February 24, 2021: Punishment for Failure


  • Read Matthew 25:41-46.

    “Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me" (v. 45).
       It was in the 1800s when Charles Dickens faced a difficult situation. His father had mismanaged the finances of the household and, in accordance with English law, was sitting in a debtor's prison. Charles was only ten years old but had no alternative. He had to go to work to support the family. At this young age, he saw much poverty and injustice. The powerful, famous, and rich exploited the powerless with impunity. From these painful experiences, Dickens found the basis for many of his novels. He spoke to the issues of the day. Living in the British Empire during the industrial revolution, he knew from first-hand experience the ugliness of that age.
       Possibly his story, which has been most read, is "A Christmas Carol." In this account, the infamously stingy Ebenezer Scrooge in his own greedy, selfish, and calloused manner runs roughshod over the lives of others. Scrooge sees no need to feel any moral responsibility for the welfare of his fellowman. Through this account, Scrooge tries to convince his readers that love and benevolence can change lives. The ghost of Jacob Marley conveys the understanding that eternal punishment awaits people like Ebenezer Scrooge.
       Jesus pushed this message to a greater extent. The church has a moral obligation to minister to those in need. By our demonstration of love, compassion, and generous assistance in Jesus' name, we, in some spiritual way, are not only ministering to those in need but also to our Lord. The good works that are an expression of our relationship with Jesus Christ bring glory to God. (L.Gayle Woods)

    The good works of a Christian are to be an expression
    of our relationship with Jesus Christ
    designed to bring glory to God.
2021-02-22T15:07:40+00:00February 24th, 2021|Categories: Opening the Word|0 Comments

February 17, 2021: Requirements for Entry

Wednesday, February 17

Read Luke 13:23-30.

"Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able" (v. 24).

Perhaps the person who asked Jesus, "Are there few that be saved?" had heard Jesus' teaching that the Kingdom of Heaven was found in small things. Maybe he was present when Jesus rebuked the leaders of the synagogue for trying to keep him from healing on the Sabbath. He probably had accepted the idea that the Pharisees, with their outward displays of holiness, were the ones who had the way to Heaven figured out, but Jesus showed this view to be false.

Jesus isn't warning people who were considered to be sinners.  To them, he regularly offered mercy and forgiveness. However, He was talking to the religious leaders of His day when He said that many will not be able to enter through the door and gain salvation.  He is also talking to us, the ones who read and write devotionals. We are standing squarely in the  path of his words.

The question for all of is this: have we begun to become like the Pharisees? Are we looking down on sinners? Are we proud of our own righteousness? The Prophet Isaiah reminds us that God doesn't break a bruised reed. Instead, throughout the Bible, we see that God is against those who are proud.  We should examine our hearts to see if pride has taken root and do whatever it takes to dig it out. (Randy Joe Bland)

 

Has pride taken root in your heart?

2021-02-17T15:55:30+00:00February 17th, 2021|Categories: Opening the Word|0 Comments

February 10, 2021: The Joy of the Righteous

Wednesday, February 10
Read Psalm 84:1-12.
"Blessed are they that dwell in thy house: they will be still praising thee. Selah" (v. 4).
   At the time of this writing, many of us have not been in the building, which houses the group with whom we affiliate, which we call the church. We know that the church is not made of brick and mortar. 1 Peter 2:5 says, "Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ." Christ indwells believers, and His presence is always with us.  Those who live close to Him are aware of His presence.
  As a missionary-teacher, I was often in the Mercer home, where Sis. Mercer made cooking and hospitality her ministry. But that was not all of her ministry. She lived in the presence of God. Though she spent a great deal of time in her kitchen, her well-worn Bible was never far away. Further, she was almost constantly in touch with her Heavenly Father.  She often could be heard praying as she worked. Once I stepped to the front porch and just to my left was the open kitchen door, and there Sis. Mercer's brown face was glowing with tears streaming down her cheeks.  Her hands were raised in praise. I felt I was an intruder into her private worship, but that was her life.  Perhaps praise was the secret ingredient in her delicious meals.
  It has been my blessed privilege to be with God's saints in all kinds of situations – worship services, sorrow, serious illness, and the list could go on. What is interesting and wonderful is that in those situations, God is present, praise is practiced, and the countenance of those praising is lightened.  (Lonnie R.Witt)
Joy-bells, joy-bells, ringing in my soul;
Joy-bells, joy-bells, I am free and whole.
Jesus sought and found me,
Placed His arms around me,
Set the blessèd joy-bells ringing in my soul.
— James Rowe
2021-02-03T17:02:25+00:00February 10th, 2021|Categories: Opening the Word|0 Comments

February 3, 2021: The Righteous and Wicked Separated

Wednesday, February 3

Read Matthew 13:47-52

"So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just" (v.49)

Standing in the barn, peering at the feed barrels, I was struggling with identifying which one contained catfish feed, horse pellets, or chicken feed. I had not et learned the characteristics of each type of feed. I soon discovered that catfish feed is little balls. Horse pellets are longer. Chicken feed is smaller pellets. It is no longer a problem to fill the feed bucket with the desired food for the correct animal.

At the end of the world, the characteristics of the wicket and the just will be easy for the angels to distinguish. The just have been transformed by the blood of Jesus Christ. Their lives are filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

It will be too late for the wicked to accept God's gift. Their lives have not been changed. Their lives will be recognized by the sins of lust, gluttony, greed, laziness, wrath, envy, and pride. Prepare today to be identified with the just! Jesus paid the price, accept His gift. (Tamara M. Crawford)

There's a great day coming, 

A great day coming,

There's a great day coming by and by,

When the saints and the sinners shall be parted right and left

                                                                                                                                      -- Will L. Thompson

Does your life emanate righteousness or wickedness?

2021-02-03T14:47:59+00:00February 3rd, 2021|Categories: Opening the Word|0 Comments

The Wicked Stewards

Wednesday, January 27

Read Mark 12:1-11.

And they caught him, and beat him, and sent him away empty" (v. 3).
  Not everyone who takes an oath of faithfulness proves faithful. The Bible presents many examples. Some of them are heart-breaking. Absolom turned on his father, David. Judas gave up on Jesus and sold him for the price of a slave. Demas forsook his ministry team because "he loved this present world." But the Bible has its humor. Acts 19 tells the story of the sons of Sceva. They claimed to be doing God's work by driving out evils spirits, but even the evil spirits were not convinced. "And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded" (Acts 19:16).
  Claiming to act as a steward is a serious matter, especially when you claim to be acting in the name of Jesus. The tenants in this parable agreed to give the landowner his due share, but in the end, selfishness changed their plan. Unimaginable evil followed. And their actions brought the tenants to ruin.
  It is better to be a heathen than an unfaithful servant of God! (Gordon L. Snider)
2021-01-26T15:20:44+00:00January 27th, 2021|Categories: Opening the Word|0 Comments

January 20, 2021: Called to Spiritual Rest

Read Hebrews 4: 1-11.
Called to Spiritual Rest
"And in this place again, if they shall enter into my rest" (v.5).
   God rested after completing all of creation, and we honor that on Sunday after completing our work week.  But this verse speaks to another rest…shared with our Lord and Savior, any time or day of the week.  It is that deep abiding rest that we have as a child of the King!
   I picture my daughters, who cradled in my arms as infants, while I rocked them to sleep.  Or the times they reclined in my arms as we read a children's book together, snuggled up in the corner nook.  Quiet moments, just enjoying each other's companionship.  For the believer, Jesus is always there eager to share his rest with us.  Unfortunately, we are often too busy with living life and miss out on those special times. More's the pity! His gentle rest restores our faith and centers our life on Him.
  During times resting in Him, I hear my Savior's voice - the sweetest of lullabies. (Jan Hamilton)
He makes me lie down in green pastures, leads me
 beside still waters, and restores my soul.
Ps. 23:2 & 3 paraphrased.
2021-01-18T15:20:02+00:00January 20th, 2021|Categories: Opening the Word|0 Comments

The First Resurrection

Read Luke 14:12 – 14. 

"And thou shalt be blessed: for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just" (v. 14).

   The first step in studying "The Parables of Jesus" is to define a parable. I understand a parable to be "an earthly story with a heavenly meaning" or significance. And Jesus was the Master in the use of parables to illustrate truth.

In our reading for today, there is a reference to "the resurrection of the just," sometimes called the first resurrection. One of the beautiful things about this first resurrection is that Jesus promises that the just will be repaid in eternity for the good things done on earth. In the exercise of Christian principles of living, we may do good things on earth that will never be repaid or known until eternity. But there God's children will be richly rewarded.

So set your affections on the rewards of eternity, and never let seeming ingratitude for your good works here rule your spirit.            (Leonard Sankey)

Moses esteemed "the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt, for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward" (Hebrews 11:26).

Don't let our culture's thirst for instant gratification destroy the Christian hope of the resurrection the Bible promises

2020-12-09T16:41:12+00:00December 9th, 2020|Categories: Opening the Word|Tags: , |0 Comments

Christ’s Example.

Read John 15:9-14.

 

"As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love" (v. 9).

 

     My father was a Christian example, quiet and humble.  He served four years in the US Army during World War II, without the opportunity of returning home on leave, but never complained.  In fact, he considered his military service an honor.  He confidently labored as an automobile mechanic.   He faithfully served and generously gave to his Church.

But the striking example of Christlikeness in his life was his love for my mother.  He would have been in his late teens when they met.  She had an infant son by a man who deserted her, but Father embraced that boy, adopted him, and married my mother.

Though they were often misunderstood and criticized, Dad never responded with anything but gracious love.  Oh, he could be firm for sure, and when needed, he could let you know what he considered right. Through all of his life, his love for mother was evident.  The last nine years of her life she was disabled because of a stroke, but father carefully and patiently cared for her needs.  As Christ loved the Church, father loved his family. (Clair Sams)

 

O Love divine, what hast thou done!

The immortal God hath died for me!

The Father's co-eternal Son

Bore all my sins upon the tree.

Th'immortal God for me hath died:

My Lord, my Love, is crucified!

 

Then let us sit beneath His cross,

And gladly catch the healing stream:

All things for Him account but loss,

And give up all our hearts to Him:

Of nothing think or speak beside,

My Lord, my Love, is crucified!

Charles Wesley

 

Love is the full expression of a heart whose character is pure.

 

 

2020-11-18T20:46:04+00:00November 18th, 2020|Categories: Opening the Word|Tags: , |0 Comments

Working Together.

Read Romans 12:1-5.

Working Together

"For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office" (v. 4).

 

          I'm all thumbs. This expression, often used in mild self-deprecation, illustrates humorously the lack of coordination we occasionally feel.  Can you imagine if it were true?  Take a moment to look at your hands.  How well would they work if every digit were a thumb?  Could you write smoothly or hold a spoon properly?  Could you type an email or peel an orange well?  If our hands were truly all thumbs, we'd be clumsy indeed.

Now, consider the church. How would the church work if we were all thumbs?  If we were all greeters? Or ushers?  Or musicians? Or teachers?  Or preachers? Would the church function properly without the right people in the right roles?  No, of course not.  If we all were ushers, who would give?  If we all taught, who'd listen? If we all played music, who would sing?

Together, we are the body of Christ: "Though many, [we] are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another" (Romans 12:5). When we use the "gifts that differ according to the grace given to us" (Romans 12:6), we work together to form a body that functions as designed by God. (LAW)

We give thee but thine own,

Whate'er the gift may be;

All that we have is thine alone,

A trust, O Lord, from thee.

--William How

 

Though different in form and function, we work together as one.

2020-10-26T13:48:48+00:00October 28th, 2020|Categories: Opening the Word|Tags: , |0 Comments

Serve in Humility

Read Matthew 23:1‑12.

"But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant" (v. 11). 

          According to C.S. Lewis, "Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it's thinking of yourself less."  A pastoral couple we know was assigned to a generously respectful congregation.  They had been reared in middle-class homes and were not comfortable with their new church's policy of seating them, front and center, at a "table of honor" at church gatherings.  They avoided this practice by helping serve refreshments or "working the room" to meet and greet as many people as possible, especially visitors that were often present.  Soon they noticed a new interest and sense of belonging among several in the congregation.  The couple gratefully attributed this, in part, to their god-given preference for being among and alongside, not exalted above, the people.

One debate focuses on which comes first: honor or servanthood.  Does one serve to become greatly esteemed, or does great character naturally focus on serving? Our verse seems to indicate that, in God's order of things, they "go hand in hand." Greatness of character flows outward in a rising tide of loving and beloved servant leadership.  Natural greatness finds fulfillment in serving others, and those who gladly serve are a godly model to which others aspire. (Wayne Skeen)

"Humility is not a character trait to develop,

it's the natural by-product of being with Jesus."
- Louie Giglio

 

Prayer:  Father, let me not desire to be thought of as great,

but rather give me longing to be of some good.

2020-10-20T13:50:03+00:00October 21st, 2020|Categories: Opening the Word|Tags: , |0 Comments
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