WORDDEVO: "The Weekly Word with Moody" [11-25 thru 12-02] DEVOTIONALS


Seven Days of Devotion 

 The Weekly Word is a Collection of Devotionals to be read on the Day Listed and presented freely as a service to and for the Body of Christ and Believers throughout the World that We may Hear God Speak to us as the Spirit of God gives us ears to hear and eyes to see what God would have for us daily in relationship to Him.


Read: Luke 14


In one of the persecutions of Christians in the days of the Roman empire, a young believer named Procopius of Palestine gave his life for the sake of the gospel. He was brought before a magistrate in Caesarea and ordered to sacrifice to the gods, but he refused, saying, “There is no God but one only, the Maker and Creator of all things.” Then they told him to sacrifice to four Roman emperors, but again he stood firm and refused. For his faithfulness, he was beheaded on July 7, A.D. 303.

As Jesus said, true disciples must give up everything to follow Him (v. 33). In essence, discipleship is what needs to happen after we walk through the “narrow door” of faith in Christ (vv. 25-35).

This commitment is so extreme that Jesus explained it by using two rather shocking figures of speech: First, following Him requires such dedication that hyperbolically it’s like hating your family and even your own life. Second, following Him requires such dedication that metaphorically it’s like carrying a cross. As a means of executing criminals, a cross suggested shame, suffering, and death. In modern terms, it’s as though Jesus had said, “Want to follow me? You’ll need to have a seat in the electric chair.” To be His disciple we need to “count the cost” or understand the all-out, holding-nothing-back nature of the relationship.

One significant dimension of discipleship is hospitality. In today’s reading, Jesus drew an analogy between earthly and divine hospitality (vv. 12-24). At the time, he was receiving hospitality from a Pharisee, evidence that He continued to reach out to the religious leaders and give them further opportunities to believe in Him. After exhorting His listeners to good deeds (instead of hypocrisy) and humility (instead of pride), Jesus addressed the topic of hospitality and generosity. These should be offered freely, without expectation of repayment. God Himself has invited us to a heavenly banquet, even though He knows few will accept and none can repay Him. Refusing His hospitality is a bad idea, for accepting it is the only way to life and the most important decision we’ll ever make.


Many American Christians rarely link discipleship with hospitality. We like our individual space, and besides, we’re always busy! Hospitality can be viewed as an imposition or a Better Homes and Gardens-style performance. When we realize, however, that the people we are to invite into our homes are the same ones God has invited to His kingdom banquet, we realize how important it can be. Done as an act of discipleship, hospitality can be an expression of God’s love to others. 






Read: Luke 15


Preoccupied with plans for upcoming concerts and tours, classical violinist Gidon Kremer accidentally left his $3 million violin behind on a train. Once he realized the situation, he urgently called Amtrak officials to see what could be done. A baggage handler found the violin, undisturbed in its blue cloth case, and the valuable instrument was quickly returned to its owner. As a thank-you, Kremer invited the Amtrak employee who had located the violin to one of his concerts.

As eagerly as Kremer searched for his lost violin, God is even more passionate in searching for spiritually lost individuals. Up to this point in our month’s study, we have divided Luke’s Gospel into three main parts: Jesus’ birth (Luke 1-2), the start of His public ministry (chap. 3-7), and His main teachings (chap. 8-14). Today we begin a fourth section on the theme of God’s kingdom in Jesus’ teaching (chap. 15-19:27), to be followed by a final section on Passion Week, that is, Jesus’ death and resurrection (19:28-24:53).

The three parables in today’s reading reveal the joy God takes in saving the lost. The Pharisees thought it was improper for a rabbi to fraternize with “tax collectors and sinners,” but Jesus wanted everyone to know that this is what the kingdom of God is all about! His first story involved a lost sheep (vv. 3-7), the second a lost coin (vv. 8-10), and the third a lost son (vv. 11-32). The first two begin with an item that gets lost, and then a careful effort is made to find it, upon which great rejoicing follows. From a spiritual perspective, sin is lostness and redemption is “foundness,” so finding the lost item represents a sinner who by the grace of God repents.

The third parable is similar but more complex. The lost item in this story is a person who makes a series of choices. These choices include extreme disrespect to his father, selfishness, pleasure-seeking, wastefulness, and pride. By contrast, the father’s choices include grace, mercy, compassion, unconditional love, and finally a celebration of “life out of death” when his son returned.


While the shepherd and the housewife in the parables searched diligently for their lost items, the third story doesn’t mention the father searching at all. He let the son make his choices and walk his wayward road—what he did do was watch and pray. When the prodigal returned, he ran to meet him and threw a celebratory banquet. Sometimes our vigilant concern for the salvation of those we love means we must watch and pray, trusting that God is working in their hearts. 






Read: Luke 16


Recent studies suggest that Americans’ religious walk doesn’t match their religious talk. Seventy percent say they have no doubt God exists, and 40 percent claim to attend religious services regularly. Empirical evidence contradicts the latter claim, however. One study asked people to narrate their Sunday schedules, another estimated religious service attendance nationwide and compared that to poll responses, and another examined nearly 500 different time-use studies. All concluded that actual church attendance is only about half of what people say. Although most Americans don’t go to religious services, they apparently want others to believe they do.

God is not fooled by such posturing. He knows our hearts (v. 15)—in time our actions will prove what our hearts truly value. That’s why the good news of the coming of the kingdom of God in today’s reading (v. 16) is accompanied by so many practical, moral commands. Jesus taught things that weren’t popular then and aren’t popular now, but they’re true nonetheless. One cannot serve both God and money (v. 13). Divorce is related to adultery (v. 18). Riches can be a barrier to faith. Submission and stewardship are important spiritual disciplines. God is no respecter of persons.

The two main parables in this chapter deal with money. The parable of the shrewd manager teaches that money is a means, not an end. To give up money—not his money, but money nonetheless—to get friends showed a kind of cleverness that treated money as a means to a better end. If an unethical person can show the way in this area, how much more will spiritual wisdom lead us to treat money as a means to eternal ends. Earthly stewardship is a warm-up for heaven.

The parable of the rich man and Lazarus teaches us, among other things, that riches can be a barrier to faith when they compete for loyalty and priority in our lives. The rich man’s comfortable state on earth had led him to neglect faith and godliness, and as a result he ended up in hell. Too late he realized that he had lived for the wrong things!


The phrase “everyone is forcing his way into it” (v. 16) is a difficult phrase to translate. The idea of “force” can have positive or negative connotations. It seems to point toward the passion, positive or negative, of people’s responses to the ministry of Jesus. To paraphrase this verse, “God’s Word promised the kingdom all along. Since John the Baptist its arrival has been proclaimed and people have been violently embracing or rejecting it.” Which one describes you? 







Read: Luke 17


Faith, according to Hebrews, “is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (11:1). But how do we live this out? Thankfully, many concrete examples are found in Scripture, especially in Hebrews 11, also known as the “Hall of Faith.” Abel, for instance, offered his sacrifice in humble faith and God accepted it. Noah trusted the Lord and “built an ark to save his family.” Abraham obeyed God and journeyed to a foreign land. Joseph anticipated the Exodus. Moses’ parents protected him from the murderous intentions of their Egyptian enslavers.

Today’s reading reveals five essential principles and practices of faith. First, faith means resisting and forgiving sin (vv. 1-5). Sin may be inevitable, but this doesn’t remove human responsibility. Woe to one who causes a child to sin or refuses to forgive a repentant brother! In their response, “Increase our faith!” the disciples correctly perceived the difficulty of obeying these commands.

Second, faith means serving without looking for praise or reward (vv. 6-10). Service as a spiritual “duty” is not an inspiring or motivating message in today’s world, but the fact is that God owes us nothing. Our work for His glory is proper and fitting and our duty and privilege to perform.

Third, faith means gratitude for God’s incredible work in our lives (vv. 11-19). This is seen in the incident with the ten lepers, only one of whom (and a Samaritan at that!) came back to say “thank you” for his miraculous healing from a dreadful disease. Once again, Luke stresses overturned expectations.

Fourth, faith understands that the “kingdom of God” is a spiritual reality (vv. 20-21). The Pharisees and others were looking for a savior from the Roman occupation and a new Davidic golden age, but Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is in your midst” (v. 20). Fifth and finally, faith understands that the “kingdom of God” is both present and future (vv. 22-37). It is present in Jesus and in people’s responses to Him, but it is also future in Jesus and His Second Coming.


The return of Christ is imminent. By this, we don’t mean that it will necessarily happen soon—after all, Scripture says, “About that day or hour no one knows” (Matt. 24:36). Rather, the imminent return of Christ means that it could happen at any time. Nothing else needs to happen first. It could be in the next minute, next week, next decade, or next century. Are we ready? No, if we’re focused on temporal things and worldly concerns. Yes, if we’re walking day by day with Christ in faith. 







Read: Luke 18


Author and pastor John Piper called humility a “shy virtue.” What did he mean? “Our humility, if there is any at all, is based on our finiteness, our fallibility, and our sinfulness. But the eternal Son of God was not finite. He was not fallible. And he was not sinful. So, unlike our humility, Jesus’ humility originated some other way.” To put it simply, He chose to be humble (Mark 10:45; Phil. 2:6-8). “What defines Jesus’ humility is the fact that it is mainly a conscious act of putting himself in a lowly, servant role for the good of others. . . . [W]e are called to join Jesus in this conscious self-humbling and servanthood.”

Humility is a key dimension of citizenship in God’s kingdom, including humility in prayer (vv. 9-14). To some smug listeners, Jesus told a story built around a contrast. On one side stood a religious leader. His prayer was prideful. He boasted of his good works and compared himself favorably to others. On the other side a tax collector stood at a distance. His prayer was humble and repentant. He confessed his unworthiness and begged God for mercy. It was this man rather than the other who “went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (v. 14) The tax collector understood that we are to receive the kingdom “like a little child” (v. 17).

We should also pray with persistence and purity of heart. Jesus made the first point with a story about a widow and an unjust judge (vv. 1-8). If a widow could obtain justice under unfavorable circumstances through simple persistence, how much more can we expect the same from our just and loving God? The blind man who would not be shushed and shouted louder for healing certainly discovered this (vv. 35-43). The issue of purity of heart is shown in Jesus’ encounter with the rich young man (vv. 18-30). Though apparently in search of the kingdom, the fact was that his heart was attached more to his wealth than to God’s truth.


Some of us would rather “achieve” the kingdom than “receive” the kingdom (v. 17). Even though we know in our heads that salvation is all about God’s grace and not what we deserve, we still want to earn something. Perhaps we do good deeds in an attempt to “repay” God. Perhaps we take ideas like discipleship and sacrifice and turn them into spiritual achievements to take pride in. But in our own strength we can do nothing at all—there’s no room for pride in God’s kingdom! 





Read: Luke 19:1-27


At the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization held last year in Cape Town, South Africa, an 18-year-old Korean high school student gave a stirring testimony. Born in Pyongyang, North Korea, she was the only child of a wealthy and well-connected family. When they were politically persecuted, they fled to China. There they met Chinese Christians and Korean and American missionaries who introduced her parents to faith in Christ. Her mother soon died of leukemia. Her father sought to take the gospel back to North Korea, but was imprisoned and is presumed martyred. She, too, received Christ and shares this passion to see His gospel flourish in the physically and spiritually impoverished land of her birth.

This is also the heart of her heavenly Father, and the very reason for the Incarnation: “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (v. 10). This verse is often described as the theme verse for Luke’s entire Gospel.

It is epitomized in the story of Zacchaeus (vv. 1-10). As a chief tax collector in the Roman system, he almost certainly was corrupt and locally notorious for his sinfulness. Yet God had moved in his heart until he took the undignified step of climbing a tree to catch a glimpse of Jesus.

Jesus knew he would be there and took the initiative to invite Himself to dinner. Though some would criticize this move, “to seek and to save the lost” was exactly why He had come. Zacchaeus responded with immediate faith, concretely demonstrating his repentance of sin by paying restitution and giving to the poor. These actions didn’t save him, but they were proof of God’s saving work in his heart.

Like Zacchaeus, we who are “found” seek to be faithful followers of Christ (vv. 11-27; cf. Matt. 25:14-30). Being faithful in our stewardship of resources is one such way. One servant in the parable failed to manage his talent well and stood condemned. The other two, however, obeyed faithfully and were ready on the day of the master’s return (cf. 1 Cor. 4:5).


Thanks to modern technology, you can see and hear the North Korean student’s testimony. Video of it is available both at the Lausanne Congress Web site, http://conversation.lausanne.org/en/conversations/detail/11671, and on YouTube. (www.youtube.com). Her testimony of suffering and faith will stir your soul and encourage you in your daily walk. It is a vigorous witness to the power of the gospel and the love of God. 






Read: Luke 19:28-48



When Roman generals returned from their conquests, they were welcomed back with a victory parade. The general would ride in a gilded chariot, prisoners in chains walking before him and soldiers marching in ranks and carts loaded with plunder behind him. Two slaves would also ride in the chariot, one holding a laurel wreath as a symbol of triumph and one whispering a warning in the general’s ear, “All fame is fleeting.”

When Jesus made his Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem at the beginning of Passion Week, the climax of His mission of redemption lay just ahead. The people who celebrated Him on Sunday would be shouting for His crucifixion by Friday. Because of this, the Triumphal Entry was a bittersweet event.

The sweetness came as the event fulfilled messianic prophecy, when Jesus rode the colt of a donkey into Jerusalem. The animal symbolized the kingship of David, and the people responded with praise and worship, shouting, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” (v. 38; Ps. 118:26). But it was bitter because Jesus knew He had come to Jerusalem to suffer and die. He understood well that His fortunes, humanly speaking, would soon be reversed. He also knew that the Pharisees had rejected Him and were looking for an opportunity to kill Him. They clearly recognized the meaning of what was happening, but they refused to accept it as true. Rather than acknowledging the Messiah, they asked Jesus to rebuke the people (vv. 39-40).

More sweetness is found when Jesus told them that the people’s praise was appropriate and true; “the stones will cry out” if they did not (v. 40). As for the people, they were riveted by His teaching, and the good news of the kingdom continued to be preached and believed. But there was also more bitter sorrow when Jesus wept over Jerusalem, understanding the tragedy of Israel’s rejection of Him and seeing ahead to the city’s future suffering and defeat. He was also angry at the spiritual abuse of the temple—the court of the Gentiles had been turned into a “den of robbers” when it should have been a place to seek the Lord.


During this earthly life, the Christian experience can often be bittersweet. The bitter includes suffering, rejection by the world, battles with sin and temptation, and the rigors of pilgrimage. The sweet includes the reality of redemption, the love of God, fellowship with His people, and the joys of pilgrimage. As we walk in this way, we follow in the footsteps of our Lord: “Wisdom is like honey for you: If you find it, there is a future hope for you” (Prov. 24:14). 



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