Family Devotions Introduction

Parents are Responsible for Children's Spiritual Growth, not Pastors or Church Programs

I’ve had the privilege of serving in vocational ministry for the past thirty-three years, much of which I’ve served as a pastor. God-called pastors are preeminently concerned with the spiritual health of the people they serve, thus they “keep watch over the flock,” always looking for signs of spiritual weakness or sickness. They are usually astute observers, because they care about their people, both young and old. As a pastor and traveling minister, I’ve observed a phenomenon in many, if not most churches, which troubles me more as each year passes. It’s one that can be detected only by someone who observes a congregation very carefully for several years, which is probably why many “laypeople” miss it.

What have I noticed that concerns me so deeply? The fact that many children, who are raised by good Christian parents and who regularly attend church, slowly grow cold toward God. These children, upon “leaving the nest,” give no evidence of possessing any real relationship with Jesus Christ. I’m not speaking of children raised by hypocrites and counterfeit Christians, but of children whose parents love the Lord, parents who faithfully attend and support their church and who sincerely want their kids to know and serve God.

Because of many factors, few believers realize the frequency with which this happens. One of those factors is the general mobility of Americans, who are always changing jobs, homes and churches. They just aren’t in one location long enough to realize what is happening with so much regularity in so many places.

It’s also true that most Christian married couples tend to associate with other married couples who have children about the same ages as their own children. Consequently, like the proverbial frog in the boiling kettle, they and their married friends don’t realize what’s happening until it’s too late.

Are parents the ones to blame? As difficult as it is for me to say it, I think God would point His finger first at pastors. Too many are failing to tell their flocks the truth and, at the same time, are promoting a lie. Specifically, they aren’t teaching that God has given responsibility to the parents to teach their children about God. Moreover, they’re promoting a system of spiritual education for children that leaves the impression in the minds of most church members that the church has been given that responsibility.

How many times have you heard a pastor promote from the pulpit his church’s “fun-filled” children’s church or “dynamic” youth ministry? Any church hoping to grow or even survive in 21st-century America is almost forced to offer an exciting cradle-to-diploma Christian education program that “your kids will just love.” If we hope to compete with every other church in our city for a larger share of the church shoppers and hoppers, we must heed the bottom line of the church-growth surveys: “People are attracted to churches where there is exciting ministry for their kids.” And so the message we send is clear: “Come to our church, and you can rest assured that your kids will grow up to love church and serve Christ. The only part you need to play in your children’s spiritual growth is to make sure they’re here to participate in our exciting programs.”

Unfortunately, by the time parents realize that the church can’t deliver on its promise, it’s too late. Their kids are adults who are heading down the wrong road. (Praise God for those who eventually turn back to the Lord, but how much better it is for kids to find and keep their parents’ faith their entire lives.)

But the fault doesn’t fall entirely on the shoulders of pastors. Pastors often promote the lie because they believe it themselves. At a recent prayer gathering for pastors only, the one prayer request I heard more than any other was for wayward children. Pastors, like laypeople, are victims of a lie built upon tradition. “We’ve always done it this way,” and so our church programs continue as always, and only occasionally does a pastor wonder why there are no examples or instructions for children’s Sunday school or special kids’ ministry recorded in the New Testament. Following the lead of modern society, the church contributes to the fragmentation of families and the abdication of parental responsibility through a customer service policy that says, “leave the driving to us.”

Please understand that I’m not discounting the value of church Christian education programs and the many wonderful people who serve in those programs. Certainly there is fruit for their labor. I am saying, however, that church Christian education programs, if they exist, should only serve to supplement and reinforce what children should be learning at home all the time from their parents. The problem is not Christian education programs in themselves, but Christian education programs by themselves. The solution is not the elimination of children’s Christian education programs; the solution is the parental reclamation of their God-given responsibility. They should be teaching their children about God, as Scripture directs:

Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up (Deut. 6:4-7, NASB, emphasis added).

And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Eph. 6:4, NASB, emphasis added).

Probably the most well known verse in the Bible about raising children is Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it” (NASB). Christians have been known to disagree on whether this verse is a guaranteed promise of salvation for properly-trained children or just a general principle that is true much of the time, but not always.

Regardless of which interpretation is correct, a much more important issue is the definition of the phrase, Train up a child in the way he should go. The understood subject of the sentence is you, indicating that parents have the responsibility of training their children. Can it be said that parents who play no active role in teaching their children the Word of God, leaving it all to the church, are training their children in the way they should go? No, they’re expecting someone else to play a major part in their children’s training. Those parents who consider Proverbs 22:6 to be a promise have no reason to expect the promise to be fulfilled unless they are doing their part to train their children. They can’t claim the benefit unless they meet the conditions. And for those parents who think Proverbs 22:6 is a general principle, there isn’t much difference. They’ve no reason to hope that the general principle will hold true for their kids unless they fulfill their God-given responsibility to train their children.

Parents often need help to teach God’s Word to their kids, and that’s where this daily devotional comes in. I’ve written it to assist parents who desire to teach their children the Bible. During the 147 devptionals, you and your children will be reading a small but significant portion of God’s Word. We’ll cover the life and ministry of Jesus. For each day’s reading, I’ve provided a short commentary that highlights the most important spiritual truths. Also, I often pose a few questions that parents might want to ask their children.

The important thing is that you and your kids talk about what you’ve read. As your family grows more comfortable doing daily devotions, your kids will spontaneously instigate discussion. That is when it becomes fun.

“But what happens if my kids ask a question for which I have no answer?” you ask? Simply tell them you don’t know the answer. That in itself can serve as a wonderful example of humility to your kids and a lesson about telling the truth. If it’s any consolation, there are scores of questions about the Bible for which no one has yet come up with a truly satisfying answer. Honest theologians admit they are often stumped. If our daily reading raises an obvious question that I don’t attempt to answer in my commentary, it’s probably because I’m stumped as well.

What about those passages that contain sexual terminology or describe violence? As a parent, you are the most qualified to make a decision regarding what to do. You may just want to skip over certain verses if you think your children are too young. Or you may want to supply age-appropriate definitions, such as explaining adultery to young children as “when someone who is married falls in love with another person.”

We must face up to the fact, however, that the Bible describes life as it is on planet Earth. Unregenerate people have the capacity for incredible acts of wickedness, and our children will discover it sooner or later. Exposure to such things within the moral framework of the Bible is much better than through the polluted rivers that spill out of TV sets into our living rooms. We want our kids to be trained regarding what is right and wrong, and the Bible doesn’t conceal either. Your daily devotions will be springboards to life-directing conversations, many of which you’ll cherish.

There will be other challenges you’ll face, but which will pay rich dividends in your life and the lives of your family. Your first challenge might occur when, after reading a clear command in Scripture, one of your children asks you, “Why didn’t you do that the other day at the grocery store when that lady ran her shopping cart into our shopping cart?” That is another positive benefit of family devotions—you’ll grow spiritually and your kids will have the benefit of watching God work in your life. No longer will they be exposed only to the apparent perfection of Sunday morning Christianity contrasted with rest-of-the-week application, which otherwise appears as hypocrisy to younger minds. They’ll learn what it means to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12, NASB) by observing you.

Here’s how I suggest you conduct your daily family devotions: Gather your family together and pray a short opening prayer, such as, “Lord, help us to understand Your Word and apply it to our lives. In Jesus’ name, Amen.” Then read the day’s portion(s) of Scripture out loud. I suggest that you use the New Living Translation, which is one of the easiest translations to understand. Then, either read my commentary, or explain the scriptures yourself in your own words if you’ve read my comments previously. The idea is to help your kids understand what you’ve read.

When you finish reading, ask them questions about spiritual principles that surfaced in what you just read. I’ve usually included a few questions (with the answers) that you might want to ask to provoke dialogue. Work toward a discussion about how you and they can apply what you’ve learned in your own lives. Allow your kids to interrupt at any time with questions. When they do, you’ll know they’re interested.

Then spend a few minutes praying together. The idea is to get your kids comfortable with praying sincerely, out loud. Prayer can easily become a meaningless ritual, and the quickest route to ritualistic prayer is to pray the same thing every day. Don’t let that happen. I suggest that you model your daily family prayers after this sequence: God, Others, Us. Give each member of your family a different part of the sequence to pray each day. Begin by praising and worshipping God, expressing thankfulness or affirming something about one of His attributes that surfaced in the Bible chapter you just read. The person who is assigned this sequence might simply say, “God, You are really powerful” or, “Thank You for Your great mercy.” Next, pray for others. You could pray for a ministry in your church, a missionary you support or know, a sick friend or an unsaved neighbor. Finally, pray for your own needs. These could be material, emotional or spiritual needs among your family. (“Lord, help us to become more like You” or, “Lord, I request Your help on my English test today.”)

When you first begin praying as a family, you may want to solicit ideas from the whole group for specific prayers for each category and then assign each member one item on your list. Once everyone grows more comfortable praying together, your prayer time will probably grow more spontaneous. Keep your prayer time short. One-sentence prayers are just fine. If they grow longer, let it happen naturally. Make sure that your prayer time is always meaningful and fresh, never just a time of “going through the motions.” Your total time spent in family devotions can be as short as 15 minutes or as long as your schedule permits. If your kids are asking questions, keep going as long as you can!

I suggest ending each gathering with a short song and hugs all around. You’ll need to set a regular time for devotions each day, depending on your family’s schedule. Right before or after breakfast, right after dinner or just before your youngest child goes to bed are possibilities. Very young children who can’t really participate will benefit by realizing that family devotions are something that is done every day. And they’ll love the singing and hugs at the end. Curb your children’s silliness during your time together but don’t be too serious. Enjoy yourself. If you do, your kids are more likely to enjoy themselves too.

You’ve made a great decision that will pay off in this life and the next. My prayer is that your family will grow closer to the Lord and each other as you fulfill your God-given responsibility to teach your children God’s Word.

Day 98 – Jesus Offers Living Water to Thirsty People

John 7:37-53

Daily Devotionals for Families

Can you imagine Jesus shouting to the Jerusalem crowds, “If you are thirsty, come to me! If you believe in me, come and drink! For the Scriptures declare that rivers of living water will flow out from within” (John 7:37b-38)? That would take a lot of nerve to do, unless you were crazy—or you were the Son of God.

Speaking figuratively, Jesus was once again offering what only He can give. He wasn’t offering actual water to quench people’s physical thirst—He was offering living water that would quench people’s spiritual thirst. John wrote that the “living water” of which Jesus spoke was really the Holy Spirit. Jesus gives the Holy Spirit to everyone who comes to Him in faith, and the Holy Spirit lives within every true Christian from the moment of his conversion.

Jesus made this declaration on the last day of a Jewish celebration called The Festival of Shelters. It was a feast instituted by God to help the people of Israel remember their wanderings in the wilderness when they lived in temporary shelters after their exodus from Egypt. Each day during the festival, the priests would draw water from the Pool of Siloam and pour it out at the altar in the Temple. It was done in remembrance of the water that supernaturally came forth from a rock that Moses struck. Unfortunately, the Jews of Jesus’ day missed the real significance of that original miracle and its yearly commemoration. God gave His people physical life through Moses by providing water when they were once dying of thirst. But much more important, He, through an even greater man, wanted to give living water to everyone who was dying of spiritual thirst. Jesus wanted everyone to know that He was the One whom Moses prefigured, and He was like the water that saved the thirsty Israelites.

As expected, the reaction of those who heard Jesus make His claim was divided. Some considered Him to be the great Prophet whom Moses had predicted. Others thought He was the Messiah. And others, especially the religious leaders, were convinced that Jesus was neither the Messiah nor a prophet because He was originally from the region of Galilee. They knew that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem and that He would be David’s descendant. Too bad they didn’t do their homework, or they would have found out that Jesus met those conditions!

Q. When the leading priests and Pharisees learned that the Temple guards didn’t arrest Jesus as they had been ordered, they mocked them, saying, “Have you been led astray, too? Is there a single one of us rulers or Pharisees who believes in him? These ignorant crowds do, but what do they know about it?” (John 7:47-49). Does this teach us anything about following religious leaders?

A. Yes, it does. Many people today refuse to think for themselves about spiritual matters, assuming that if something was important for them to know, their learned priest or pastor would surely tell them. That’s a big mistake, because many modern “Christian” leaders don’t believe that Jesus is the Son of God or the inspiration of the Bible. They are, to borrow one of Jesus’ phrases, “blind leaders of the blind.”

Q. What kinds of people did Jesus invite to come to Him?

A. He invited thirsty people to come to Him and drink. Only when people realize that they are dying of spiritual thirst do they see their need to come to Jesus.

Application: Jesus spoke of two experiences with the Holy Spirit in this passage. First, He spoke about people coming to Him and drinking. Then He spoke of rivers of living water flowing out from people who drank. God wants us to receive the Holy Spirit, but not just for our benefit. He wants the living waters within us to flow out to others, spreading His life to them.

Day 99 – Jesus Shows Mercy to an Adulterous Woman

John 8:1-11

Daily Devotionals for Families

Because they didn’t believe in Him, the Pharisees and religious teachers wanted to prove that Jesus was not from God. So they formed a plan that they hoped would expose Him as a fraud. In the Law of Moses, God commanded that adulterers be stoned to death for their sin, and the Pharisees figured that if Jesus didn’t endorse what God’s Law required, that would be proof that He really wasn’t from God. So, they somehow caught a woman in the act of committing adultery and brought her to Jesus to see if He would say the same thing God said through Moses.

Filled with wisdom, Jesus masterfully turned the tables on the Pharisees. They had passed judgment on Him and the woman they’d brought, but He forced them to judge themselves. “All right, stone her,” He told them, “but let those who have never sinned throw the first stones!” (John 8:7). Jesus actually proved that they were guilty of what they accused Him of: not keeping the Law of Moses. In Moses’ Law, the one who accused another person of a sin that was punishable by death was required to throw the first stone if the accused person was found guilty. Jesus was simply asking the woman’s accusers to obey the Law, and He reminded them of part of the reason God required accusers to throw the first stone at people they helped condemn: When a person is as guilty as the person he’s accusing, he has no right to accuse that person, much less throw the first of many stones that will kill that person!

Jesus’ challengers got the message, and slowly snuck away, beginning with the oldest. They realized that none of them had the right to throw the first stone.

The only person who had the right to stone the woman was Jesus, because He was sinless. He, however, demonstrated God’s mercy, giving the guilty woman a chance to repent and begin following Him. I hope she did!

Q. When she died years later, what would have happened to the adulterous woman if she didn’t do as Jesus said, repenting of her sins after He showed her mercy?

A. She would have been condemned to hell forever. Just because God shows a person mercy during his or her lifetime doesn’t guarantee that person will receive mercy after death.

Q. What do you think Jesus was writing in the dust with His finger as the Pharisees waited for His answer to their question?

A. No one knows because the Bible doesn’t say. However, many have wondered if He wasn’t writing the names of the women with whom the accusing Pharisees had committed adultery!

Application: God has treated everyone in the world just like Jesus treated the adulterous woman. All of us have broken God’s laws, but He has shown us mercy and given us an opportunity to repent and come to Him. As those who have repented, let us be especially careful that we don’t become like the Pharisees, condemning people who are just like we were!

John 7:1-36

Daily Devotionals for Families

According to what John wrote, before Jesus’ death and resurrection, His own brothers didn’t believe in Him. This teaches us that believing in Jesus means believing more than the fact that He was just a person in history. And it means believing more than the fact that Jesus did miracles. Jesus’ brothers certainly believed He was a real person, and they also knew He did miracles. But they didn’t believe that He was the divine Son of God, as indicated by how they spoke to Him, scoffing at Him. In order to be saved, we must believe that Jesus is the Son of God.

Being members of the same family, Jesus’ brothers were perhaps embarrassed by His claims that seemed so outrageous and His growing unpopularity. We are told in Mark’s Gospel that on at least one occasion, Jesus’ family tried to drag Him back home with them, saying to other people that He was out of His mind (see Mark 3:21). On this occasion that John recorded, Jesus’ brothers chided Him for what they perceived as His inconsistency. If He wanted to succeed in His mission, why would He hesitate to go to a well-attended Jewish feast in Jerusalem?

Jesus replied that it wasn’t time for Him to go, indicating His obedience to His Father. He knew that, because many people in Jerusalem didn’t like His convicting message, there was a growing opposition there that would eventually result in His crucifixion. It was important that He not be crucified prematurely, before the Passover Feast. So, in order not to cause too much of a stir, Jesus went to Jerusalem secretly, separately from His brothers.

Even though at first very few people knew He was there, Jesus was the main topic of conversation at the feast, and the Jewish leaders were on the lookout for Him. People debated about Him. Some thought He was a wonderful man while others considered Him to be a deceiver or even demon-possessed. Some believed He was the Messiah because of all His miracles. Others thought He couldn’t be the promised One because they didn’t know enough of the Scriptures and assumed the Messiah would simply appear, having no known origin. They knew, however, that Jesus was the son of Mary and (they thought) Joseph, and was from the town of Nazareth. So how could He be the Messiah?

Jesus, as always, answered His critics truthfully. He told them that He wasn’t trying to pretend that He had just appeared or that He had no earthly origin. (Such credentials were not required of the Messiah.) And He clearly claimed to have come from God, having been sent as God’s representative to bring God’s teaching, that He was seeking to honor God, and that He would soon be going back to God. He was claiming to be much more than just a wonderful person or a prophet. He was claiming to be the Messiah, the Son of God!

Q. We read today that the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem tried to arrest Jesus, but no one laid a hand on Him because, “His time had not yet come” (John 7:30). What do you think that means?

A. We find that phrase, “His time had not yet come” and variations of it a number of times in the Gospel of John. As we read in later chapters, it becomes clear that Jesus was referring to the time of His crucifixion, the event for which He had been born. Jesus was predestined to die at the Passover Feast in Jerusalem, thus, when men made plans to arrest Him before then, God somehow prevented it from happening. Jesus would die when it was God’s preordained time.

Q. Jesus told the Pharisees that they would not be able to come where He would be going. What did He mean?

A. He meant that they would not be able to enter heaven, joining Him there, because they did not believe in Him.

Application: People today have the same opinions about Jesus as they did back when Jesus walked the earth. The reason John recorded so much of their debate is because the most important thing anyone can do is to decide who Jesus is. Those who believe that He is who He claimed to be are given eternal life, just as John wrote near the end of his Gospel, “[I have written] so that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life” (John 20:31).

Day 96 – The Pharisee and the Tax Collector

Luke 18:9-14

Daily Devotionals for Families

This story was aimed at the Pharisees, who were generally proud of themselves for their supposed obedience to God and consequently despised everyone else. They were no different than many modern religious people who are proud of their outward conformity to God’s law and who look down on others who don’t come up to their standards.

The good points that the Pharisee listed about himself were commendable, as all of them indicated some obedience to God. He claimed that he never cheated, sinned or committed adultery. He fasted regularly and tithed. However, he had at least one major flaw: he was very proud. He thought that his good works earned his salvation. He didn’t feel like he needed a Savior because he had saved himself!

We know, however, that the Pharisee needed a Savior, if for no other sin than the sin of pride. And most likely, he was guilty of a number of other sins as well. One, to be sure, was his lack of compassion for other people like the tax collector.

Unlike the Pharisee, the tax collector knew he was a sinner who needed forgiveness if he was to be saved. So he humbly admitted his sinfulness and asked for mercy from God. And Jesus said that his prayer was answered. He left his place of prayer saved, whereas the Pharisee left unsaved. To be saved, a person must humble himself, admitting that he is a sinner who needs a Savior. If we think, like the Pharisee, that we don’t need a Savior, then we cannot be saved.

Q. Jesus said that the tax collector, unlike the Pharisee, left the Temple justified before God. Do you know what it means to be “justified”?

A. The easiest-to-remember definition of the word justified is this: “just as if I’d never sinned.” When a person goes to court and the judge says at the end of his trial, “You are justified,” he means, “I find you not guilty for the crime of which you’ve been accused.” A person who is justified is not a forgiven sinner, he is a person who has not sinned! The Bible teaches us that Jesus bore our sins and gives believers His right standing before God the Father. Because Jesus never sinned, He has perfect standing before God, and that is what we get when we believe in Him!

Q. Would it be possible to have a perfect standing before God apart from Jesus?

A. Only if a person never sinned could he have a perfect standing before God without Jesus. However, since every person has sinned (even so-called good religious people who might be more obedient than the average person), everyone needs Jesus to be saved.

Application: Kids raised in Christian homes are often well taught to do what is right, and consequently they do what is right most of the time. The danger that exists for them is that they might tend to think that their good behavior is what saves them, and they might not see their great need for Jesus to save them. The cure for such a proud attitude is to ask the Lord to show us our sins, especially the ones that are hidden from others, like wrong thoughts, motives and attitudes. Why don’t you ask the Lord to reveal to you how much you need Him as your Savior today in prayer?

Day 94 – Jesus Teaches About the Coming Kingdom

Luke 17:20-37

Daily Devotionals for Families

There are many places in the Old Testament that tell about the time when God’s kingdom will rule over all the earth. That promised future kingdom is something the Jewish people anticipated for a long, long time. As Christians, we also are waiting for that day, knowing that Jesus is the One who will then rule the world. It will be heaven on earth.

One day some of the Pharisees asked Jesus when God’s kingdom would come. Knowing that they would not be citizens of that kingdom unless they believed in Him, Jesus answered their question by telling them that the kingdom of God was among them. That is, the God of that kingdom, the One who would one day rule the world, was standing right in front of them, offering blessings that would be enjoyed by every one of that kingdom’s citizens. In that sense, God’s kingdom isn’t coming, it’s here right now! Although Jesus is not yet ruling everyone in the world, He is ruling over everyone who has submitted his life to Him.

Later with His disciples, Jesus spoke more about the time when He would return to rule the world. He didn’t tell us everything we might want to know, but He told us everything He wanted His disciples and us to know.

First, Jesus made clear to His disciples certain things that modern Christians know quite well: He would suffer and die and then be gone from earth for a considerable amount of time. His followers would want Him to come back much sooner than He would. Knowing how much we would long to see Him, Jesus warned us against being deceived by reports of His supposed return. When He comes back, Jesus said we’ll know it, because He won’t be sneaking back and hiding somewhere! His return will be as evident as lightning flashing across the sky.

Second, Jesus reiterated to His disciples what He previously said to the Pharisees: His return would not be ushered in with visible signs immediately preceding it. People would be caught unprepared and would be living their lives just as they always had.

Third, when Jesus returns to the earth, He will come with judgment. Many people will die, suffering God’s wrath, just as they did during the flood of Noah and the destruction of Sodom. Because entire cities and towns will be destroyed, Christ’s followers will have to be cautious not to put themselves into danger by joining the ungodly when God’s wrath falls upon them. Jesus reminded us of Lot’s wife, who died looking back to a city that God was destroying. However, although there is the possibility of one of us making a mistake, there is no danger of God making a mistake. We don’t have to worry about Him accidentally killing us, because Jesus told us that two people could be working side by side or even sleeping in the same bed, and one would be taken and the other saved. God knows those who are His, and He won’t treat them like the ungodly.

Q. If you heard a report on the television news that Jesus had recently returned and was living in France, would you believe it?

A. I hope not! Jesus told us not to believe any reports of His return because we’ll all know it when it happens.

Q. Let’s suppose you are alive when Jesus returns. You happen to be driving home from a vacation and have just about arrived at the outskirts of your city when fire falls from the sky over and on your entire city. Should you drive as fast as you can to get to your house to rescue your prized possessions?

A. No, you should stay away from any area that looks as if God’s wrath is falling on it.

Application: All true Christians hope that Jesus will return in their lifetime. But even if He doesn’t, at death we get to immediately be with Jesus in heaven. Then, when He does return, we will return with Him. That might be even better than being on the earth and seeing Him return!

Day 95 – Jesus Encourages His Followers to Trust Him for Justice

Luke 18:1-8

Daily Devotionals for Families

In many places around the world over the last two thousand years, Jesus’ followers have been persecuted. Some persecution is not too difficult to take, such as when someone lies about you to hurt your reputation as a Christian. But sometimes persecution can be very harsh, for example, if you lost your job for following Christ, or were kicked out of your home, or perhaps were even tortured and martyred for your faith. Any Christian in that kind of a situation begins to question why his heavenly Father is allowing the people who are persecuting him to get away with it. It’s not fair, and since God is fair, why doesn’t He punish the evildoers and stop their persecution?

Because the world will grow even worse as the time of Jesus’ return draws closer, persecution against Christians will increase, and thus more and more of God’s people will be crying out to Him for justice “day and night” (Luke 18:7). We know, of course, that eventually God will act in justice against those who persecute His people, but it won’t happen as soon as those who are being persecuted would like. They will be tempted to doubt God’s justice, give up hope and quit praying. Some may even be tempted to quit following Jesus.

But Jesus wants all of His persecuted people to be encouraged, and that’s why He told this story of the persistent widow. Because she didn’t give up, but rather, kept persisting in her quest for justice, she got what she wanted from a godless and uncaring judge. Jesus’ point is this: If that widow got justice from a godless judge through her persistence, how much more will God’s persistent people obtain justice from their perfectly just and caring heavenly Father? He will, as Jesus said, bring about justice for them quickly. Maybe not as quickly as they’d like, but quickly as far as God is concerned.

Q. Why do you suppose God allows His people to be persecuted for even a minute? Why doesn’t He judge persecutors immediately?

A. There may be several reasons. First, He is merciful toward the persecutors and wants to give them time to repent and be saved. Once they die and go to hell, they will never have another chance. When the persecutors experience the love of the Christians they persecute, who return good for evil, they may very well come to their senses and receive Jesus.

Second, God can use persecution to test His people. Those whose faith in Jesus is fake are exposed when they are persecuted. They quit following Jesus. Perhaps that’s why Jesus asked at the end of today’s story, “But when I, the Son of Man, return, how many will I find who have faith?” (Luke 18:8).

Third, God can use persecution to help His children grow spiritually and become more like Jesus. Persecution gives us a chance to obey His command to love our enemies and develop the fruit of the Spirit. At the same time, we can prove our love for Him as we endure.

Finally, because God lives in a timeless realm, and because He knows all about the glorious eternity that we will experience, His perspective of persecution is different from ours. He will reward us in His kingdom for the persecution we experience now. When that time comes, we might wish that we had experienced more persecution on earth!

Q. Do Jesus’ comments about persistence in prayer apply to every prayer we might pray?

A. No, they don’t. We know they apply when we’re praying for justice but not seeing immediate answers. However, when someone is praying for salvation, for example, he only needs to pray one time in faith and immediately receive what God has promised. This would be true for other things God has promised as well, such as the Holy Spirit (see Luke 11:13).

Application: If persecutors of Christians don’t repent, you can be sure they will be punished fairly in hell when they die. Jesus even promised some persecuted Christians in the ancient city of Philadelphia that He would force their persecutors to bow down at their feet (see Revelation 3:9).

Day 93 – Jesus Cleanses Ten Lepers

Luke 17:11-19

Daily Devotionals for Families

Leprosy is a terrible disease that causes a person’s body parts to slowly rot away. Lepers often lose their fingers and toes, and eventually the disease kills them. It is very contagious and is spread by touch. For that reason, lepers in Jesus’ day were outcasts of society, and no one wanted to be near them. So they hung around each other, and in today’s story we find a group of ten who called on Jesus to heal them. From examining the details of the story, it’s obvious that they had faith in His healing power.

First, their faith was evident by their calling out to Jesus to be healed.

Second, when Jesus told them to go and show themselves to the priests, they obeyed. Under the Law of Moses, before a cleansed leper could begin normal interaction with non-leprous people, he had to be examined by a priest and declared cleansed of his leprosy. That is what Jesus was requiring the ten lepers to do, and so they started off on a 25- or 30-mile journey to Jerusalem. They must have believed that they would be better by the time they got to the priests, and as they acted on their faith, they were!

And third, Jesus told the one leper who returned to give thanks that it was his faith that had healed him. For this reason, we can conclude that all ten were healed through their faith in Jesus. Where did these ten lepers get their faith? They must have heard that Jesus was healing all who asked to be healed.

What would have happened if they wouldn’t have asked Jesus for healing? What would have happened if they wouldn’t have obeyed Him, acting on their faith by heading toward Jerusalem to show themselves to the priests? The answer to both questions is this: They would not have been healed, even though we know from reading the story that it was obviously God’s will for them to be healed. This once again proves that God’s will doesn’t always automatically happen regardless of what we do. And it once again proves that unless we believe, God’s will may not come to pass in our lives.

Q. Jesus healed all ten of the lepers. What does this say to us?

A. It leads us to believe, once again, that God wants everyone to be healed. Many Christians today will say that it is God’s will to heal some but not all. But Jesus healed all the lepers. And, if they had believed that it was only God’s will for a few of them to be healed, none of them would have been healed, because none of them could have had faith for individual healing.

Q. The one leper who returned to give Jesus thanks was a Samaritan. His faith was actually more impressive than the faith of the other nine. Why?

A. Because Jews and Samaritans had no dealings with one another in Jesus’ time. Because of that, he, more than the others, would have been tempted to doubt the wisdom of obeying Jesus’ instructions to show himself to the priests. He knew the priests would probably have nothing to do with him. But he obeyed Jesus anyway and was healed.

Application: If we believe in Jesus as our healer, let us begin to talk and act like it!

Day 91 – The Rich Man and Lazarus

Luke 16:19-31

Daily Devotionals for Families

Jesus told this story of the rich man and Lazarus directly after He told the story we read yesterday of the shrewd money manager. Both stories teach us something about how God expects us to view and use money.

The final conclusion of yesterday’s story was, “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Luke 16:13). The rich man in today’s story was a perfect illustration of this truth. Money was obviously his god, not because he was wealthy but because of what he did with his money. He repeatedly ignored the pathetic plight of a diseased and starving beggar lying at his doorstep, who became too weak to even chase away the dogs that licked his open sores. The rich man could have easily provided food and shelter for Lazarus, yet he showed him no pity until Lazarus eventually died right on his doorstep. The rich man’s actions proved that the love of money controlled his life, and not the love of God. The point of this story is not, “Rich people go to hell and poor people go to heaven.” There are many wealthy people mentioned in the Bible as being godly and righteous.

The point of this story is that people whose god is money are unsaved people. The rich man’s lack of compassion for Lazarus was a telling sin, but you can be sure it wasn’t his only sin. In fact, in hell he knew that the greatest need of his living brothers was that they “turn from their sins” (Luke 16:30). If he would have had faith in God during his life, he, too, would have turned from his sins. True faith is always manifested by obedience. But during his life, the rich man served money, not God.

Jesus obviously believed there was such a place as hell, and made it clear that it’s a place of conscious torment. Although the rich man had left his body on earth, his spirit was very much alive, and he was able to see, hear, touch, taste and remember. He longed for some relief from the heat of hell’s flames. But, because he had previously ignored the plight of Lazarus, now he was being justly repaid for that sin and all his sins. Praise God that those who believe in Jesus and repent on earth are forgiven of their sins because Jesus suffered the punishment they deserved! Aren’t you glad you’re one of them?

Q. Do you have to be wealthy to be guilty of the sin of loving money?

A. No, middle-class and even poor people can be guilty of that sin. However, wealthy people are probably more often guilty of it than others. Studies show that wealthy people generally give a smaller percentage of their money to charities than people with smaller incomes.

Q. Does what we’ve read today apply to kids?

A. It does if they are followers of Christ and have any money of their own, either earned or received as a gift. A portion of it should be used to help those who are less fortunate. One way to do that is to give to needy people that you know, or perhaps to sponsor a needy child in another country. Many churches give a portion of their income to the poor, and thus, by giving to their churches, people are also giving to the poor.

Application: We sometimes mistakenly think, like the rich man in hell, that if people witnessed a miracle they would turn from their sins. However, God is doing miracles every day for everyone, trying to get their attention. He uses snowflakes and stars, flowers and fruit, babies being born and water turning to ice, but people ignore His call. Beyond that, God is speaking to them through their consciences and His words in the Bible. Still they don’t listen. The real problem isn’t the lack of miracles, it’s the hardness of people’s hearts.

Day 92 – Temptation, Sin, Forgiveness, Faith and Obedience

Luke 17:1-10

Daily Devotionals for Families

The most important thing that people can and should do is to obey God. More than anything else, God wants our obedience. He does not want the kind of obedience that the Pharisees demonstrated, an outward obedience to man-made laws; He wants an obedience that springs from a heart that loves Him. Because obedience to God is so important, anything relating to obedience in our lives is also very important. Jesus talked about the importance of several of those related things in our reading today.

First, disobedience usually begins with a temptation, so God is very opposed to anyone who tempts others to sin. Those kinds of people will incur worse punishment in hell than anyone else because they will not only be held responsible for their own sins, but will also be held partly responsible for the sins of others. Many people make their living at tempting others and causing them to sin, such as publishers of pornography and sellers of illegal drugs.

Second, the opposite of one who helps others to sin is the one who hinders other people from sinning. One way God wants us to help others not to sin is by rebuking fellow believers if they sin against us. Of course, a rebuke such as that should be given gently in love. If the fellow believer repents, we are supposed to forgive him or her. If we don’t, we are sinning.

Third is the relationship between faith and obedience. Like the apostles, we would like to have more faith, thinking that the primary result of greater faith would be the working of miracles in our lives. Jesus said, however, that even a very small amount of faith can produce a major miracle. So miracles aren’t the evidence of great faith. In fact, there are instances in the Gospels of people who performed miracles in Jesus’ name who weren’t even followers of Jesus. They may have had a little faith in Jesus in regard to His ability and power, but they didn’t have faith in Him as being the Savior, Lord and Judge before whom all people must one day stand. Thus, the working of miracles is not what proves a person has faith in all that Jesus is. Rather, it is obedience that indicates a person has that kind of faith, which is why Jesus then immediately proceeded to talk about obedience.

Finally, a fourth issue related to obedience to God is the danger of becoming proud when we are obedient. Because pride is a sin, there exists the danger that not sinning can lead to a sin! So, as Jesus instructed, we should always view ourselves as servants who deserve no praise. When we obey God, we are only doing our duty, not going above and beyond our duty.

Q. If a fellow believer sins against you seven times in one day and you forgive him seven times, what should you do if he sins against you an eighth time that same day?

A. You should forgive him. Jesus wasn’t placing a limit of seven acts of forgiveness per day per believer. He was saying that there should be no limit to our forgiveness. It is very unlikely that you will ever have an opportunity to forgive one person seven times in one day, and Jesus knew that!

Q. What sin can most easily originate from obedience?

A. The sin of pride. People who don’t sin can easily become proud of it, which means they’re sinning again!

Application: What is the most important thing in life? Obedience to God! This should be on our minds all the time.