Devotional Reading for May 7, 2022

John 3:1-21

The NET Bible makes a deliberate choice in 3:3 to make us aware of a possible Greek translation. The phrase so often translated as “born again” can also be translated “born from above.” Nicodemus obviously understands it one way, and Jesus accommodates his understanding, but also tries to get Nicodemus to think more spiritually. To be born again is to be born from above, born of the Spirit. And to be born of the Spirit means to believe in Jesus Christ. He is the only way to have eternal life. And if you believe in Him you will change, because you are no longer in darkness: you are in the light!

There are various opinions as to when Jesus stops speaking in this passage. Is it after verse 12? Is it after verse 15 (as it is in the NET Bible)? Of is it later in the passage? It’s an interesting question because He may be revealing Himself as the Son of Man and giving Nicodemus some important information. I believe that Jesus probably stops speaking after verse 12, and that John is one revealing the spiritual truth of how to be born from above to his readers. And that truth was actually foretold in the Old Testament:

Numbers 21:4-9 “Then they traveled from Mount Hor by the road to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom, but the people became impatient along the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses, ‘Why have you brought us up from Egypt to die in the wilderness, for there is no bread or water, and we detest this worthless food.’ So the LORD sent venomous snakes among the people, and they bit the people; many people of Israel died. Then the people came to Moses and said, ‘We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you. Pray to the LORD that he would take away the snakes from us.’ So Moses prayed for the people. The LORD said to Moses, ‘Make a poisonous snake and set it on a pole. When anyone who is bitten looks at it, he will live.’ So Moses made a bronze snake and put it on a pole, so that if a snake had bitten someone, when he looked at the bronze snake he lived.”

Either way, it’s quite an expose of Nicodemus’ lack of spiritual insight!

For worship: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7k_2DEjcojA

Devotional Reading for May 6, 2022

John 2

The wedding at Cana records Jesus’ first miracle in the gospel of John (1-11). Did you notice that Jesus’ mom expects Him to help, even after His seeming rebuke of her? What an insight into human relationships! Jesus’ comment to Mary is easily explained because He isn’t trying to be noticed at this point. He does a miracle, albeit quietly. The head steward attests to the quality of the miracle that Jesus did!

The cleansing of the temple is one of two recorded in the gospels (12-22). Some believe that John moved the cleansing from the end of Jesus’ ministry to the beginning for a theological purpose. I believe that there are enough differences recorded that there were probably two. One at the beginning that marks the start of religious persecution, and one at the end that forces the religious leaderships hand. He seemingly wants the outer court of the temple to be more worshipful since non-Jews are allowed there, and He certainly doesn’t want people being taken advantage of when they purchase animals or exchange money. That certainly should speak to us and our churches/services today! In the midst of His zeal, He makes a statement regarding the resurrection. He does it cryptically, essentially identifying himself as both temple and sacrifice, but the disciples don’t understand it until after the resurrection.

The final event in our reading shows us that we should be a bit discerning regarding those who have religious fervor during our own ministries (23-25). Here it seems that some would willingly identify themselves as believers in Jesus, but Jesus understands that their commitment is not sincere. That is probably one of the reasons for Paul’s instruction in 1 Timothy 3:6 regarding the pastoral office. Paul says that a person who desires to be a pastor “must not be a recent convert.” There needs to be some time to discern if a person’s commitment is sincere. I’m amazed at how quickly the Christian church is to elevate a celebrity because of a “conversion,” only to discover that it might not really be the case. Churches are also sometimes so eager to have help that they don’t always do their due diligence in vetting people. May we all do better in the future!

Devotional Reading for May 5, 2022

John 1:29-51

John is a perfect example of the work of the Spirit in the lives of the prophets. John can recognize that Jesus is the “Lamb of God” and the “Chosen One of God,” but later he asks, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another” (Matthew 11:3)? That’s because the Spirit moves, but doesn’t always explain:

1 Peter1:10-11 “Concerning this salvation, the prophets who predicted the grace that would come to you searched and investigated carefully. They probed into what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating when he testified beforehand about the sufferings appointed for Christ and his subsequent glory.”

The Spirit not only revealed Jesus’ essential nature to John, he showed John who the Messiah was. John then fulfilled his purpose by pointing Jesus out to others. Andrew followed, and told his brother Peter. Jesus found Philip, who went and got Nathaniel. Nathanael was skeptical, not expecting anything good to come from a hick town like Nazareth! Jesus reveals to Nathanael that he knows his nature and where he was before he came. Nathanael is amazed, and at the very least recognizes Jesus as the Messiah, even though he spoke even better than he knew when he called Jesus the “Son of God!”

There is also a play on words here. Jacob becomes Israel in the Old Testament, and Jesus alludes to that when he calls Nathanael “a true Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” Jacob swindled his brother out of his birthright and his blessing in Genesis 27. But he was called by God, and later he dreamed and “saw a stairway erected on the earth with its top reaching to the heavens: the angels of God were going up and coming down it” (Genesis 28:12). Jesus is recalling that dream here, and revealing that He is the ladder that provides access to God. Hallelujah!

Devotional Reading for May 4, 2022

John 1:1-28

John wants us to see Jesus as the Son of God who takes away the sin of the world! He wants us to know that Jesus is more than a mere man. He is God incarnate. He is creator, sustainer, and giver of life. He is the only one who can reveal the truth of God the Father, because He is God the Son! It is only through Him that we can become God’s children. Unfortunately most reject Him, even though He is the embodiment of grace and truth. Truth because He reveals that we need a Savior, and grace because He gives Himself so that we can have eternal life!

John (the disciple) also wants to introduce us to John the Baptizer, the predicted forerunner of the coming Messiah. Many were confused about his role, but he wasn’t! He is “the voice of one shouting in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.'” Just as heralds in times of old would proclaim that a king was coming and get the road ready for him, such is John’s ministry. He readily acknowledges that “He who comes after me is greater than I am, because He existed before me.”

How would our lives change if we saw ourselves in the same type of role? Are there ways we can live and things that we can do to prepare people to meet Jesus?

Devotional Reading for May 3, 2022

Luke 24:36-53

Luke 24:36-43 may seem a little strange, but the emphasis is on a literal, physical resurrection. Luke probably includes this because of ideas going around that Jesus either didn’t really die on the cross or that He didn’t really come in the flesh (which is refuted in 1 John). Jesus then goes on to emphasize that He is the fulfillment of prophetic teaching, and that the gospel will be proclaimed to all people as was foretold (44-49):

Isaiah 60:1-3 “Arise! Shine! For your light arrives! The splendor of the LORD shines on you! For, look, darkness covers the earth and deep darkness covers the nations, but the LORD shines on you; his splendor appears over you. Nations come to your light, kings to your bright light.”

Micah 4:1-2 “And in future days the LORD’s Temple Mount will be the most important mountain of all; it will be more prominent than other hills. People will stream to it. Many nations will come, saying, “Come on! Let’s go up to the LORD’s mountain, to the temple of Jacob’s God, so he can teach us his ways and we can live by his laws.” For instruction will proceed from Zion, the LORD’s message from Jerusalem.”

Luke’s gospel concludes with Jesus’ reminder for them to wait for the Spirit in Jerusalem (49), which foreshadows the continuation of the story in the book of Acts. Jesus then ascends from their sight, and the disciples go to Jerusalem to wait for the promise (50-52).

Did you catch the note of worship and praise? “They worshiped Him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy!” Knowing what we know, having believed in Jesus Christ, and having experienced the Spirit for ourselves, do we have that same joy?

Devotional Reading for May 2, 2022

Luke 24:1-35

The whole passage is about witnessing in one way or another! First, the angels witness to the women. Then the women witness to the disciples. Then Jesus witnesses to the disciples on the road to Emmaus. Then they go to witness to the disciples, who witness to them because of what has happened to Peter!

When Jesus is witnessing he opens the Scriptures to help them understand that what happened was exactly according to God’s plan, and had to happen the way it did. In effect, the prophets are witnessing as well! What could He have shared with them? Perhaps passages like:

Genesis 3:15 “And I will put hostility between you and the woman and between your offspring and her offspring; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.”

Micah 5:2 “As for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, seemingly insignificant among the clans of Judah— from you a king will emerge who will rule over Israel on my behalf, one whose origins are in the distant past.”

2 Samuel 7:12-13 “When the time comes for you to die, I will raise up your descendant, one of your own sons, to succeed you, and I will establish his kingdom. He will build a house for my name, and I will make his dynasty permanent.”

Isaiah 7:14 “For this reason the Lord himself will give you a confirming sign. Look, this young woman is about to conceive and will give birth to a son. You, young woman, will name him Immanuel.”

Isaiah 9:6 “For a child has been born to us, a son has been given to us. He shoulders responsibility and is called Wonderful Adviser, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Isaiah 61:1 “The spirit of the sovereign LORD is upon me, because the LORD has chosen me. He has commissioned me to encourage the poor, to help the brokenhearted, to decree the release of captives, and the freeing of prisoners,”

Psalm 22:7-8 “All who see me taunt me; they mock me and shake their heads. They say, ‘Commit yourself to the LORD! Let the LORD rescue him! Let the LORD deliver him, for he delights in him.'”

Psalm 22:18 “They are dividing up my clothes among themselves; they are rolling dice for my garments.”

Psalm 109:4 “They repay my love with accusations, but I continue to pray.”

Isaiah 53:5-6 “He was wounded because of our rebellious deeds, crushed because of our sins; he endured punishment that made us well; because of his wounds we have been healed. All of us had wandered off like sheep; each of us had strayed off on his own path, but the LORD caused the sin of all of us to attack him.”

Isaiah 53:8-10 “He was led away after an unjust trial— but who even cared? Indeed, he was cut off from the land of the living; because of the rebellion of his own people he was wounded. They intended to bury him with criminals, but he ended up in a rich man’s tomb, because he had committed no violent deeds, nor had he spoken deceitfully. Though the LORD desired to crush him and make him ill, once restitution is made, he will see descendants and enjoy long life, and the LORD’s purpose will be accomplished through him.”

We also see a pattern (of sorts) for successful evangelism, modeled by Jesus:

  • Jesus walks with them (a euphemism for living life with others)
  • There is an opportunity to talk about spiritual matters
  • Jesus shares from the Scriptures
  • Their reaction shows their interest
  • Their hearts and eyes are opened
  • They seek out fellowship

Sermon outline for 5/1/22 (Radio broadcast 5/8/22) — “What shall a man give in return for his soul?”

NOT all the Questions in the Bible!
“What shall a man give in return for his soul?”
Matthew 16:21-26

I) God uses suffering to bring _____________

     A) Jesus reveals God’s __________

     B) God’s plan includes ______________

     C) God’s plan includes _____________

II) We often don’t like or understand God’s ____________

     A) The disciples were ________________

     B) Peter actually ____________ Jesus!

     C) Jesus confronts _____________

          1) Calls him ____________!

          2) Peter isn’t thinking ________________

III) Especially when they involve ________

     A) Following Jesus means denying ___________

     B) Following Jesus means experiencing _______________

     C) Following Jesus brings ___________!

          1) ____________ life

          2) ____________ life

     D) Following Jesus brings _____________

          1) _____________

          2) _____________

Devotional Reading for May 1, 2022

Luke 23:36-56

Jesus had suffered enough that he couldn’t carry the cross beam for his crucifixion (36). The main pole was already set up, and it was a special kind of agony to be made to carry your own implement of torture. Simon was forced to carry it for him, and it’s possible that his family became believers as a result. Talk about unintended consequences!

Mark 15:21 “The soldiers forced a passerby to carry his cross, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country (he was the father of Alexander and Rufus).”

Rom 16:13 “Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother who was also a mother to me.”

Jesus warns the women (and us) that harder times are ahead (27-31). Although he’s probably referring to the upcoming destruction of Jerusalem, he words can certainly apply to any and all who face persecution, and particularly those who may face it before His return: “if such things are done when the wood is greed (i.e. to Jesus), then what will happen when the wood is dry (i.e. the nation being judged)?”

The place of crucifixion is rightly called “The Skull,” and the persecution, ridicule, and mocking continue (32-38). Jesus, however, shows us his primary purpose for being there. He is dying so that we can be forgiven! And his words may have special importance. The ones putting him to death certainly didn’t understand what they were doing, and perhaps Jesus comments were especially for them.

One of the criminals dying with Him chose to join in the mocking, while another pleaded with Him for salvation (39-43). Deathbed conversions can be very real, so we shouldn’t shy away from presenting the gospel to those who are dying. We can’t know who is sincere and who isn’t, but God does!

The creation itself mourns with its creator (44), and something very symbolic happens: the veil of the temple is torn in two (45). The veil separated the holy place in the temple in two, and only the high priest could go in once a year. The tearing means that Jesus brought an end to sacrifices, and we all have access to God through Him!

Hebrews 9:11-14 “But now Christ has come as the high priest of the good things to come. He passed through the greater and more perfect tent not made with hands, that is, not of this creation, and he entered once for all into the Most Holy Place not by the blood of goats and calves but by his own blood, and so he himself secured eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow sprinkled on those who are defiled consecrated them and provided ritual purity, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.”

Many of the events here were predicted in Scripture, particularly in Psalm 22. The centurion in charge has seen enough to recognize that a tragedy has been perpetrated (47-49). Many others are affected too, but the centurion is used by Luke to reinforce the idea that Jesus died as an innocent man. The women are mentioned specifically because of the role they play surrounding the resurrection.

Joseph may have been a secret disciple before, but no longer (50-56). He secures Jesus’ body and places it in a tomb. The ladies can’t finish the burial, because the Sabbath falls. But the stage is set. Sunday is coming!

Psalm 22 “For the music director; according to the tune “Morning Doe;” a psalm of David. My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? I groan in prayer, but help seems far away. My God, I cry out during the day, but you do not answer, and during the night my prayers do not let up. You are holy; you sit as king receiving the praises of Israel. In you our ancestors trusted; they trusted in you and you rescued them. To you they cried out, and they were saved; in you they trusted and they were not disappointed. But I am a worm, not a man; people insult me and despise me. All who see me taunt me; they mock me and shake their heads. They say, “Commit yourself to the LORD! Let the LORD rescue him! Let the LORD deliver him, for he delights in him.” Yes, you are the one who brought me out from the womb and made me feel secure on my mother’s breasts. I have been dependent on you since birth; from the time I came out of my mother’s womb you have been my God. Do not remain far away from me, for trouble is near and I have no one to help me. Many bulls surround me; powerful bulls of Bashan hem me in. They open their mouths to devour me like a roaring lion that rips its prey. My strength drains away like water; all my bones are dislocated; my heart is like wax; it melts away inside me. The roof of my mouth is as dry as a piece of pottery; my tongue sticks to my gums. You set me in the dust of death. Yes, wild dogs surround me— a gang of evil men crowd around me; like a lion they pin my hands and feet. I can count all my bones; my enemies are gloating over me in triumph. They are dividing up my clothes among themselves; they are rolling dice for my garments. But you, O LORD, do not remain far away! You are my source of strength! Hurry and help me! Deliver me from the sword! Save my life from the claws of the wild dogs! Rescue me from the mouth of the lion and from the horns of the wild oxen! You have answered me! I will declare your name to my countrymen! In the middle of the assembly I will praise you! You loyal followers of the LORD, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, honor him! All you descendants of Israel, stand in awe of him! For he did not despise or detest the suffering of the oppressed; he did not ignore him; when he cried out to him, he responded. You are the reason I offer praise in the great assembly; I will fulfill my promises before the LORD’s loyal followers. Let the oppressed eat and be filled! Let those who seek his help praise the LORD! May you live forever! Let all the people of the earth acknowledge the LORD and turn to him! Let all the nations worship you. For the LORD is king and rules over the nations. All of the thriving people of the earth will join the celebration and worship; all those who are descending into the grave will bow before him, including those who cannot preserve their lives. A whole generation will serve him; they will tell the next generation about the sovereign Lord. They will come and tell about his saving deeds; they will tell a future generation what he has accomplished.”

Devotional Reading for April 30, 2022

Luke 23:1-25

Herod the Great is featured prominently in the birth narratives. Upon his death his “kingdom” was divided. Herod Antipas took over Galilee and Perea, while Pontius Pilate eventually became governor of Judea. What we find here is the old game of passing the buck! When Pilate finds out that Jesus was a Galilean he sends him to Herod, but Herod sends him right back. Luke records these two events because he wants us to know that even the Roman rulers understand that Jesus hasn’t tried to mount a rebellion. What is most ironic is that the religious leadership may, in fact, be telling a partial truth! Jesus certainly wasn’t trying to raise an army and restore Jewish national sovereignty, and the Romans realize that. But there were many listening to him who thought just that, and some were willing to take up arms (as we just saw with Peter). The leadership lied about most things with the trial, and even lied about Jesus’ intent, but there were people getting “incited” because of their own preconceived notions about who/what the Messiah would be. Perhaps there is a warning here for us. We should always check our motives and understanding against God’s word to make sure that we are thinking properly.

Psalm 119:130 “Your instructions are a doorway through which light shines. They give insight to the untrained.”

We have another warning here. Pilate went along with the crowd and condemned an innocent man while letting someone else, who was actually guilty of insurrection as well as murder, go free. Do we ever let our convictions and beliefs be effected by those around us? How good are we at standing up for what we know is right?

Proverbs 1:10 “My child, if sinners try to entice you, do not consent!”