Forgiveness

After spending the night on the Mount of Olives, Jesus returned to the temple courts where He had been the day before. People gathered around Him, and He sat down to teach them when the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. Their intent was to trap Jesus so they could accuse Him. “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. Moses’ law said we should stone her. What do you say?” 

Jesus bent down to write on the ground with His finger. The men continued to question Him. He stood and said, “He who is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Then Jesus stooped to write in the dirt again. The accusers began to go away, the older ones first, until only the woman was left with Jesus. He stood and asked, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I,” said Jesus. “Go and leave your life of sin” (John 8:1-11 my paraphrase).

THINK ABOUT IT

Moses’ law commanded that both parties to adultery should be stoned. The Pharisees disregarded the law by arresting the woman without the man. If Jesus said the woman should not be stoned, they would accuse him of violating the law. If He urged them to stone her, they would report Him to the Romans because they could not carry out Jewish executions. Jesus caused each man to reflect on his own life. When no one could be found without sin, Jesus forgave the woman and commanded her to end her lifestyle of sin.

PRAY ABOUT IT

Thank you, Lord, for this example of your great mercy and forgiveness. Thank you, too, for forgiving us, and help us to live in light of the new and eternal life you gave us. In Jesus’ name, Amen

No Condemnation

Woman at the well

Jesus, tired from a journey through Judea to Galilee, rested at Jacob’s well near the town of Sychar. It was noon when a Samaritan woman came to draw water. Jesus asked her for a drink. This seemed strange to her because He was a Jew and Jews didn’t associate with Samaritans. “How can you ask me for a drink?” she asked.

Jesus surprised her. “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” She asked Him where would He get this living water. “Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself along with his sons and animals.” Then Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. It will become a spring in them and well up into eternal life” (John 4:1-14).

Can you imagine this woman’s head spinning from all Jesus said? She was ready for the living water that would quench her thirst forever. He told her to go get her husband, and she said she didn’t have a husband. Jesus confronted her. “It’s true you do not have a husband, but you’ve had five husbands and the man you have now is not your husband.” I’m quite sure the woman wanted to flee, but she stayed to ask questions about God and worship. Then she went to town and told the people she met a man that knew all about her. “Could He be the Christ?” she asked.

THINK ABOUT IT

Although Jesus knew about this woman’s past and her bad reputation, He showed her love and respect instead of condemnation. In response to His love, she witnessed about Him in town, and brought people to meet Him. As a result, many in Sychar believed and invited Him to stay with them a couple days. This is good news even for us today. I have often related to the the woman at the well. The truth is, we have all been that woman, standing in the presence of God in the need of salvation. Be encouraged for, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). Believe in Jesus and accept His amazing love as did the woman at the well. Today is the day of salvation.

PRAY ABOUT IT

Thank you Lord, for Jesus, for His amazing, life-changing love. I pray for those reading this story for the first time, that you send your Spirit on them and help them to believe you, trust you and follow you into eternity. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

An Unhurried Life?

Janell Stratton Marton in Mountain Bicycle Race

Do you agree we live in a hurry-up and wait world? I am in the habit of over scheduling myself and wondering why I’m so tired. My daughter, Janell Stratton Marton, and her son Luke enjoy mountain bicycle racing. That’s a little faster than I’ve ever dreamed of going. However, my daily to-do list has often been over the top. Yet, I’ve enjoyed checking off accomplishments as I finished them.

In contrast, when I look at the life of Jesus, I can’t imagine Him having a to-do list or a schedule to keep. He allowed interruptions in His ministry. For example, on the way to Jairus’ house to raise his daughter from death, He healed a woman who had been sick for twelve long years. Another time He paused His day to heal a man born blind.

As a mom, school teacher, real estate agent and mountain biker, Janell’s days are scheduled pretty tight, but she allows interruptions if she sees a person in need. As she was leaving a super market one day in a hurry to get home and cook dinner, she saw an older woman who apparently lost her car keys. “Can I help you?” Janell said. Focused on the ground, the woman replied, “I dropped my keys and can’t find them.” Janell said, “I’ll be right back,” and went to her car to get a blanket. She laid down the blanket and crawled under the woman’s car. “Found ’em!” she said. This act of kindness didn’t take but a few minutes before both women were on their way.

The COVID isolation has slowed down my days. The social calendar is not so full, but I find time to kayak or go on boat rides with my husband or spend time with friends. I don’t feel guilty for resting like I used to. In fact, one of my favorite Scriptures is Matthew 11:28-30: Jesus said, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

THINK ABOUT IT

Can you imagine what it might be like to be yoked with Jesus? I think it would be an adventure, but not at all stressful. One of the best things I’ve done in my life since I retired was to take off my watch. I’ve never worn one again. What peace! What freedom! My days go smoother because I’m not watching the time. This has freed me to be aware of others who might need my help.

PRAY ABOUT IT

Thank you, Lord, for Jesus and His example of an unhurried life. Teach me to be more like Him. Help me to recognize opportunities, like Janell, to show compassion along the way to wherever I’m going. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Wolves in Sheep’s Clothes

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Jesus cautioned the disciples about false prophets–people who preach what they think is right but not what the Bible says. Sometimes statements like, “State it and claim it,” or “Believe it and receive it,” are misused concepts of prayer. If you ask a friend if they know whether or not they are going to heaven, some may say they don’t know. Others might say they think so based on their good works. Brothers and sisters, we all sin and fall short of God’s glory. God created us in His image, so we have choices in life. Without God, we will choose the selfish, self-centered, sinful way.

This is the Good News: God loved us so much He gave His only Son to take the punishment of our sin on the cross so we could experience His love, His forgiveness and be reconciled to Him. Death did not hold Jesus. He rose from the grave and was seen by more than five hundred people before He ascended into heaven. When we accept this and believe that Jesus paved the way for us to have a relationship with God, we have eternal life with Him. We are co-heirs with Jesus in His kingdom. Revelation 21 tells what that will be like. It’s glorious.

Jesus said, “Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravaging wolves. You’ll recognize them by their fruit” (Matthew 7:15-16).

THINK ABOUT IT

The world is filled with attractions in media or advertisements that cause us to want more than we have. The ads are based on our desire for more wealth, possessions, friends . . . Don’t be misled by anyone who says, “If it feels good, do it,” or “You’re the most important person.” God is supreme, and as we seek His word and hunger and thirst for more of Him, He promises we will be filled to overflowing.

PRAY ABOUT IT

Lord, help us to live in light of your word and salvation. Make us beacons of your love and compassion so others might come to experience your love and know you in a personal relationship. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Well Done

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Two words I want to hear when I get to Heaven are, “Well done!” Will my teaching, writing, mentoring or helping others count for the kingdom?

Jesus told a parable about a man who went on a long journey and entrusted his wealth to his servants. To one he gave five bags of gold. The second one he gave two bags of gold and the third one he gave one bag of gold. After a long time, the man returned from his trip. The first man returned the five bags of gold along with five more bags of gold. He had doubled his masters wealth, and the master said, “Well done, good and faithful servant? You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness” (Matthew 25:19-21). The second servant also doubled his master’s money, and the master said the same thing to him as the first servant.

The third servant judged his master: “I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you” (Matthew 25:24-25). His master called him a wicked and lazy servant. He said the servant could have at least put the money in the bank so it would have received interest. The master said, “Take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.” Then the master said, “Throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:28-30).

THINK ABOUT IT

What we do on earth comes down to this: Did we love God? If we did, did we show it by loving Him and loving others. Our work will count for something because our purpose is to know God by reading His word and spending time with Him in prayer, and to make Him known by telling others all God has done through history and in our lives. God is the one who multiplies our efforts. He is humble, generous and faithful. He wants us to have the abundant life He willingly offers.

PRAY ABOUT IT

O Lord, we need your help to accomplish all you have for us to do. Show us opportunities to reach out to people with your love and to serve them as serving you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

I Never Knew You

Photo by Eternal Happiness on Pexels.com

Four little words I never want to hear Jesus say to me are, “I never knew you,” but Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one 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 in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matthew 7:21-23)

Jesus goes on to say that everyone who hears His words and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on a rock. The rain came down and the streams rose. The winds blew and beat against the house, but it did not fall because it had a strong foundation (Matthew 7:24-25). On the other hand, everyone who hears His words and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. When the rain came down and the streams rose and the winds blew and beat against the house, it fell with a great crash (Matthew 7:26-27).

So what is the difference? The people in the first paragraph defended themselves with all the good things they did, but Jesus still said, “I never knew you.” Maybe it’s because all our righteous acts are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). Unless we serve others with the love and compassion of Jesus, our good works don’t count for eternity. Remember this: “Whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God” (John 3:21).

THINK ABOUT IT

Jesus said, “You are the light of the world . . . Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16). We are the light of the world when we respond to God’s love by loving Him and others, by serving others–helping them; encouraging, comforting, telling them about God and all He has done. Let these Scriptures guide you: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters” (Colossians 3:23)., and “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech, but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:18).

PRAY ABOUT IT

Heavenly Father, teach us to be more like Jesus, to show compassion, to be a beacon of your light in this dark world, to love each other. Lord, we need your help. It would be easier not to step out in faith. Empower us to fulfill your plan for our lives. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Jesus on Giving

Photo by Gustavo Fring on Pexels.com

Do you like to give to others? I like it a lot. Giving makes me feel good. I think it makes everyone feel good. Some people like it so much they talk about it, which sounds a lot like boasting. Jesus has something to say about doing good and giving. “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father inheaven.

“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:1-4).

I recommend a habit of giving, but let the good feelings be your reward, just between you and God. We live in a selfish, self-centered generation where people seek satisfaction and instant gratification, but we can rise a step above the rest to be compassionate as Jesus is compassionate, whether we give gifts of flowers, smiles, money or time.

THINK ABOUT IT

Giving is a stumbling block to many people. Yet when we resist the temptation to selfishly hold on to things and reach out to others instead, the results are amazing. We can actually avert depression and despair when we think of someone else besides ourselves and our problems. Let this verse be key in your giving: “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). Look for opportunities to help someone today by giving of your time, talent, ability or blessings.

PRAY ABOUT IT

Thank you, Lord, for all the ways you bless us. Help us to respond by loving you and others. Teach us ways to show compassion as Jesus shows compassion. Empower us to step out of our comfort zones to bless another person today. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Where is Your Treasure?

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

What do you value most in life? Gold or silver? Time, wealth or health? Possessions, relationships, love or acceptance? I’ve discovered the the fun of shopping fades when the newness wears off of the things I bought, and the value of big item possessions depreciates. Emptiness led me to seek personal acceptance, but my people pleasing efforts led to feelings of loneliness and despair.

Jesus has the answer: “Don’t collect for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).

God rescued me from a hunger for possessions and acceptance. His amazing love transformed my life and gave me purpose. He is my treasure today and forever.

THINK ABOUT IT

Did you know burial suits do not have pockets? What do you carry in your pockets? Cash, debit card, credit card, driver’s license? None of these count for eternity. All that matters is what we do for Christ. The mercy and compassion we show others continues to live in them. How do you minister God’s love to people you come in contact with?

PRAY ABOUT IT

Father God, You are my treasure. You make my life worth living. Help me to live in a way that others will experience your amazing love through something I said or did. Help me to be more like Jesus. Amen.

Don’t Worry

Lilies of the Field, Israel

We live in tough times. People experience loss of jobs, businesses, homes, and loved ones. Have you ever wanted to cry out to God, “Are you there? Do you care? What are we supposed to do now?

Jesus answers our questions. “Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the sky; they don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they?” (Matthew 6:25-27 NIV)

Then He says, “And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these” (Matthew 6:28-29 ESV).

THINK ABOUT IT

Jesus used object lessons to make points in His teaching. When I was in Israel, our guide opened her Bible to this Scripture in Matthew 6 and fanned her hand over what appeared to be red poppies. She said, “Lilies of the field.” I imagined Jesus standing on the grassy hillside where He preached about how foolish it is to worry. That’s when He said, “Consider the lilies of the field . . . ” Maybe He fanned His hand over the red flowers as our guide did.

In the next verses Jesus said, “If God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” (Matthew 6:30 ESV). What I believe Jesus says in answer to our anxious questions is, “Yes, I am here. I have never left you and I won’t. I care about what happens to you. I love you, and I want to be your Friend. Will you trust Me to provide for you and protect you? Don’t be anxious. Don’t be afraid.”

PRAY ABOUT IT

Thank you, Lord God, for Jesus. He shows His love and compassion in the Scripture. He is faithful to be with us, even when we are not aware of His presence. O Lord, open our eyes and hearts to His amazing love. Teach us how to love you and others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Jesus and Taxes

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

People tried over and over again to trap Jesus on different issues. One of the issues was about taxes. Some spies came to Him and asked, “Teacher we know that you speak and teach what is right, and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” (Luke 20:21-22). This was an honest question for Jews, because they lived under the Roman government.

Jesus said, “Show me a denarius. Whose image and inscription are on it?”

“Caesar’s,” they replied.

Jesus replied, “Then give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

Another time after Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the temple tax collectors asked Peter, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?”

Peter said, “Yes, he does.” When he came inside, Jesus asked him, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes; from their own children or from others?” Peter said, “From others.”

“Then the children are exempt,” Jesus said to him. “But so that we may not cause offense, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours” (Matthew 17:24-27).

THINK ABOUT IT

Do you wish paying taxes was as easy as catching a fish and opening its mouth to find enough money to pay your taxes? It can be that easy, if you think about it. The tax you owe is relative to how much money you earned. If you made a lot of money, you owe more than someone who didn’t work. In the United States our money doesn’t have a picture of Caesar on the front, but different presidents of our country. For this devotion I picked a picture of the five-dollar bill because Abraham Lincoln is my favorite past president. Collecting taxes has always been a way for governments to have the funds they need to provide the services the people need. Of course, there are corrupt governments that misuse tax money. We’ll talk about that another time.

PRAY ABOUT IT

Father God, we pray that you help us to be good stewards of our money; to spend and save wisely and to give generously. Help us to be honest, especially about how we report our income and pay taxes. In Jesus’ name, Amen.