Author Archives: Josh Thayer

Road to Emmaus • Devotion #3: Communion

Here in Luke 24:13-35, we see two disciples returning to Emmaus. As they are walking, Jesus appears and starts walking with them. They have no clue that this man is Jesus, so they continue along and shoot the breeze as they travel. They eventually get to their location and invite Jesus in to stay the night with them. It is then that they realize who He is. There are two moments here that I want to point out. Jesus uses these moments to share with us how we can encounter Jesus every day. 

Luke 24:27says, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”

These two disciples had just explained their sadness and confusion with Jesus dying on the cross and then the news of the tomb being empty. Obviously, these men knew the biblical prophecies but they missed one giant point – Jesus’ suffering was His path to glory. It was His path to save you and me. So Jesus took them to Scripture here in verse 27 and explained to them what was said in Scripture concerning Himself. (Sidebar, this must have been the most immersive, crazy cool Bible study ever from Jesus Himself. You cannot beat that!) Jesus led them to encounter Himself through the scriptures.

Luke 24:30-31adds, “When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight.”

After their long walk, they finally arrived and they invited this man, aka Jesus, in to stay with them since the day was over. So, naturally, they had to eat dinner. Jesus did what He does best and broke bread and blessed it and began to give it to them. It was at that moment that they realized who this man was. Imagine the embarrassment they must have felt. (They even mentioned some of that in verse 32.) They were walking with Jesus the whole time – not recognizing who He was. All it took was a little communion to remember who Jesus was. Just like today, when we take communion, we use it as a way to remember everything Jesus did for you and for me.

Reading and studying the Bible and taking communion are two of the ways we can encounter Jesus today. Jesus will continue to reveal Himself to us as we study the Word and as we break bread together. I love how sometimes I will read a part of the Bible 100 times, and on the 101st time, I will see something different. That is Jesus revealing Himself to me through the Holy Spirit and the reading of the Word. If you want to experience Jesus, make sure you are doing these things on a regular basis.

Praying at Gethsemane • Devotion #3: True Feelings

Before we jump in, go ahead and read Luke 22:39-46.

Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane was recorded in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Here in this part of the Bible Jesus is very aware of what is about to happen to Him. He knows He is going to die on the cross for all of mankind. So He retreated to this historic place to pray and ask God for His help. At this point in the story, the disciples have no idea what is about to happen. You can see this fact in that as Jesus is praying all night, afraid for what is going to happen, His disciples just casually fall asleep in the garden with no sense of urgency. 

I want to focus on one verse here in Luke, and note that this verse is only recorded in Luke. “And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him”(Luke 22:43).

An angel appeared to Jesus to help Him. This angel is not mentioned in the other gospels, and I will chalk this up to Luke being a doctor to notice details that others may have missed. One thing to quickly understand about angels is that they are spiritual beings created by God who help carry out His work on earth. So here in Luke chapter 22, Jesus is terribly afraid, stressed out, and is asking for God’s help. This is further confirmed by the verse to follow, “And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44). 

God saw Jesus in need and He was there strengthening Him. I cannot imagine the thoughts that were going through Jesus’ head at this moment in His life. Obviously, it was causing Him great pain to compare His sweat to blood. Also, Luke is the only one to mention Jesus’ sweat was like blood. Maybe you are reading this today and you can somewhat relate to how Jesus is feeling with insane amounts of stress, pain, and fear in your life. I am not sure what it is but you need to know that Jesus knows exactly what you are going through. Jesus can physically relate and He wants to be there for you. Just like His Father was there for Him. 

It is never wrong to express our true feelings to God. Jesus exposed His fear of dying on the cross. Knowing this we can come to God and express our true feelings and not be afraid to ask for help with whatever we have going on and Jesus will be right there with us. Jesus wants to be there with you through the hard times and through the good times. Jesus recognized He was scared, anxious, and in agony, so He stopped and turned all His feelings into prayer. Whenever you start having any of these feelings, stop, pray, and realign your focus on God. 

“Do not be anxious about anything,

but in everything by prayer and supplication

with thanksgiving

let your requests be made known to God.

And the peace of God,

which surpasses all understanding,

will guard your hearts and your minds

in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:6-7

Grow • Devotional #4: “Strive for Holiness”

“That each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor.” 1 Thessalonians 4:4

Holiness is one of those words that sometimes seems daunting. Maybe it is just me but whenever I read the Bible and come across that word or anything to do with being holy, I just never feel good enough. I look at my own life and think, how can God love me? With all the mistakes I have made, with how far I feel like I am from holiness, how can God even care for me? Even after reading what holy means in the dictionary (“Morally and spiritually excellent”), I feel further away than I ever have. 

The good thing about having a relationship with Jesus is that He will always love you and long for you to join Him in Heaven. Even in seasons when we feel like we are far from God and when sometimes we are running away, He is always looking for a way to bring you and me back to Him. I just recently became a father, and until now I thought I knew what that feeling was like. However, when I look at my daughter, I think there is nothing you could ever do to make me not love her and make me not want to be with her. That is the love that Jesus has for us! 

So knowing that, why would we not strive to do everything we can to be as close to God as we can? To be in His love, grace, and presence is something we should want, right? Holiness is something we should strive for. I say strive because holiness is something we will never achieve, but it is something that we are constantly chasing. When we chase holiness we become someone different. In life, it is impossible to be neutral. Everyone has something that controls them, either God or sin. Being a Christian myself does not mean I cannot sin, it just means I am no longer a slave to sin. I strive for holiness because I love and belong to God – and so can you. When we have hope that we will have eternal life with Jesus in Heaven it gives us a new joy and purpose. That is something that should make us thankful every day! 

Romans 6:22 (NIV) adds, “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.”

Persecuted • Devotion #3: I Want Heaven’s Blessings

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:10

We have been exploring the Beatitudes (beautiful attitudes!) this month, and throughout these readings, Jesus highlights eight unexpected situations in which you receive God’s favor and blessings. As we get to the end of the Beatitudes, we see here in verse 10 nothing different but it does not sound easy.

When you read through each verse of the Beatitudes you can see how to be blessed. The word “blessed” means happiness. The beatitudes do not promise laughter, pleasure, or earthly prosperity (Which is what we all want, right?). I love laughing and enjoying life with the people that are the closest to me, and I enjoy buying new toys to play with. I mean, I am human, but that is not what Jesus is talking about here. 

To Jesus, “blessed” means the experience of hope and joy, independent of outward circumstances. Basically, you will be able to be happy no matter what is happening around you. To find hope and joy, the deepest form of happiness, follow Jesus no matter what the cost. In verse 10 there is a deep cost, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Matthew is saying to expect nothing in return except persecution. Do not expect anything from the world in return except criticism. Now that sounds fun, does it not? That is all I want is to be criticized, persecuted, and get nothing in return (says the extremely sarcastic person). However, God is with the persecuted church as you read the second half of this verse, “theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The Message paraphrase says, “You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution.We will inherit the Kingdom of Heaven, that is our blessing for being attacked here on earth for what we believe. It would not be an instantaneous blessing, like we may want. It is a long term blessing, one that you can take to the bank when you get to Heaven!

So, to pose a question, do you believe in Jesus enough that it is evident to others around you to receive persecution and criticism? That really puts this into perspective. You may be thinking to yourself as you consider your walk with Jesus, “Do I even love Jesus?” Relax, of course, you do, or you would not be pursuing holiness by reading this devotion today. It is one step closer, it is one more level up in your walk with Jesus. 

I love that 1 Peter 3:14-15 confirms a blessing when we are suffering for Jesus, “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”

It all goes back to what I stated in the beginning as we defined blessing. The blessings we will receive are not earthly blessings – they are heavenly blessings. When we are persecuted and attacked for what we believe we need to not fear our enemies but rather trust in God as the Lord of all. We must believe that Jesus is truly in control of all events. When He rules our thoughts and emotions, we cannot be shaken by anything our enemies may do for we are inheriting the blessings of Heaven! One day we will be with God in Heaven with no pain, no sadness, no fear, and all His glory and wonder! That is what we are striving for.

Peacemakers • Devotion #1: Peace is Personal

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” 

Matthew 5:9

Being a peacemaker is very difficult for individuals who are competitive. If we are going to throw a specific person under the bus, “I will volunteer as tribute!” If you have seen the movie or read the books from the quote I just casually tossed out (The Hunger Games), then you also know that the concept of peace really does not apply to any of them either. That is except for the main character, but I digress. 

It says in the Scripture above that peacemakers shall be called “sons of God.” That is a pretty significant statement in my opinion. Basically, if you showcase the trait of a peacemaker, when people see you in action they will be able to tell that you are a “son of God.” I mean nobody actually thinks of that phrase, but they would most likely say, “Hmm, what is different about them.” They may ask themselves, “Didn’t they say they go to church?” It is true when you think about it. I mean anytime I see my wife (who is the peacemaker in our home) acting as a peacemaker, I sarcastically think, “Man, she is getting into Heaven before me.”  

When you think of Jesus and you read the stories about what He was like here on Earth, all I think about is how peaceful He was. This was evident even when the Pharisees or other groups of people questioned Him or attempted to trap Him. I know if I was in Jesus’ place at that time, there would be some type of crazy altercation (in my head I am envisioning explosions and something similar to an action movie trailer). Jesus was always very chill and wanted nothing more than peace. Even when He flipped the tables in the temple, He was in full control of His emotions as He told them to remove the birds. 

If in our lives we want what the Bible states, to live like Christ and strive to be like Him, then a peacemaking life is something we should attempt to do. I say “we” should attempt to do it because at the end of the day peace is personal. 

Romans 12:18 adds, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” Here Paul is writing to the Christians in Rome and he just started an excerpt on how followers of Christ should behave. I love how he opens up this verse, “If possible.” I just envision Paul saying good luck and laughing but he probably did not do that. He goes on to say, “So far as it depends on you.” This key phrase in that verse is where I want to end. Peace is personal and it will always depend on us. At the end of the day, we have the ability to determine how we are going to act in a specific situation. We have the ability to determine how we are going to live our lives. We can all be peacemakers or hellraisers if you want a strong contrast. Now you choose, what do you want to be known for, and what will honor Christ the most?

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