly build and spread the hope you have in Christ.

Monday –  Luke 14 – Counting the Cost – We are to take account of all we hold valuable.  We may be asked to trade those things in to live within the will of God as we seek his Kingdom.  Entry may cost us everything, but it is a meager price to pay by comparison.

Tuesday – Luke 15 – The Parable of the Lost Ring – God will not stop searching for those who want to be found.  He desires that all men are saved, having a home awaiting in His Kingdom.  The whole of heaven rejoices when the lost sheep are restored to their shepherd.

Wednesday – Luke 16 – The Master and Manager – God is the master of all wealth.  He wants us to be faithful in small ways before we are given more responsibility.  When we acknowledge that we are mere managers, we look at our fortunes differently, as the master’s talents to do his bidding.

Thursday – Luke 17 – One Thank You – Like the lepers, we have been restored; we now can enter the eternal city, The Kingdom of God.  We need to acknowledge God’s restoration through Jesus Christ; no longer are we outcast.  A deliberate and thoughtful thank you is a life that turns to Him.

Friday – Luke 18 – The Power of Persistence –  We should not give up our hope that our Father is listening to our appeal.  Perseverance is the outcome of faith.  Stay the course.  Appeal to the Lord.  He will turn His ear and answer you.

As we have taken a closer look at the six chapters of Luke, we see that it all comes back to the Kingdom of God.  Parables, teaching, healing, reproach – They all point towards the eternal hope that all men can have when they accept Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior of their life.  Jesus does not dilute the truth of the price of admission.  He says we must be faithful with what we are given; it could cost us everything. Consequently, the reward isn’t necessarily immediately.   The crown of life is not for those who casually follow commands, or openly do good works to receive their inheritance in this present age.  The Kingdom of God is for those who become infected with His love, truth, and message and spread His hope at all cost.  Each of these teachings have been immeasurably challenging and equally thought-provoking.

It has been a great opportunity to write for you this week.  I hope my narratives and notions have resonated in some way to the circumstances and challenges presented in your own life.  I pray you have found connection, truth, and hope in these handful of chapters for the Good News of Luke because these works speak the greatest of truths.  Continue to read, grow your faith, and pray for His Kingdom to come soon.

~With love, your brother in Christ,

Aaron Winner

The Master and Manager

Luke 16

Luke 16 13

God and money?  Can a Christian have both? No. Yes. No? Yes? Hmm.

I am to sell all my worldly possession (Luke 18:22), but I am responsible for making sure the physical needs of widows and orphans are met (James 1:27).  It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle enter the Kingdom of God (Matt 19:24), but God richly blesses men with wealth who follow him (Prov. 10:22).  I am to store up my treasure in heaven (Matt 6:19), but I am told the wise man saves his riches for a rainy day (1 Cor. 16:12. Prov. 21:20).  On the surface of this topic, it would seem we have contradiction, but thankfully today’s reading might help us come to a clearer conclusion when we consider two powerful, but unequal masters: God and money.

In Luke 16 we are presented with a peculiar parable that shows the strength of the almighty dollar.  As the story opens, we are introduced to a dishonest manager who is in charge of accounting (a running theme) of debts for his master. He learns that his master soon will dismiss him, so as each debtor approaches the manager with their contracted commitment, he forgives a portion of their debt.  Being shrewd, he knows he will be the receiver of their thanks, although it was neither his debt to forgive nor his portion to take.  Jesus makes no misgiving that he was speaking specific directly to the Pharisees, who were fundamentally dealing in the same way.  These “managers” of God put literal prices on forgiveness and offerings, ensuring their comfort, but cheating God of glory, praise, adoration, honor, or extending grace himself.  They, like the shrewd manager, traded their merciful Master for passing provision.

In Dale Carnegie’s famous work, How to Win Friends and Influence People, he states “It isn’t what you have or who you are or where you are or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about it.” This is a challenging thought that calls us to contentment, but also in context of this specific parable, helps us increase our focus.  Are you the master or the manager of your wealth? time? health? will? Are they yours to divide, take, or utilize as you please? Who receives honor, praise, and recognition when you offer these things freely to others?  Sometimes we are as shrewd as the Pharisees, thinking a possession, a place, or a position is the source of a joyful life.  They make us feel momentarily like the master, but really, they take us away from our true purpose.

Jesus concludes this parable by saying if we cannot be trusted with the small things, why would God ever give us the BIG things. If we cannot rely upon him for our own daily bread why would he ever ensure we are the steward for the needs of others?  If we are faithful to Him, we are entrusted with more of His bidding, not in direct correlation, but determined by the master (See: “Parable of the Talents”).  Yes, this can include money.  Yes, this can include more time on earth.  BUT GLORY, HALLELUJAH, YES, he is talking about the KINGDOM.

So, can you have God and money? Yes. Can you serve two masters? No.  Will God give you more if you are faithful? Yes.  Is it money? Not necessarily, but IT IS the Master’s wealth beyond measure for His faithful managers.

-Aaron Winner

The Parable of the Lost Ring

Luke 15

Luke 15_10

It was the beginning of a Louisiana winter when I lost my wedding ring just a couple years into my marriage.  It was a beautiful white gold ring with an inscription of our anniversary on the inside of the band.  It was a perfect reminder of my covenant in every way; however, its faults were it was a little loose when my hands were cold, and of course, it had me for an owner.  My friends and I were readying to play a football game on a Sunday afternoon and I was warming up by tossing the ball with a friend.  In a bit of foreshadowing for the events of the day, my ring slipped off as I caught the ball.  I picked it up off the ground, remarked how cold it was that afternoon, thought about placing my ring inside my pocket but thought it might fall out if it was there.  I put the ring back on my finger, only to lose it at some point in the next couple of hours of our pick-up game.

As we finished playing, my heart immediately sank when I realized it was gone.  I felt a cold sweat build on my forehead, my gut churned, and I held back tears, disappointed that I had lost something so precious.  My friends helped me look for almost an hour without success.  In the muddy, mushy, marshy Louisiana ground, I could see the imprints of our shoes and feet, I could see heaps of crawdad holes, but none of us saw the silvery reflection of my ring buried within the mire and muck.

In Luke Chapter 15, Jesus tells a series of three parables with a similar subject of a possession that has gone missing. In “The Parable of the Lost Sheep”, the master realizes that one of his flock is missing, and leaves behind 99 others to search for the lost one.  In the “Parable of the Lost Coin”, a woman takes account (to tie to our theme from yesterday) to realize she has misplaced a day’s earnings and does the equivalent of turning up couch cushion, investigating under the bed, and sweeping every nook and cranny to uncover it.  In “The Parable of the Lost Son” a father turns his son loose with an inheritance, but is actively looking for his return.  In addition to the same topic, each story ends in a similar resolution: what has been lost has become found and there is great rejoicing.

For me, there are two great takeaways as I ponder the collective meaning of these parables.  The first: to be lost, you have already belonged.  It is true that we each must find the Master in order to be saved, but He is the one who never stops searching.  Our Lord desires that not even a single sheep goes astray and is left without the safety of the shepherd (2 Peter 3:9).  Additionally, my thoughts turn to the Book of Life.  In Revelation 3, we are presented an image that our names are not written into the Book at the transition from “lost” to “saved”, but have already received a place there and are blotted out at the end of a life that is not found in Christ.  We are always His, but like the lost son, we make the decision to be found.

The second takeaway is the wonderful rejoicing that occurs when we turn our lives over and are indeed found.  There is a literal fiesta in the firmament to celebrate our Savior’s joy that we are alive again. No longer do we share the fleeting moments of a mortal life with our Father, but have the hope of an eternity of His presence, living with Him in His kingdom, our intended inheritance instead of passing pleasures. We, too, should echo the heavens and revel in each return.

Unfortunately, the resolution to my own parable of the ring isn’t as joyous as our Jesus’.  I searched for the ring for weeks, beseeched friends I know with metal detectors, offered rewards, but none of these measures ensured the retrieval of my wedding band.  I resigned my search, and my ring is forever lost in the loose Louisiana earth.  Maybe, as I like to imagine, it is the crowning jewel at the bottom at some crawdad family’s hole. With this being said, I can’t help but be thankful that my God has called me his treasure and that he never stops searching for me.  He finds me in my wandering, revealing and moving His will and His way through His words, waiting for my silhouette to again darken the horizon when I have gone astray – a Father who never fails finding those who desire to be found in Him.

-Aaron Winner