The Jews were amazed and asked, "How did this man get such learning without having studied?" Jesus answered, "My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me. If anyone chooses to do God's will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. He who speaks on his own does so to gain honor for himself, but he who works for the honor of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him. (John 7:15-18)
Jesus was not an academic, nor was He self-taught. Rather, Jesus had an exceptional grasp of God’s Word because He learned it to live it, perfectly and completely, to bring glory to His Father. He challenges us to do likewise, not only devoting ourselves to honor our Father by how we live, but in the process learning the truth of our dependence on His grace. Only when we try to set aside our own egos and serve God exclusively do we discover the depth of our need and the value of His redemption!
“Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Jesus to do for us what we could not do for ourselves, ransoming us from our sin, death, and the devil. Reinforce our faith with Your Spirit, that we may honor You with our lives, in Jesus, amen.”
SCHOOL OF HARD KNOCKS
An experienced teacher was walking down the hall of a middle school.
She noticed the new substitute teacher outside his assigned classroom.
The young teacher was leaning toward the wall with his head against a locker.
The older teacher could hear him mutter, “How did you get into this?”
Knowing the new substitute was dealing with a difficult class,
the experienced teacher wanted to be supportive.
So she asked, “Are you okay? Is there anything I can do to help?”
The young teacher looked up and replied, “I’ll be fine.
I just need to get this kid out of his locker.”
The LORD free you to experience His love in new ways this week!
“Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash." When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.” (Matthew 7:24-29)
The wise are discerning and active. They don’t necessarily know more than others and they are certainly not know-it-alls. Yet they know who can be trusted to tell the truth, and they do not fail to act on the truth. As we begin a new school year, we pray not only for teachers and their students, but for ourselves, that we would be able to sort out the truth in a world of manipulation and misinformation, and that we would act on the truth that God has revealed to us in Jesus.
“Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Jesus to teach us the truth and act for our redemption. Guide and bless all teachers and students, including us, that we would be wise enough to discern the truth and courageous enough to build our lives on it, in Jesus’ name, amen.”
A burglar broke into a house one night and was searching for valuables.
Suddenly, out of the darkness a high voice called, “Jesus is watching you.”
The burglar nearly jumped out of his skin, clicked off his flashlight and froze.
When he heard nothing more, after several minutes, he resumed his search.
Once again, he suddenly heard the voice call out, “Jesus is watching you.”
Freaked out, he frantically spun around, searching for the source of the voice.
Finally, in the corner of the room, he spotted a parrot in a large cage.
Immediately the burglar relaxed, recognizing the voice as that of the parrot.
“You’re a pretty bird; what’s your name?” he asked.
“Moses,” the parrot squawked, and the burglar chuckled.
“What kind of people would name their parrot Moses?” he asked aloud.
The parrot looked down at a huge black mass beginning to stir beneath it.
The bird replied, “The kind that would name their Rottweiler ‘Jesus.’”
The LORD guide you into all truth this week!
“And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. "This, then, is how you should pray: " 'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven..." (Matthew 6:7-10)
What a great promise we have in the words of Jesus that our Father knows what we need before we ask Him! We are tempted to think that our prayers fail because we do not know how or what to ask, but the reality is that our prayers only fail when we don’t ask. As Paul wrote, “We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” (Romans 8:26) If God fails to give us what we ask, we can conclude that He knows we really need something else right now, and we can pray as Jesus did, “Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39)
“Heavenly Father, thank You for inviting us to pray with confidence, knowing that You can be trusted to give us what we really need. Give us devotion and discernment to pray every day “not as I will, but as You will,” in Jesus’ name, amen.”
CAREFUL WHAT YOU ASK FOR…
Two priests die at the same time and meet St. Peter at the Pearly Gates.
St. Peter says, "I'd like to get you guys in now but our computers are down.”
“You'll have to go back to Earth for a week, but can't go as humans. What'll it be?"
The first priest says, "I'd love to be an eagle, soaring above the Rocky Mountains."
"So be it," says St. Peter, and off flies the first priest.
The second priest thinks a moment and asks, "Will you be keeping track of us?"
"No, with the computer down there's no way we can track what you are doing."
"In that case," says the second priest with a smile, "I'd like to be a stud."
"So be it," says St. Peter, and the second priest disappears.
After a week, the computer is fixed and the Lord tells Peter to recall the two priests.
"Will you have trouble locating them?" He asks.
"The first should be easy," says Peter. "He's over the Rockies, flying with eagles.”
“But the second one could prove to be more difficult."
"Why?" asks the Lord.
"Because he's on a snow tire somewhere in Alaska."
The Holy Spirit guide your prayers this week!
Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare. Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but my ears you have opened; burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require. Then I said, "Here I am, I have come--it is written about me in the scroll. I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” I proclaim righteousness in the great assembly; I do not seal my lips, as you know, O LORD.” (Psalm 40:5-9)
We cannot possibly tell others all the great things God has done throughout the world and throughout history. We can, however, pay attention to what God does in our lives and proclaim His goodness wherever we go. Scripture tells us that God has opened (literally, pierced) our ears so that we can grasp the perfection of His will and the great gift of our salvation through faith in Jesus. In response, we cannot possibly pay God back, but can become more passionate about His goodness and work in the world—passionate enough to open up our mouths so others can know His goodness.
“Heavenly Father, continue to speak Your Word into our hearts, so that we cannot help but proclaim Your salvation and perfect will, in Jesus’ name, amen.”
THAT HIT THE SPOT
A group of church friends got together on a regular basis for dinner and games. When it came time for Stan and Jean to be the hosts at their small farm, Jean wanted to outdo all the others. They had recently butchered a cow and she decided to have mushroom-smothered steaks. Jean told Stan her plan but commented that she was afraid the mushrooms might make the meal too expensive.
Stan asked, "Why don't you go down in the pasture and pick some of those mushrooms? There are plenty in the creek bed." Jean said, "No, some wild mushrooms are poison." He replied, "Well, I see varmints eating them and they're ok."
So, Jean decided give it a try. She picked a bunch, washed, sliced, and diced them for her smothered steak. Then she went out on the back porch and gave Ol' Spot, their yard dog, a double handful. Ol' Spot ate every bite. All morning long, Jean watched Ol' Spot and the wild mushrooms didn't seem to affect him, so she decided to use them.
The meal was a great success. After everyone had finished, they relaxed, socialized, and began to play dominoes. Just then a neighbor rang the doorbell. When Jean opened the door, the neighbor informed her, “I’m sorry, Jean, but Ol’ Spot is dead.”
Jean went into hysterics. Stan quickly called poison control and explained what had happened. Poison control called several ambulances, which quickly arrived to transport the entire dinner party to the hospital. There, every member of their group was given an enema and had their stomach pumped.
After the last one was finished, a doctor came out and assured them, "I think everything will be fine now." They arranged for transportation back to Stan and Jean’s to retrieve their cars. When they arrived, the neighbor was waiting for them on their front porch, curious about all the ambulances.
As they weakly climbed the porch steps, the neighbor told them, “I’m sorry I gave you such a shock, but you know, whoever ran over Ol' Spot never even stopped!"
The Lord give you wisdom and boldness this week!
“Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret--it leads only to evil. For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land.” (Psalm 37:7-9)
I have to admit that as a coffee-drinking, type-A, 21st century American, being still is not my strong suit. In fact, I hate waiting, and patience can really require a lot of will power. Fortunately, we are called to “be still before the Lord” and “wait patiently for Him.” The kind of stillness the psalmist urges is not necessarily a lack of physical activity, but a sense of confident peace, a trust that God is aware of and cares about all aspects of our lives. We are able to wait patiently for God to fulfill His promises because He has always faithfully done so. Not only is our fretting futile and our anger counter-productive, they display a lack of faith that the God who provided redemption in Christ will certainly bring about our vindication on the day of resurrection.
“Heavenly Father, give us the strength to wait for You, trusting confidently in Your promises and empowered by Your Spirit. Enable us to be free of worry and anger, knowing that You are our hope, in Jesus’ name, amen.”
The large sedan was moving extremely slowly, backing up cars on a two-lane highway.
A state trooper noticed the hazard being caused by the slow driver and pulled her over.
The car was full of fearful looking senior citizens, with a very elderly woman at the wheel.
“Ma’am,” said the trooper, “I’m afraid you are creating a hazard by driving so slowly.
The speed limit is 55 mph; if you can’t drive at least 45 mph I’ll have to give you a ticket.”
“Oh, my,” replied the driver, “I am so sorry officer! The last speed limit sign I saw said 25!”
“Ma’am,” the officer responded, “that was not the speed limit. This is highway 25.”
“Oh dear,” said the woman, “that explains all the cars honking and passing us.
Thank you for telling me, officer—I will definitely speed up to 55 then!”
The officer said, “Please do. I’ll let you go with a warning this time, but I have to ask:
Your passengers are all pale and covered with perspiration. Are they sick?”
“Oh, they’ll be fine,” the woman said, “but I think we just got off Highway 120.”
God give you confident peace this week!
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the person of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
We do a lot of Bible study at church and in our homes, but for what purpose? Contrary to all the jokes, there will be no quiz at the pearly gates: your name is either in the book of life or not! Certainly Scripture can bring us comfort and hope, but it is meant to do much more than that. We study the Bible because God has good things for us to do in this life that we cannot do without His transforming and equipping: teaching us what is truly valuable, rebuking our sinfulness, correcting our self-centered ways of thinking, and training us in righteousness, so that what we do can be seen to be done through Him. God breathed His Spirit into Scripture for this very purpose: so that we can know and participate in His grand and glorious mission of saving the world.
“Heavenly Father, thank You for Your Word, by which we are equipped to do Your work. Enable us to humbly accept its teaching, rebuke, correction, and training, in Jesus’ name, amen.”
BEST (OR WORST) CHURCH COFFEE SHOP NAMES
As church coffee shops increase, so do place names playing on Christian and Biblical terms
to push caffeinated beverages. Here are 15 of the best—or worst, depending on your opinion of puns!
Tongues of Fire
Brew unto Others
My Cup Overfloweth
Jesus Loves You a Latte
Pressed but Not Crushed
Shadrach, Meshach, and A-Bean-To-Go
The Father, the Son, and the Holy Roast
The LORD equip and energize you this week!
"For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." (Colossians 1:13-14)
We’re still in the darkest days of the year, when many of us get up in the dark and get home in the dark. It’s a great time to remember all of the imagery in Scripture comparing our Savior and His salvation with light illuminating darkness. Not only does light guide us, keep us safe, and cheer our spirits, it allows us to clean what would otherwise be unseen and to value what would otherwise be worthless. Some day we will live with God in eternity, where we will walk by the light of the glory of God and there will be no night. Until then, we live as children of the light, guided by the Light of the World, always seeking to overcome the darkness and reveal God’s glory
“Heavenly Father, thank You for enlightening our hearts with Your Spirit. Enable us to see through the darkness of this world and reflect the brilliance of Christ, our Light and Salvation, that other may be brought into the light, in Jesus, amen.
A few days into the new year, a woman found her husband in their bathroom.
He was sucking in his stomach as he weighed himself on the bathroom scale.
The woman thought, “He thinks he will weigh less by sucking in his stomach.''
So, she rather sarcastically said to her husband, ''That's not going to help.''
Her husband said, ''Sure it will. It's the only way I can see the numbers.''
Voicemail message: "I’m not available right now, but thanks for calling.
I am making some changes in my life as we begin the new year.
Please leave a message and your number after the beep.
If I do not return your call, you are one of the changes."
The LORD guide you in the changes and challenges of this new year!
"I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed! Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three.” (Luke 12:49-52)
Among the most popular Christmas wishes and card slogans is “Peace on Earth; Good Will to All!” It’s come to be gender-neutral and a vague enough nativity reference that it seems unlikely to offend anyone because, really, who wouldn’t wish for peace on earth? Well, it seems Jesus, for one. A better translation of the angel’s pronouncement would be “peace on earth to all who have God’s good will.” The kind of peace the angels refer to is not a lack of conflict in the world, but an inner confidence in the hearts of those who trust God, regardless of how conflicted the world is. This confidence comes from faith that God will redeem His people and remake the world as promised through the Savior, Jesus.
In contrast to the world around us, the historic church doesn’t spend the days leading up to Christmas getting nostalgic for idyllic years past, dreaming happy dreams of future material pleasures, or wishing wistfully that people could just get along. Instead, we observe Advent—a penitential season remembering the reason Jesus came in the first place: our race has a long history of idolatry which material comforts will only feed, and the conflicts in our world confirm our need for new life through Jesus’ death, resurrection, and return. Jesus looked forward to kindling the judgment of the world because it will be the beginning of the only real, permanent peace possible and the ultimate unification of our human family.
“Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Jesus to undergo a baptism of fire so that we can experience the peace of Your friendship. Kindle our hearts with the inner peace that comes through confidence in You, and enable us to live thoughtful and hopeful lives that shine with true hope, in Jesus Christ our Lord, amen.”
“Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.” (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12)
Should Jesus’ followers care what anybody else thinks of how they live their lives? Absolutely! The type of work many of us do with our hands has changed drastically since Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, but the extent to which our lives demonstrate what we really believe has remained the same. When our ambition is selfish (personal profit, pleasure, popularity, power, or playing games, for example) we reveal the true object of our worship to be ourselves, and we misrepresent the cause of Christ. When our ambition is selfless, we reveal the true nature of Christ, who did not come to serve Himself, but to serve us, so that we can live with Him in peace and joy that extend into eternity.
“Heavenly Father, thank you for Your selfless sacrifice that we might be saved. Increase our faith through Your Spirit, that we live in ways that win the respect of outsiders and reveal Your selfless love, in Jesus, amen.”
An investment banker from New York was at the pier of a coastal Mexican village.
A small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside were several large tunas.
The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish.
Asked how long it took to catch them, the fisherman replied, “Only a little while.”
The American then asked, “Why didn't you stay out longer and catch more fish?”
The Mexican said he had enough to support his family's immediate needs.
The American then asked, "But what do you do with the rest of your time?"
The fisherman said, "I sleep late and play with my children.
In the afternoon I take siesta with my beautiful wife, Maria.
Each evening we stroll into the village where I sip wine
and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life."
The American scoffed, "I am a Harvard MBA and could help you.
You should spend more time fishing and with the profits, buy a bigger boat.
With the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats.
In a few years you would have a fleet of fishing boats with many employees.
Instead of selling to a middleman you could sell directly to the processor.
Then you open your own cannery to control product, processing and distribution.
At that point you would need to leave this village and move to Mexico City.
From there you’d open offices in LA and NYC to run your expanding enterprise."
The Mexican fisherman asked, "But how long will this all take?"
To which the American replied, "15-20 years."
The fisherman asked, "But what then?"
The American laughed, and said, “That's the best part.”
"When the time is right you announce an IPO and sell your company stock.
You would become very rich and retire with millions of dollars."
The Mexican asked, "Millions of dollars! What would I do with all that money?"
The American said, "Well, you could retire and move to a small coastal fishing village.
You could sleep late, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife, and each evening
you could stroll to the village to sip wine and play guitar with your amigos!"
The LORD bless you with wisdom to live in peace and quiet this week!
Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. Going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed Him. (Matthew 4:18-22)
If you want to know what a disciple of Jesus is, some commentators have noted, you don’t have to look any farther than Jesus’ calling of His first four disciples in Matthew’s Gospel. Disciples are those who believe in Jesus enough to listen for His voice and respond when He says, “Follow me.” As such, they belong to an elite group of individuals who are becoming more like Jesus, as He promised when He said, “and I will make you.” Ultimately, disciples are those who grow to join Jesus in His mission, recruiting and building other disciples as “fishers of men.”
“Almighty God, thank You for calling us to know You, grow like You, and go with You into the world as Your disciples. Give us wisdom and courage to be Your means of discipling others, in Jesus’ name, amen.”
The rain was pouring down.
Standing alongside a large puddle outside the pub was a bewhiskered old man.
He was drenched, holding a long stick with a piece of string dangling into the water.
A curious passer-by stopped and asked, "What are you doing?”
"Fishing" replied the old man, as he shrugged his shoulders and coughed.
Feeling sorry for the old man, the gentleman offered,
"Come in out of the rain and have a drink with me."
In the warmth of the pub they sipped their whiskies and swapped stories.
Finally, the gent finally got around to the elephant in the puddle, so to speak.
He asked, "So how many have you caught today?"
"You're the eighth," responded the old man.
The LORD give you both compassion and discernment this week!
As Pastor at Pilgrim, Kirk is fueled by a passion for God's Word and a lot of good coffee.