Day 28: Luke 13-15 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Luke 13-15 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

Imagine being the younger son in Luke 15, rehearsing your speech and making the final turn to approach the house. You’re not sure if you will be accepted. Then you see him. Running to meet you. It’s your dad! You’re running through the speech one more time in your head. You are practiced, you are ready, but as the words leave your mouth you hear him say, “kill the fatted calf, we are going to have a feast tonight. My son who was dead is now alive. He is home.”

You’re accepted. You are welcomed. You enter the party with full confidence that you have your father’s unmerited favor. ..

Then imaging the older brother in Luke 15. (Remember, this story is about two brothers.) You’ve been loyal, you work the farm, you do what you are told and never once has your old man thrown a party for you. When you come home you are furious to find that your brother is home and the old man has thrown him a party. You feel slighted somehow. You feel edged out. Somehow the fact that your father would accept your stupid younger brother makes you angry. You don’t enter the party. The father has to come out to invite you in… in the end we are left wondering if you will ever go in?

This is the scandal of Amazing Grace that God would love sinners who repent and find their way home. Sometimes we think that people need to suffer a little because of where they have been and the choices they have made. But that’s not the way God welcomes sinners. The road to repentance is an open road that he looks down, waiting and expecting.

FATHER, thank you for the scandal of Amazing Grace. Thank you that you welcome repentant sinners. I rejoice with those who have trusted in you as Lord and Savior. I lift up those who have wandered far from home and are living in the far country. I pray for the salvation of friends and family. I pray for repentance that leads to rejoicing. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

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Day 27: Luke 10-12 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Luke 10-12 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

In Luke 12, Jesus preaches hard against hypocrisy! What a gift it is for Him to expose our hearts. There are days where we might be prone to just go through the motions, put on a good exterior and sail through, but not today. Today, we come to the hard task of examining our lives. There is nothing that is truly hidden that God doesn’t know (12:2). We might fool each other for a while, or even fool ourselves into thinking it doesn’t matter, but it does.

Sometimes we are more afraid of what others will think of us than we are of offending the Lord. Jesus teaches us to fear God more than people. We fear on the one hand because He has the power and authority not only to demand our lives, but to cast us into Hell. On the other hand though, we should tremble, because He cares so much for us (12: 4-7). Anything that He beckons us to do, even to the point of giving up our lives, isn’t to hurt us, but to help us. So while trusting him may seem difficult, it is the best thing. He knows our worst and still offers grace and forgiveness in Christ.

Sometimes we are hesitant to confess or confront secret sins because we are afraid of how we will be perceived by other people. We let the fear of others rob us from the freedom of confession and repentance. A secret sin can fester in our hearts and cause us to by hypocrites in every area of our lives. We can place on a holy hat and try to side step the real sin issue that is eating us alive and in doing so we side step every issue down the line.

The best thing is for us is to be honest about the condition of our souls.  If we are to be made more and more into the image of Christ, we can’t play at being holy.  We must commit every area of our life to Him.  We must deal with reality. What a grace it is for Jesus to expose our hypocrisy now, because he gives us an opportunity to repent.

FATHER, thank you for the grace of hard words that cut right to our hearts. Thank you for caring for us enough to point out our secret sins. Thank you for the grace of repentance. Thank you that we don’t have to fear others and what they might do to us for following you, but that we get to follow you unashamedly. I pray that we would be bold in our witness today. Thank you for the grace to lead others. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

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Day 26: Luke 7-9 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Luke 7-9 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

In the gospel of Luke we often find faith in unsuspecting places. The faith of the centurion to recognize that Jesus has the authority to heal from afar is one of those places (7:1-10). Jesus had just spoken in his hometown about their apparent lack of belief and that even in Old Testament times that God sometimes chose to do works among those who were outside of the covenant nation of Israel (4:25-27). As we keep reading, we will see a faithful response from those you wouldn’t expect. Today in the same chapter we saw the sinful woman (Luke 7:36-50) who interrupts a party to clean Jesus’ feet. While she was probably a Jewish woman, she was certainly out of her social context.

Along the lines of the woman who washes Jesus’ feet, I thought it was profound that Jesus uses this as a teaching moment for Simon (the host) about forgiveness. I think it is always easier to see someone else’s sin.  The human heart is prone to gawk, make fun of and demand repentance for the wrongs that we see others commit.  We seldom ever like to take the time for honest self-evaluation of our own hearts. If I’m not careful I will see the sins of others and in my mind be way too harsh, not thinking or realizing that I have sin that has to be dealt with too. Those who have come to Jesus by grace through faith need to extend the same grace we have received to others.

Forgiveness is one of those things that is easy to do on paper, but hard in real life. Forgiveness for me is often a process and seldom ever is it a single event. I continually need to be reminded to forgive other for offenses big and small in the same way that I have been forgiven.

The big take away for me today was 8:18. We must be careful in how we hear. God’s word wasn’t meant for the purpose of information alone. It was meant for transformation. I know all about how to diet. Believe it or not, I have read books (that’s right plural) on dieting, exercising and losing weight. My problem is I haven’t done anything with what I know and my waste-line shows it. For all of that information to profit me anything I have to DO it. It’s the same with God’s word. Knowing how to forgive and forgiving are two different things. Those who do God’s word, get more from it than those who merely read it… What a challenge that was to read today! Are we hearing God’s word to transform our lives?

Finally, I wonder what it must have been like for the Gaderene demoniac to be healed of his demon possession and sent then home to tell others about what the Lord had done for Him? Here is a man who was ready to leave it all behind and jump in a boat and follow Jesus (8:38). This is the kind of disciple that Jesus was hard pressed to find. Yet here he finds one and his command isn’t to go to the darkest streets of Jerusalem, or even to go to the utter most parts of the earth. Jesus instead says, go home and tell those people what I’ve done for you (8:39).

He was already where God was calling him to go. He needed to be a sign and a witness of God’s faithfulness among his own people.  God had placed him in that area for a purpose.

Have you ever wondered that you might have that goofy brother-in-law for a purpose? That you might have found that family doctor for the sake of the gospel conversations you’ll have in the midst of being sick? Have you contemplated that God might want to use you to reach that child that is always hanging out at your house with your son or daughter?

FATHER, thank you for the grace and forgiveness that I have found in Jesus Christ. Help me to never forget the love and forgiveness that I have received. Help me to see my sins honestly before you and be quick to repent. Give me grace to be quick to forgive others when they sin against me. Help me to look for opportunities to share my faith with those that you have already put in my life. Thank you for the privilege of shepherding your people. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

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Day 25: Luke 4-6 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Luke 4-6 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

It never really occurred to me before that the devil tempts Jesus with authority here early in his ministry (4:6). Authority is one of those things that Jesus declares after the resurrection (Matthew 28:18). I have no doubt that the devil was offering Jesus a “shortcut,” so to speak, but I had never grasped the explicitness of it until this morning.

Jesus obviously isn’t a pragmatist. The best way is always God’s way. It may not be the quickest, or even most effective, but it is the right way. I wonder sometimes, where am I tempted to take short cuts? I get how authority without the cross was a temptation to power here, but I wonder if it wasn’t also a temptation to take the shorter, quicker, most effective route?

Tree’s produce fruit after their kind (6:43-45). The scripture isn’t concerned with how much fruit there is here (though there are thought on this in other passages). What is at stake isn’t how much, but what kind. Makes me think about what kind of stuff comes out of my life? Is my life overflowing with the joy I have in Jesus or is it something else? If it is something else, what? why?

This passage also isn’t concerned with growth. I think I might step on some toes here but there is a way to grow in the wrong direction. Bad trees grow and they produce bad fruit. The measure of the Christian life isn’t just generic growth, but specific fruit. What kind of fruit are you producing.

There is much more to ponder, but here is where I hung out in my thoughts and meditation today. Am I producing the real fruit of Godliness in my life? Are you?

Here is how I am praying today:

FATHER, thank you that Jesus didn’t give in to temptation, but was tempted in all ways as we are, yet was without sin. I am glad that you understand my temptations. Today I pray that you would lead me away from the things that tempt us to sin and closer to you. I pray that we would be those who don’t only hear your word, but we would be those who do your word. I ask that the real fruit of godliness would be evident in my life. We don’t want to play at Christianity or church. We want all that you have for us. I pray that you make us all more like Jesus. Thank you for the gift of leading and praying with others. I ask for your blessings on us today, may it be a fruitful day for your kingdom and your glory. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

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Day 24: Luke 1-3 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Luke 1-3 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

John the Baptist’s message in Luke 3 speaks volumes. There is a version of Christianity that is all knowledge and little action, all smoke and no substance. If I am not careful I could be like that… posting thoughts on scripture, preaching sermons, counseling folks, etc. All that can be done and done convincingly with just a little bit of knowledge.  Real repentance has significant action behind it as John demonstrates to those who ask him what they should do (Luke 3:10).

Someone can go through the motions and be “clean”  (like baptism here) but their heart can be “wicked.”  The pharisees lined up with everyone else to be baptized (See Luke 3:7 and Matthew 3:7). Out of everyone there, they had the longest list of deeds that they could point to in order to certify their righteousness. They made a religion out of being “righteous.” They even added extra rules for righteousness. Yet, the one thing that separated their deeds from the fruit of repentance was their heart.

If we are to honor God in our repentance it is important that the followup to the big spiritual highs take place. Repentance may start for a man at an alter at the end of a service, but it will show up in his life long after that in how he deals with his wife, children, computer, driving habits, etc.

Later in Luke we will read the parable of the prodigal son. The older brother has always fascinated me because he is obedient, but we are left with the impression that he misses the party. Real repentance begins in the heart, or it may begin with the action if your heart isn’t there yet… but in the end it encompasses both a right motive and right deeds.

I’m praying that my identity is so swept up in Christ today that I forget what other motives might be out there and live with a heart that beats purely for God.

FATHER, Thank you for the gift of your Word. As I reflect to day on the message of John the Baptist I ask that we would be those who continually live a life of repentance and change. I thank you that we don’t bare this burden alone, but the Holy Spirit guides our steps and helps us all along the way. Thank you for the grace of studying and sharing your word. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

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Day 23: Mark 16 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Mark 16 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

Mark 16:7 jumped out at me today. Jesus said, “Go tell the disciples… AND PETER” (emphasis mine).  Tradition tells us that Peter is the Apostle behind the gospel of Mark. It is certain that Peter remembers this part very well. He had denied Jesus and when Jesus rose from the grave he wanted to make sure that Peter knew he was still part of the group.

The last eleven verses of Mark are somewhat controversial as they don’t appear in some of the earlier manuscripts.  Controversy aside, there is a great commission like statement found in Mark 16:15. The idea is also found in the other gospels, Acts.

God has made the way to rescue sinners from His wrath through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ who was crucified, buried and risen from the dead. This is indeed good news and the world should hear! Believers are called to be ambassadors of Christ! We are to take the good news everywhere, including to people who may not count the gospel as good news. We are to go!

But where are we to go? If we are not careful we will become mistaken and think we are to go places (indeed that may be part, but it is not the whole), but the command to go and make disciples is not about geography as much as it is about people. People who at this very moment stand outside the kingdom of God. People who may have never even heard the gospel. The command is to go to the people, not the place. Sometimes we have to go places to get to the people, but please make no mistake we go to share the good news with people.

The implications of this are huge! My region has an abundance of churches, and yet there are people who have not clearly heard the gospel.  The condition of those who have not heard in my region is the same as those who have not heard in another area or country with less churches. Again the command isn’t to go to places, but to go to people! Darkness is darkness wherever it exists. We can no longer use the fact that there are more people without the gospel in another region of the world as an excuse to just give our money and not search out those who are without Christ on our own neighborhoods. (We should give and give generously to reach people across cultural divides, but not in replace of sharing the good news in our own culture).

Here is how I am praying today:

FATHER, Thank You for the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus and that that means for the forgiveness of our sins. I pray for those who have yet to clearly hear the gospel in my community. I pray for the opportunity to speak of your truth and love to them. Thank you for the privilege of leading your people. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

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Day 22: Mark 13-15 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Mark 13-15 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

Jesus went to the garden to pray. He brought a few of the close disciples with Him and left them to keep watch. He had just spoken of the need to watch and pray in the previous chapter (13:32-37).  He wanted them to keep watch, however, they let him down by falling asleep. Jesus comments that they should pray against this temptation because, “the spirit is willing and the flesh is weak” (14:38).

Jesus was facing his own crucial moment. A moment that would effect all of them. He was praying to the Father for another way, but pressed on to pray, “Not what I will, but what you will” (14:36). The disciples didn’t know what was coming, or at least they didn’t know the immediacy of it. Jesus knew it was coming and was trying to prepare them.

We don’t always know that is coming down the road in our lives. There have been several moments where life seemed to be going fine and then something suddenly happened and we had to adjust and change direction. We’ve lost loved ones, addressed a health crisis, etc. In the grand scheme of things these are all relatively small things that we didn’t see coming that affected our life and schedule. Had we known about them in advance or even known when we would face something, we might have been better prepared. Jesus reminds us that there are events that we do know will unfold and they could unfold in our life time (13:32-37). Are we ready? Are we living at those who are ready for Christ to return at any moment?

Here is how I am praying through this passage today:

FATHER, Thank you for the blessing of your word. Thank you for grace to look into this moment you shared with your disciples. I pray that we would be those who are expectant and ready for your return. I pray that we would not be lazy or fall into temptation because we assume your return is a long way off, but that we would be those who are diligent and ready. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

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