Jesus Came For You

June 18, 2018

While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Matthew 9:10-13

The Pharisees did not believe that Jesus was the Son of God. They didn’t accept him as the one God had promised to rescue them from sin’s curse and deliver them from their enemy Satan. As proof of their position, they pointed to Jesus’ activity of dining with people of ill-reputation (tax collectors) and eating with those whose lifestyle opposed God’s law (“sinners”). Their logic was that if Jesus is God, he would know what kind of people he was associating with and avoid them.

Jesus responded to his unbelieving critics, “It’s not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” The Pharisees considered themselves spiritually healthy because they strived to live good and obedient lives before God. They didn’t think they needed Jesus for spiritual healing to save them. So Jesus told them that he couldn’t help them because they wouldn’t admit that they were sick with sin. However, Jesus made it clear that he was glad to minister to those who admit their guilt and look to him as their only hope for salvation.

Jesus quotes God’s word recorded in Hosea’s prophecy, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” Salvation from the condemnation we deserve as sinners doesn’t come by sacrifices that we make—by good things that we strive to do and wrong things we seek to avoid. Not at all! Rather, rescue from the curse of sin comes only by everything Jesus has done for us. The “mercy” that God desires is to sincerely admit that we are sinners and trust Jesus alone for full forgiveness of sins and free salvation from eternal death.

Jesus came to call sinners. That’s me. That’s you. He is our Savior!

Prayer: Help me realize, dear Jesus, that I am sick with sin. Open my eyes to see you as my Savior and my heart to put my complete trust in you for salvation. Then open up my mouth to speak your praises for all your great goodness. Amen.

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I’m Heaven Bound

June 11, 2018

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ Matthew 7:21-23

Many people think being a Christian is all about treating people fairly, doing to others what you want them to do to you, always doing the right thing in your life. While those are all good things, none of them makes a person a Christian.

Jesus said there would be people who do miracles and preach in his name and still not go to heaven. Only those who do the will of God are going to heaven. If I keep the Ten Commandments then, does that make me a Christian?

No, because I can’t keep the Ten Commandments. For God requires that not only my actions be perfectly conformed to his holy will, he also commands the same for my words and even my thoughts! Don’t murder includes not yelling in anger at the crazy driver who cut me off in traffic. Don’t steal includes not complaining about the lack of things in my life that I see others having in theirs. Don’t commit adultery includes not doing anything that hurts my marriage—ignoring or criticizing my spouse.

Despite my many failures to obey God’s commands, I know I am going to heaven. I’m absolutely certain! How can I be sure?

Jesus gave his life for me. He kept all the Ten Commandments in my place. He offered his life as payment for all the sins I’ve done—the complaining and hurting and yelling and thousands of other sinful actions, words, and thoughts.

I’m going to heaven because of Jesus. Nothing I do. Nothing I can do. Jesus has done it all for me. Not because I founded an orphanage, or gave blood numerous times to the Red Cross, or did other “Christian works.” Jesus will welcome me home because hefulfilled God’s will perfectly as my substitute. Heaven is his gift to me.

Even better, heaven is Jesus’ gift to you also. Being a Christian is not about what you do. Being a Christian is trusting Jesus who has done everything for you. He has forgiven you at the cost of his own life.

Prayer: Jesus, forgive me for taking false pride in the Christian things I do. Thanks for your unearned love and forgiveness, and the gift of heaven which you give to me by faith alone. Help me do the right things and treat people fairly as a simple way of thanking you for your gift of heaven. Amen.


What You Know Versus What You Need to Know

June 4, 2018

“It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” – Acts 1:7-8

How long do you think the line would be if God came down to earth to answer questions for a day? Maybe you’ve had a question someone couldn’t answer so they said, “You’ll have to ask God when you get to heaven.”

We all have questions. We question why things happened the way they did. We question why God didn’t tell us this or that; why didn’t he let us in on the secret. The disciples asked him one of those questions. And Jesus said, “It’s not for you to know…” Why Jesus wouldn’t answer the question we don’t know. We just know that there are some things that aren’t for us to know.

But there’s plenty that we do know. We know that we’re sinful and need a Savior. We know that God sent Jesus to be our Savior. We know that God sent Jesus to be born as a man, to stand in our place, to fulfill all of God’s Law perfectly. We know that God sent Jesus to endure the punishment we deserved by suffering and dying on the cross. We know that Jesus did exactly as God planned, and he rose from the dead on Easter Sunday to prove it. Everything Jesus did was just as God planned, just as God wanted, and just what we needed to be saved.

Everything we need to know for life with God, God has given us in his Word. And now that we know it, he wants us to share it. He wants us to start at home and work our way out—to our families, our neighborhoods, our communities, even to the ends of the earth. We don’t need to know the answers to all of life’s questions. What we know about God from his Word is all we need to know!

Prayer: Gracious Lord, we thank you for telling us all we need to know for salvation. Help us to share that good news of Jesus’ living, dying, and rising with all those we know. Amen.


Peace In Our Time

May 28, 2018

“All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” – John 14:25-27

The words of a loved one can cause anxiety. Let’s say someone close to you says something like, “I am leaving soon. I am going to suffer, and I am going to die. Here are some specific things I want you to do.” Do you think you might have a little anxiety?

Jesus said those things to his disciples. He told them he was leaving. He told them he was going to suffer and die. And he told them that they would have a very specific job, repeating the things that he had told them. The disciples had anxiety; their hearts were troubled.

But Jesus did not just cause anxiety. He also relieved it. He told the disciples that after he was gone, the Holy Spirit would prompt them to remember what he told them—with no mistakes. After the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, the disciples would be able to preach and teach and write the New Testament of the Bible confidently, knowing that the Holy Spirit was making sure that every word was correct.

Jesus also relieved anxiety by telling his disciples that his suffering and death would bring peace and confidence. He would not remain dead. He would rise from the dead, proving that everything he said was true, and showing that God continues to be in charge of this world.

God’s love for you in Christ Jesus gives you peace and takes away fear. You can also speak words that take away anxiety for your loved ones. Because of the peace you have in Jesus, you are able to speak words of forgiveness to them. Because you know that the Bible is true, you can speak the truth to them in love.

When your heart is troubled, when you feel anxious, Jesus promises you peace.

Prayer: Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Amen.


Don’t Worry, Your Place is Booked!

May 21, 2018

“In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” – John 14:2-3

Imagine that you are planning on going camping with some friends, when they call a couple of days before the trip and say, “Hey, we got off work a day early, so we will go and get a couple of good sites. If you want to bring your tent by, we will set it up for you, start a fire, and have dinner waiting for you when you get there.” They would never do such a thing, if they didn’t think you were coming to join them.

When Jesus promised that he was going to prepare a place for his disciples, he knew what lay ahead of them. He knew their faith would be severely tested, because soon he would be taken from them. Judas would leave only to come back with a detachment of soldiers to arrest him in the garden. Then Jesus would be detained and put on trial where he was mocked, spit upon, and beaten. After being crucified and buried, it would seem like Jesus had left them forever. But then, after three days he rose from the dead and appeared to them on many occasions. He was back! Until…forty days later he visibly ascended into heaven.

Sometimes we feel so alone, don’t we? Sure, we might have friends and family all around, but what about Jesus? He doesn’t always seem so close as we struggle to understand all the hate and violence in the world around us. He doesn’t always seem so near when we find ourselves falling into the same temptations that so easily lead us astray. Where has he gone?

He has gone to prepare a place for those who repent and trust in him. And this isn’t just some wishy-washy-pie-in-the-sky promise. Jesus is doing something for you right now. He left his disciples the first time to give himself as the once and for all sacrifice for sin. Now he has left to prepare a place for you in heaven. Why would he ever do such a thing, if he didn’t think that you were coming to join him?

Prayer: Dear Jesus, when we feel all alone, help us to listen to your promises and be assured that one day we will go to be with you in the place you have prepared for us. Amen.


Stay Put!

May 14, 2018

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” – John 15:9

“Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to him belong. They are weak, but he is strong.” The words of this song are simple, yet they are profound. Think about it, Jesus loves me! And not only does Jesus love me, God the Father also loves me. As a result, my life is blessed richly and daily with everything I need. What more could I desire than knowing God the Father preserves and protects me from every danger? Now, couple this with Jesus’ unselfish and self-sacrificing love, I should be able to live every day rejoicing in the love which is mine. But do I?

Every day I can be certain of the love my Lord and Savior has for me. Still, every day I am tempted to question his love. I am distracted by things that the world offers. My attention is drawn to all the things I do not have. The world wants me to cut my ties with the Lord and pursue its empty pleasures and fleeting treasures. The devil also joins with the world to form an unholy alliance. He fills my heart with discontent and greed. He seeks to deceive me into believing God is withholding something from me. Worse yet, he looks to make me believe that God is punishing me by not giving me my heart’s desire.

The only way I can combat the world’s influence and the devil’s deceptions is to focus my attention solely on the words and work of my Savior. Jesus exhorts me to “remain in his love.” He, then, strengthens and encourages me to do just that. Through his precious life given into death, through his resounding victory over the devil, and through his never-failing promises I can remain in him and in his love.

Yes, Jesus loves me, and I want to remain in his love.

Prayer: O precious Savior, forgive me for not seeing your great love and making it my most priceless possession. Strengthen my faith to hold on to you and to every gracious gift you have secured for me. Amen.


Plugged In

May 7, 2018

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” John 15:5-8

You know the feeling. It is a feeling of panic. Your heart skips a beat. Your mind screams, “This can’t be happening! Not now!” But it IS happening. Your phone’s battery is down to one percent. Whatever will you do?

As useful as cell phones are and as much as they are able to do for us, without being recharged they will run out of power. And when they do, they go from being powerful and useful devices to a rather useless hunk of plastic, metal, and glass. Without power, a phone is less useful than a decent doorstop.

That’s essentially what Jesus said about US if we are not plugged into HIM. Instead of a cell phone, he uses the picture of a grapevine. He called himself the vine and each of us a branch. Unless a branch is connected to the vine, it does not receive the nutrients it needs. It will die. But if it is connected to the vine, it receives what it needs and can produce bunches of beautiful grapes.

When we are connected to Jesus and his Word, our souls are fed. And we produce remarkable fruits of faith. We are more patient, kind, generous, and forgiving. Jesus’ love flows into us and out to others.

Think again about your phone. Think of all the wonderful things it can do when it is charged. Hundreds of apps doing hundreds of useful things. Now imagine yourself, charged with Jesus’ love, patience, and forgiveness and applying that love, patience, and forgiveness to others—your own “apps” as it were. But only when you are connected to him.

May God, in his mercy, keep us connected to Christ!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I know that without you I am nothing and I have no hope; without you I would die. But by your mercy and power you have connected me to you—the true vine. Keep me connected to you and your Word so that I might bear abundant fruit, today and always. Amen.