Sooner than Expected

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Reading the Word

Matthew 24:45–51 (ESV)

45 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? 46 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 47 Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. 48 But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ 49 and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, 50 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know 51 and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Matthew 24-25 make up what is commonly referred to as the Olivet Discourse. In these chapters, Jesus gives us his most lengthy teaching on the end times. In the verses we have looked at so far, Jesus has emphasized that the timing of the end is to remain unknown to us, but we must be ready at all times by living holy lives and preaching the gospel to the world.

In today’s reading, Jesus changes his teaching method. He begins using parables to teach his disciples. Today’s parable is about a servant who is left in charge of his master’s household while the master goes away. While the master is away, the servant is unfaithful in his duties and even beats the other servants because he thinks that the master is going to be gone a long time. However, the master returned sooner than expected and saw what the wicked servant was doing. The servant was cut “in pieces and put with the hypocrites.”

This parable reinforces what Jesus has been teaching all along. We do not know the timing of our Lord’s return and we must be ready for him to come at any moment. He may come sooner than we expect. Will he find us being faithful to our task or will he find us unfaithful like the wicked servant? The one who truly belongs to Christ will remain faithful to his Master, while the unfaithful will be judged. We must not wait until later to serve the Lord. Later may never come.

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Only What Was Our Duty

Due to the Independence Day holiday and spending time with my family, I am only posting a suggested Scripture reading today. There is no devotional content. Thanks for reading. Have a great holiday if you are in the U.S.A. If you have not already done so, please be sure to subscribe to this page so you can follow along every day.

Reading the Word

Luke 17:7–10 (ESV)

7 “Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? 8 Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? 9 Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? 10 So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’ ”

Living Without Fear

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Reading the Word

Luke 13:31–33 (ESV)

31 At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” 32 And he said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course. 33 Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.’

Understanding and Applying the Word

It is interesting that some Pharisees went to Jesus to warn him about Herod. The Pharisees did not like Jesus. Were they genuinely warning Jesus? Were they simply trying to scare Jesus away?

Jesus was not concerned with the news the Pharisees brought. He was not afraid of Herod. By calling Herod a “fox”, Jesus communicated that he felt Herod was insignificant and without honor. Instead of running away in fear, Jesus intended to continue doing what the Father intended for him. He would finish his course.

Jesus was sold out to do the will of the Father regardless of the opposition. No earthly ruler or power could prevent that. He did not fear others and neither should we. We too must be willing to live fully for our Lord knowing that he is the one truly in power and control. We have no reason to fear those who are opposed to Christ. Our God reigns!

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Living Without Fear

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Reading the Word

Luke 12:4–7 (ESV)

4 “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. 5 But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! 6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. 7 Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Fear can be paralyzing. I have experienced it myself. When I was young and had the chance to ride a roller coaster for the first time it took me several times waiting in line and backing out before I finally was able to work up the courage. Thankfully, my older sister was patient enough to keep going through the line with me each time. I have also seen it in my children in different circumstances. When they are afraid, it is almost impossible to get them to continue the task at hand.

Jesus knew that fear would be a factor in his disciples’ lives. They would be afraid because of the external pressures and consequences of living for him in a world hostile to Jesus. Aware of this, Jesus tells his disciples that the only proper fear is fear of the Lord. God is the final judge and will decide the eternal fate of every person. The world may pressure, persecute, and even kill us, but that is all it can do. Only God has the authority over eternity. And as we live our lives in fear of the Lord, we need not fear the future. God cares for the sparrows and we are of much more value than the sparrows.

What is keeping you from living all out for the Lord? What keeps you from sharing the gospel with others? Is it fear? We only need to fear the Lord and live in obedience to him. When we do that, there is nothing to be afraid of.

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Family Ties

Luke 1128 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Luke 11:27–28 (ESV)

27 As he said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” 28 But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”

Understanding and Applying the Word

A woman commented that Jesus’ mother was surely blessed because she had Jesus as a son. We must be careful not to misunderstand what this woman was saying. Of course, children are a blessing to their parents. Mary was blessed in that way. However, the woman meant something more. In Jesus’ day, there was a great emphasis placed on family lineage and women found a great deal of value in the sons that they bore. For Mary to have a son like Jesus, she was surely blessed!

Jesus’ response was that biological connections are not what is important. The one who hears the word of God and does it is the one who is truly blessed. Our relationship with God does not come through our family tree, it comes from each individual’s response to the word of God. We must not think that our relationship with God is based on anything our parents, grandparents, or children have done. Each and every one of us must decide what we will do with the word of God that tells us of our sin and the salvation that is available through Jesus Christ. Those who are blessed will hear the word, repent of their sins, and trust in Jesus Christ.

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Who Is Your Father?

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Reading the Word

John 8:39–47 (ESV)

39 They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, 40 but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. 41 You are doing the works your father did.” They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.” 42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. 43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. 46 Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? 47 Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus told his opponents that they were not children of Abraham. As Jews, the people did not know why Jesus would say such a thing. After all, they were biological descendants of Abraham. However, Jesus meant that they were not the spiritual children of Abraham because Abraham received the word of God and obeyed it, unlike those who did not believe Jesus and wanted him dead. Instead, Jesus proclaimed, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires.” The people’s unbelief and opposition to Jesus showed that they did not belong to God, but instead they belonged to the devil.

Those who belong to God are evident because they seek to hear his voice through his word and they desire to obey. Those who have no desire for the word of God and live their lives in disobedience prove that they do not truly belong to him. The word of God tells us that Jesus came into the world to save us from our sin and that we need to trust in him for eternal life. There is no other way of salvation. Have you trusted in Christ? Are you living according to the world of God? Who is your father?

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The Truth Will Set You Free

John 832 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

John 8:31–38 (ESV)

31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”

34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. 38 I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

After addressing his opponents in the previous verses, Jesus turned to speak to those who had believed him. He urged them to continue in his teaching. Surprisingly, Jesus went on to say that some of these “believers” were not actually followers at all. He said to them, “My words find no place in you,” and “I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.”

Many people may initially have a positive response to Jesus. Yet, it is also true that many will later fall away. To truly follow the Lord is costly (cf. Luke 14:25-35). There are many who only want Jesus as long as he is of benefit to them. Can he make me healthy, wealthy, and happy? As soon as the going gets difficult due to suffering as a follower of Christ or Jesus’ teachings interfere with our desires, superficial belief ends. It is only the true believer who has been born again through the word of truth and Spirit of God who is able to abide in the teachings of Jesus and find that they give true freedom and joy.

Are you abiding in the teaching of Jesus?

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I Never Knew You

1 John 26 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Matthew 7:21–23 (ESV)

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

Understanding and Applying the Word

Many claim to follow the Lord, but many are only counterfeits. They may say all of the right things, even calling Jesus “Lord”, as he is. They may even do many good things. However, the true disciple not only says the right things and performs certain works, but is obedient to the will of the Father. The true disciple has a changed life that is centered on living for God, not self.

This passage serves as a warning for those who would fool themselves into thinking that they can say the right things and even do certain religious works (e.g. go to church, give lots of money, teach Sunday school, serve as a deacon, etc.) to be counted among God’s people. It is possible to do all of that and still not really know the Lord. Jesus tells us in John 15:15, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” In Luke 6:46 he says, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and not do what I tell you?” And we read the following in 1 John:

And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.(1 John 2:3–6, ESV)

Are you living your life for the Lord? Do you truly know him?

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Make Your Face Shine upon Me

Psalm 119135 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Psalm 119:129–136 (ESV)

129 Your testimonies are wonderful; therefore my soul keeps them. 130 The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple. 131 I open my mouth and pant, because I long for your commandments. 132 Turn to me and be gracious to me, as is your way with those who love your name. 133 Keep steady my steps according to your promise, and let no iniquity get dominion over me. 134 Redeem me from man’s oppression, that I may keep your precepts. 135 Make your face shine upon your servant, and teach me your statutes. 136 My eyes shed streams of tears, because people do not keep your law.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Why do we keep God’s word? According to Psalm 119, God’s “testimonies are wonderful.” It is in our best interest to live according to the teachings of Scripture. Through it, we are made wise and we show our love for the Lord.

When we understand who God is, we love him. When we know of his goodness and his grace and his unfailing love for us, we grow in our desire to show our love for him. We do this by living for him. We read and study the word of God so that we can grow in knowledge of who God is, what he has done, and what he desires of us. Let us seek to show our love for him through the keeping of his word. And let us call on him to continue to teach us through his word.

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You Have Made Me

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Reading the Word

Psalm 119:73–80 (ESV)

73 Your hands have made and fashioned me; give me understanding that I may learn your commandments. 74 Those who fear you shall see me and rejoice, because I have hoped in your word. 75 I know, O Lord, that your rules are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me. 76 Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant. 77 Let your mercy come to me, that I may live; for your law is my delight. 78 Let the insolent be put to shame, because they have wronged me with falsehood; as for me, I will meditate on your precepts. 79 Let those who fear you turn to me, that they may know your testimonies. 80 May my heart be blameless in your statutes, that I may not be put to shame!

Understanding and Applying the Word

When you use a product, how do you learn to use it to its full potential? You read the manual. The manual is written by the designers of the product and it makes sense that they would know best how to use it.

God has made and fashioned us (cf. verse 73). Therefore, we should pay careful attention to his word to us that tells us how to live. This is why the psalmist desires understanding of God’s word. He wants to put it into practice because it is what is best. And when we live according to God’s word, we become a witness to the world of God’s greatness (verse 74).

Do you want to live a full and meaningful life? You will not find it by chasing after the world’s ideas. You will only find it by living according to God’s word. This is what Jesus meant in Matthew 16:24-25:

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Are you ready to follow the instructions of the One who formed and fashioned you? Commit yourself to reading his word and ask him to teach you his ways. There is nothing more satisfying.

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