Midweek Study Devotional

In All Things Peace

“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:1

Before we believed Jesus died for our sins and rose again, we were unable to experience true peace because we were separated from the Prince of Peace. The moment we believed in Jesus was the first moment we ever experienced true peace. It is only when we have peace with God that we can experience the peace of God.

Draw Near

“Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith.” Hebrews 10:22a

Do you lack faith? There are times I lack faith, and it just so happens this morning was one of those times. At least, that was until I read the verse above. What does it mean to draw near with a true heart? It means to continually live with a total dependence on Christ who indwells you. “Draw near” is an invitation to walk in communion with Christ who knows the secret things in your heart that can rob you from having faith.  

The First Last Supper

“Then came the Day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover must be killed. And He sent Peter and John, saying, ‘Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat.’” Luke 22:7-8

As I read Jesus’ instruction to “go and prepare the Passover” I was struck by the fact that these words have been spoken by Jewish families for thousands of years. The first Passover took place in Egypt as the children of Israel prepared for God to deliver them from the bondage of the Egyptians. Then, thousands of years later came the first Lord’s Supper, the new covenant counterpart to Passover where the disciples prepared for God to deliver them from the bondage of sin.

A Parable on Prayer

“And it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.’” Luke 11:1

It’s no secret Jesus made prayer a priority in His life, but did you know John the Baptist did as well? It appears when the disciples saw Jesus praying, they were reminded of the numerous times they saw John praying, so one of them asked Jesus to teach them how to pray. It was common for religious leaders to teach their followers how to pray. Prayer was and is the one of the greatest ways we can experience the power of God.

The Good Samaritan

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10:27

Right after Jesus praised the Father for hiding the secrets of the kingdom from the wise and revealing them to babes, a lawyer tested Jesus by asking him, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” When Jesus asked him what the law said about inheriting eternal life, he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Clearly the lawyer knew the law. He studied the scriptures and knew the traditions, but he didn’t understand what it meant to love.

The Good Shepherd

“I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” John 10:10b

I can’t count the number of times I’ve quoted this verse. It means so much to me and I pray it means a lot to you. It’s in this verse that Jesus not only promises to give us eternal life, but also life more abundantly. One of the first images that comes to mind when reading this verse is what David wrote in Psalm 23:8, “You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies, You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over.” David experienced an overflowing cup in the presence of his enemies because the Lord was his Shepherd.

Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

“Then Peter came to Him and said, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive Him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.’” Matthew 18:21

Peter knew forgiveness was a key characteristic of God that he was called to exemplify for others. Knowing the Pharisees taught that they should forgive an offender two times, Peter must have thought he was pretty spiritual when he suggested forgiving an offender seven times. I wonder how shocked he was when he heard Jesus say we are to forgive an offender up to seventy times seven?

Pieces of the Puzzle

“Jesus said to them, ‘Have you understood all these things?’ They said to Him, 'Yes, Lord.’” Matthew 13:51

The question Jesus asked, “Have you understood all these things?” can also be translated, “Have you rightly put all these things together?” As we’ve been going through the parables, we’ve learned the disciples didn’t understand everything Jesus taught them. The same can be said of Jesus’ disciples today. The reason many lack understanding is because it takes a great deal of time to put all the pieces of the parables together. To fully understand them you must take pieces of the Old Testament and fit them together with pieces of the New Testament.

The Parable of the Pearl

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that the had and bought it.” Matthew 13:45-46

Have you ever felt like a little piece of sand being tossed around a giant troubled sea? Well, that is because according to this parable, you are. You are a little piece of sand, but the good news is that you are being changed into a precious pearl.

The Parable of the Hidden Treasure

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for the joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” Matthew 13:44

It is important to take note that the last three parables Jesus shared are different from the first four parables He shared. The first four parables were given to the multitude while the last three parables were only given to the disciples. This means the final three parables are meant to bless those who believe in Jesus because they reveal what He is doing through the church during the period between His first and second coming. The first four parables spoke of corruption in the kingdom of God, but the last three parables speak of how highly Jesus values the people of His kingdom.

The Parable of the Leaven

“The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.” Matthew 13:33

Last week I stated that the parable of the mustard seed is the most misunderstood and misinterpreted parable of Jesus. Well, I may have misspoke. I believe the parable of the leaven may be even more misunderstood. There seem to be two main opposing views of this parable. One view is that the leaven is a symbol of good, teaching that the gospel will permeate the entire earth until every human is saved. The other view is the opposite. It teaches that the leaven is a symbol of evil. Obviously, both interpretations cannot be correct. So, which one is correct?

The Parable of the Mustard Seed

“Another parable He put forth to them, saying: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.’” Matthew 13:31-32

Without a doubt this is the most misunderstood and misinterpreted parable of Jesus. If you want to learn why, you will need to join us Wednesday night as we look deeper into this scripture. In the meantime, I would like to tantalize your taste buds by sharing one lesson of faith I believe is found in this parable.

The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares

“But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of the harvest…’” Matthew 13:29-30a

When Jesus shared the parable of the wheat and the tares with his disciples, He told them there was both good seed (wheat) and bad seed (tares) planted in the kingdom of heaven. What are tares? Today we might call them “darnel”. Darnel grows side by side with wheat and the similarities between them is so great that in some regions darnel is referred to as “false wheat”. In fact, you cannot tell the difference between wheat and darnel until the ear of the wheat appears.

The Parable of the Sower

“Therefore hear the parable of the sower.” Matthew 13:18

The parable of the sower is a very profound parable that is certain to compel the listener to ask, “What kind of soil am I? How can I prepare my heart and mind to be the right kind of soil?” In this parable, Jesus shares about four different types of soil. The four soils represent four classes of hearers, each with a different response to the Word of God. The most important part of the parable is understanding that the soils represent the human heart.

The Parables of Jesus

“And He spoke many things to them in parables.” Matthew 13:3a

Have you ever wondered what the mission of the church is? There seems to be no end to the number of books written and conferences given on the subject of the mission of the church. Every sort of program and principle that you can imagine has been studied or scrutinized. Yet with all the study and concern about the mission of the church, it seems more than any other time in history we lack understanding of what the mission of the church truly is.

He is Faithful to Keep His Promises

“On the day that the enemies of the Jews hoped to overpower them, the opposite occurred, in that the Jews themselves overpowered those who hated them.” Esther 9:1b

Well, we have come to the end of the book of Esther. Although this book has revealed many beautiful attributes of God’s character, one attribute stands out among the rest because of how often it is displayed in this story - God always works in a supernaturally natural way. We saw it first when God arranged for Queen Vashti to be replaced by Esther and then gave her special favor with the king. We continued to see it when God arranged for Moredicai to have access to both Esther and the affairs of the kingdom.

Sorrows Into Great Joy

“Now Mordecai went out from the prince of the king in royal apparel of blue and white, with a great crown of gold and a garment of fine linen and purple; and the city of Shushan rejoiced and was glad. The Jews had light and gladness, joy and honor. And in every province and city, wherever the king’s command and decree came, the Jews had joy and gladness, a feast and a holiday. Then many of the people of the land became Jews, because fear of the Jews fell upon them.” Esther 8:15-17

In the beginning of this chapter Esther is sorrowful, but by the end of the chapter she and all the people are joyful. Seven times in the three verses above we read words that express jubilation. What caused this jubilation? The people saw that Mordecai was robed in royalty and that he had delivered a decree that promised to protect all the Jews in the land. This gave them great hope, which reminded me of Romans 15:13: “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

The Righteous Will Prosper

“So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the king’s wrath subsided.” Esther 6:10a

In Proverbs 11:8 we read, “The righteous is delivered from trouble, and it comes to the wicked instead.” The day before they hanged Haman, Haman was forced to lead Mordecai through the streets dressed like royalty. The very next day Haman was led through the streets with his face covered in humility on his way to being hung on the very gallows he prepared for Mordecai.

God-incidences

“That night the king could not sleep. So one was commanded to bring the book of records of the chronicles; and they were read before the king.” Esther 6:1

It has been said with a sovereign God there are no coincidences, only God-incidences. There is no doubt it was a God-incidence that the king couldn’t sleep the night spoken of in Esther 6:1. God kept the king awake knowing Haman was busy building the gallows to hang Mordecai. The king could have arranged for something to help him fall asleep. He could have called a troubadour to sing him to sleep or called a concubine from his harem to help calm him, but instead he had someone read the records of the chronicles to him. This may sound like the perfect thing to put someone to sleep quickly, but before the king could fall asleep he heard something very interesting. Within the records of the chronicles was the record of Mordecai’s service to the king five years earlier. This information made the king think fondly of Mordecai and would end up saving Mordecai’s life.

Step of Faith

“Now it happened on the third day that Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the king’s palace, across from the king’s house, facing the entrance of the house.” Esther 5:1

As I read this one little verse this morning, my heart was moved to pray for our country. Similar to Esther’s day, many unbelievable things are happening in our government today that often leave us wondering, “What in the world can we do?”