Amos 8

Vs. 1, “This is what the Sovereign Lord showed me: a basket of ripe fruit.”  The Sovereign LORD gives Amos a fourth vision (vs. 1-3).  This vision would be of ripened fruit giving Amos a picture of Israel.  Israel had matured and it was the end of the fruit harvest.  Ripened fruit has the tendency to spoil, and this is what was happening to the spiritual condition of Israel (vs. 4-14).  We all have bought fruit or picked fruit straight off the tree or vine.  It is beautiful and tasty!  But if you leave that fruit out too long it begins to rotten.  Question: How were they rotten?  They were exploiting the poor and the rich were getting richer (vs. 4-6)…things haven’t changed much.  To make matters worse, God’s people were taking advantage of each other and looking forward to not having holy days set aside because it was cutting into their own profits!  Question: What is God’s response?  God will bring a famine unlike anything the people had known before.  This would be famine of hearing God’s word (vs. 11)!

Regarding application…God’s Consequences.  Question: Aren’t we told how compassionate, generous and loving our Father in heaven is?  How can a loving God bring consequences?  In one of my Seminary classes this past week, I had to create a book chart on the whole book of Jonah.  In this book, Jonah is so angry.  Question: Why?  Because Jonah knew how generous and loving God was (Jonah 4:2).  God would spare an incredibly evil people in the Ninevites.  Question: Why is not God sparing His own people?  We are also told in His word that He does not leave the guilty unpunished.  And for Israel, they were without excuse.  Paul tell us that in Romans, the wickedness of men suppress the truth (Romans 1:18).  This is what God’s people were doing.  There is a responsibility in responding to the knowledge of our Lord.  They continued to reject him time and time again and most importantly; God knew the condition of their hearts.  Let’s be a people with a correct “Godly fear” of his power and love!

John 15

Vs. 17, “This is my command: Love each other.”  As Jesus and the disciples are leaving the Upper Room and heading over to the Garden of Gethsemane, He continues to teach them as they walk.  As they are walking, they probably walked past the temple and were reminded of the doors engraved with vines.  It is here that Jesus reminds the disciples of the picture of the vine as a symbol of our relationship with the Father (vs. 1-11).  Question: What happens when we remain in Jesus?  We grow into loving each other more (vs. 12-17).  But, this wasn’t going to be an easy road.  Just as Jesus had the mixture of Pharisee’s, scribes & Sadducees conspiring together through the Sanhedrin to arrest Jesus and kill him, we too have a world that is not going to be tolerant of this faith (vs. 18-27).

Regarding application…Remain in Jesus.  Vs. 5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”  Question: What exactly is this fruit?  The fruit that we bear is from the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23, fruits of the Spirit) and also the fruit we bear when we share Christ (John 4, woman at the well).  Question What does it mean to remain?  Another word used by translators is “abide”, which gives us a picture of being in constant fellowship with Jesus.  When we are connected to Jesus, we will naturally produce fruit.  In my own life, there have been many times when I tried to do this fruit bearing on my own strength.  But the more I learn about the Lord, the more I realize that in our weakness we are made strong.  Let Jesus take this heart of ours and begin to change it from the inside out.  Don’t get discouraged in this walk when it doesn’t seem to be working.  Just keep your heart plugged into the vine!

Luke 3

Vs. 2,during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the desert.”  Time has gone by quickly and now we are introduced to the ministry of John the Baptist.  It’s interesting to examine John’s ministry because not only did he have authority and power behind his message, he preached a message of repentance.  Question: What is repentance?  A simple answer is the turning away from sin.  This type of message is not very popular in today’s crowds.  John was calling them out for who they were: they were sinners.  It’s awesome to see how Luke gave us insight to realize that John was the fulfillment of prophecy from Isaiah.  And then we end the chapter with Jesus being obedient to baptism and the genealogy of Jesus revealing God’s sovereign ways.  Luke gives us a brief glimpse of Jesus’ baptism, but it really was a very poignant moment for the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and God’s approval of His son.

Regarding application…A Right Response.  Vs. 8, Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.”  Question: What should you do?  How should you respond?  This is exactly the questions that those who came out to hear John’s message in the desert.  It was dark times for God’s people, they were waiting for the Messiah to come.  Ironically, we are in a similar situation, for we are waiting for Jesus to come back too.  Only this would be the second time.  Though we live in dark times, times that are similar to the days of Noah (Luke 17:26)…we have an opportunity to respond the right way.  Serving in ministry has many joys, yet it saddens me deeply to see many respond with hardened hearts.  There is veil of lies that have encircled so many hearts.  Look within your heart and see if there is anything that you can bring and repent for the Lord.

 

Ezekiel 47

Vs. 6, He asked me, “Son of man, do you see this?”  Then he led me back to the bank of the river.”  God now gives us a picture of a river that begins under the temple and branches off to the Dead Sea and the other to the Mediterranean.  It is a river blessed by God that provides life to trees that give unending fruit and healing from them.  The Dead Sea as we know it will no longer be dead. There will be rivers of living water flowing into it, quite an amazing thought!  We also see a fulfillment of God’s promises that began with Abraham in restoring the land back to His people.  Notice how God has not forgotten about the Gentiles (vs. 22-23).

Regarding application…God is Faithful  Vs. 14, “You are to divide it equally among them. Because I swore with uplifted hand to give it to your forefathers, this land will become your inheritance.”  God’s faithfulness is not predicated upon what we have done.  God is faithful because of who He is.  Consider your own life.  Question: What have you done that would warrant God’s faithfulness?  In the depth of my soul, I realize as I get older in this life…I can’t do it.  Try as I may, I sputter along in need of grace.  Yet, I am amazed that God is so patient and faithful.  As we venture into a new week and Christmas is looming, let us remember that God is faithful.  What specific thing can we thank God today for His faithfulness?

Ezekiel 15

Vs. 2, “Son of man, how is the wood of a vine better than that of a branch on any of the trees in the forest?” Ezekiel gives us an allegory (story with a hidden meaning) of grapevine.  Of course, many of you know that grapevines were well known in these areas.  Question: However, the only good thing about a grapevine is what?  The grapes.  And for God’s people, they were not producing fruit in their lives.  The vine with no fruit is basically useless, not big or strong enough to make anything from it.  They thought so highly of themselves, but Ezekiel would humble them.

 

Regarding application…Are You Bearing Fruit? Vs. 8, “I will make the land desolate because they have been unfaithful, declares the Sovereign Lord.”  A tree that bears no fruit?  Question: Would you keep this in place after years upon years of taking up space?  Of course, not.  But, unlike us…God would still miraculously keep a remnant of His people because God is faithful.  Are you connected to the real vine in Jesus (John 15)?  It’s time to reevaluate where you are and take the time to soften your heart.  Turn to Jesus today and let God’s living word touch your heart!

Mark 11

Vs. 3, “If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ tell him, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.”  I think that’s a pretty good reason to give him your colt.  Jesus is about to enter Jerusalem outside of Bethany (2.5 miles away).  The Mount of Olives is elevated about 2600 feet, so it gives a beautiful view of Jerusalem.  As Jesus entered Jerusalem, from the Roman perspective it was inconsequential (vs. 1-11).  Their leader would ride on a chariot with many armed soldier’s, and here is Jesus riding on a donkey.  Though, for the Jews, riding on a donkey was significant because only kings would do such a thing.  We then are reminded of the fig tree (12-14, 20-26)…I’ll talk about that in the applicationj.  Additionally, we see Jesus clear out the Temple from those who were making it a den of thieves (vs. 15-19).  And lastly, we see Jesus show the weakness and pride of the chief priests, teachers of the law and elders as they came to challenge him.

 

Regarding application...Are You Bearing Fruit?  Vs. 14, “Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.”  This is a very interesting section because figs were not in season.  Yet, when Jesus came up to this tree, He was expecting it to have figs.  Question: Huh?  Isn’t that illogical on Jesus’ part?  Of course, the fig tree represented Israel.  Now, how does this apply to us?  You see…there are times in our lives when we are not bearing fruit.  Times when we are in the valley of life, times when we are so busy…yet, Jesus still expects to see fruit in our lives.  Even though it was not the season for it from our logical perspective…there is always a season for spiritual fruit from Jesus’ perspective.  It’s time to start bearing fruit brothers and sisters!  Review Galatians 5:22-23 and decide what you want to produce today!

Matthew 12

Vs. 12, “How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”  In yesterday’s reading, we were reminded how Jesus would tell us that we could find rest in Him.  Now on the Jewish day of rest (Sabbath)…they challenge Jesus because they believe they already have their rest day.  But over the centuries, their version of rest added so many man-made regulations and rules, they make a mockery of it.  Instead of being joyous of Jesus healing a person, they used this to accuse Jesus of being in the league of Satan.  Through all these miracles and signs, this still wasn’t enough for them.  Jesus would remind them of Jonah’s 3 days in the whale and compare his evemtual death on the cross.

 

Regarding application…Recognizing Fruit.  Vs. 33, “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit.”  Often when we go to the grocery store to buy fruit.  We will take a bit of extra time picking out our fruit.  Those of us who are seasoned will be able to tell the good fruit vs. the bad fruit.  Sadly, many people would reject the truth of the Gospel and live out their own righteousness.  In USA Today article this past week, the Barna Research did a survey on American faith.  While people were confessing their faith in Christ, many people stopped going to church.  As we start out a new week, let’s be ready to bear good fruit.  Not out of obligation or attaining a righteousness by works…but let’s do it out of faith and love.