Day 78: 1 Peter 1-3 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

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

How are you different now that Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior? That question is worth considering. The Apostle Peter deals with personal holiness (living lives that are more like Jesus than who we used to be) in the first few chapters of 1 Peter.  Christians are to be holy because we serve a holy God and if He is in us, then we should be becoming more like Him(1:15-16). We don’t become holy in order to get saved, we are saved by the blood of Jesus and made to be holy (1:18-21). Similarly we are not kept in holiness by our own power and strength, we rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to move forward in our personal holiness (1:22-23).

Sometimes the way we treat other people hinders our ability to prayer or the effectiveness of our prayers. That’s at least what Peter says about how husbands ought to treat their wives (3:7). Our relationship to others really does matter when it comes to the business of prayer. How is your relationship with those closest to you right now? Have you been a good husband, father, mother, wife, son, daughter, etc. Are you honoring God in your relationships or do you sin quite often and still expect to go to God with grace and ease in your prayer life.

Sometimes the most effective thing we can do to increase our prayer life is to repent of our sin to those we have offended and seek healthy relationships (kind of like James 5)… Then our burdens flow freely to the Lord.

FATHER, Thank you for the cross and the way of salvation through Jesus Christ. I pray that we are conforming to your image and that we see holiness develop in our lives. I pray that we would keep short accounts with one another and be quick to confess our sins that our prayers may not be hindered. Thank you for the strength to lead 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 75: Hebrews 9-10 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Hebrews 9-10 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

We have a greater sacrifice. That is in essence what Hebrews chapter 9 and 10 remind us. That Jesus offered himself on our behalf, a perfect, spotless, once and for all  sacrifice.  The outward function of sacrifices, the temple, and priests all point us forward to Jesus as the coming fulfillment of the Old Testament.  How can anyone be saved if they leave the substance to embrace the shadow? Those who are in Christ have the substance of everything that was hoped for and are secure in their salvation.

Why then should we worry at what the world around us does? We have atonement for our sins, peace with God. The Hebrews were suffering the plundering of their property. They were seeing their stuff taken and perhaps even members of their fellowship thrown in jail. But what they couldn’t see was the once and for all peace with God that had been established on their behalf by Jesus. Peace with God was far more costly than what they were losing to a world that persecuted them.

Sometimes we need to be reminded that God has done far more for us in Jesus than we often give him credit for. The plundering of property seems like a small things compared to eternal life in Christ Jesus.

FATHER, Thank you for the forgiveness of sins and salvation found in Jesus Christ! We rejoice to know our savior. I pray that our confidence would be in you today, no matter what goes on in our world. Give us grace to minister to one another in the midst of chaos. Thank you for the grace to lead 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 14: Matthew 19-21 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Matthew 19-21 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

We cover a lot of ground in these few chapters. The topics of divorce and celibacy are mentioned as well as the story of the Rich Young Ruler. However, what really jumps out at me are the parables that exhibit God’s grace. It seems as though there will be some surprise characters in the kingdom of Heaven. There will be some who come to faith in the 11th hour (20:6) and there will be some who begin their life in rebellion to God, but end in faithfulness (21:28-32).

These parables stand in stark contrast with Jesus’ second cleansing the temple (21:12-17) and his more specific Parable or the Wicked Vine Dressers (21:33-46). It helps to know that the national symbol for Israel was a grape vine and Jesus spells out exactly what he means by this parable (21:43). There is a clear rejection of the religious establishment and an emphasis that the gospel is intended to go to the whole world.

Chapter twenty-one also emphasizes that the religious leaders had rejected the authority of Jesus… But to sure, the rejection of the leaders doesn’t change the fact that Jesus is the authority. When you reject God’s authority, all you end up doing is hurting yourself (21:44). There was a saying that went around back in Jesus’ day that when to the effect of, “when a clay pot falls on a rock, the pot breaks… and when a rock falls on a clay pot, the pot breaks.”  One way or the other the only real reaction of a collision between a clay pot and a rock is for the pot to break.

Funny thing about the authority of God. When you submit to him, you have greater potential than when you rebel.  The cornerstone was the one by which the whole building was pieced together. It became the model and foundation for all the other stone work on a building. When we build our lives upon the authority of Jesus Christ, we become conformed to his image and are an extension of his kingdom at work in humanity.

Here is how I am praying today:

LORD, I thank you that you can wonderfully save individuals from their sins in the eleventh hour and that you radically save some individuals who begin their life in rebellion. Help me to never give up on others, assuming that it is too late or that someone is too set in their ways. I pray that you would grant me opportunity to share your gospel today. I pray that we would line our lives up on the corner stone of Christ Jesus. I pray for comfort, hope, and a sense of your presence for those who are grieving. I pray for strength for those who feel week and discernment for those making decisions today. 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 13: Matthew 16-18 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Matthew 16–18 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

In Chapter sixteen we are forced to contemplate the identity of Jesus. Peter makes the first assertion that Jesus is, “the Christ, Son of the Living God.” Towards the end of the chapter Jesus promises that some of his disciples will see Him coming in His kingdom before they die! At the beginning of the very next chapter they do exactly that as they see Jesus on the mount of transfiguration. This spiritually high event is followed by a low as the disciples are unable to heal a boy by casting out a demon. Jesus challenges their faith and tells them this kind only come out only by prayer and fasting. There is no presumption in casting out of demons, it is an utter and complete dependence on God. 

Chapter eighteen centers on the topic of forgiveness.   Often it is easier to see the sins of our brother than it is to see our own sin and so we condemn them and write them off as being purely evil… while we enjoy the pleasures and benefits of being God’s servant.

However, Jesus says you can’t live that way. You can’t write someone off for their sin against you.  He didn’t write you off.  He went to the cross for you and so for the sake of forgiveness and reconciliation the least you can do is walk across the room and lovingly confront the wrong (notice I said lovingly).

It’s easy to hate someone in their wrong doing.  You can count the tears, the lives affected, and try to put a value on the pain… but then again Jesus didn’t chose the to go to the cross for you when you were lovable. Don’t pretend like your sins don’t cost too.

You see we don’t forgive because we are commanded to and that is the end of the story.  We forgive because we are forgiven. When you realize your debt before God and what lengths he went to to absorb your debt against Him… well then that bit of unforgiveness in your heart just looks plain silly.

The power to forgive isn’t in you… The power to forgive comes from God alone. You see all sin is ultimately gets paid for… Either in your soul for ever in Hell, or Jesus on the cross.  At the end of the day all of us answer to God.  He is the only one who judges our hearts right.

Matthew eighteen also addresses church discipline. Church discipline is always done in love and in the hope of restoration. Lot’s of folks often quote Matthew 18:20, “Where two or three are gathered there I am also” in prayer gatherings. While it is true that Jesus is where his people are, this verse is in reference to church discipline. It can be such a tough matter to put someone out of the church that it helps to know that when great steps have been taken to restore and individual and they are still unrepentant, that Jesus is there. Trust me, if you have ever had to walk through the heart breaking steps of seeking restoration only to be met with a hardened heart over and over, It is comforting to know that Jesus is in your midst.

Here is how I am praying through this passage today:

LORD,  Thank you that you have made yourself known to us and that we can know you! I pray for my friends who don’t know you yet, and I pray that they would come to know you and trust you soon. I pray that I would continue to trust and depend on you. I thank you for disciplines like prayer and fasting that lead us closer. I pray that whenever sin enters into our relationships that we would seek forgiveness. I pray that I would be quick to repent when I have sinned and quick to forgive those who have sinned against me. I pray for those who are sinning and unrepentant. I pray for families who are being torn apart by sin. I pray for your church to love those who are falling away. Thank you for the calling you have placed on my life to shepherd your people. I pray that I would be faithful to you and accountable to others in every area of my life. 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 12: Matthew 13-15 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

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

Chapter thirteen in today’s reading is a collection of parables concerning the kingdom of heaven.  Most of the parables indicate that not everyone makes it into the kingdom. The difference seems to be that those who take action on the commands of Christ are saved, but those who do not respond to the promises of God are ultimately rejected (because they have rejected God). What really popped out was the parable of the sower. Different people receive and respond to the gospel in different ways depending on the condition of their heart.  This seems to be a reoccurring message in both gospels that we have been doing our reading so far.  It should encourage us to share the gospel all the more knowing that there are some who will believe.

Jesus has another run in the with the religious crowd in chapter fifteen, this time over the issue of his disciples not washing their hands. (This has more to do with a ritual purity than germs at this point). Jesus presses the crowd to look past the “going through the motions” aspect of law keeping and look at the real issue. The real issue is not what you do outwardly, but what you are inwardly. (We’ll see this in the sermon today at Little Escambia. The law of God was not intended to compel us to outward compliance alone, but inward obedience as well… hence the 10th commandment)

Be careful here though. Many have taken this to mean that as long as my “intentions” are good, then I’m good.  The problem is that Jesus isn’t talking about “intentions,” he is talking about our “motive.”  Intentions never seem to get done or fulfilled.  You can have the best of “intentions” and be the laziest person on the planet.  No, what’s at stake here isn’t what you intend, but what drives what your “do.”  The pharisees were driven to “do” the right things with the wrongs “motives.”  Jesus is saying, pure motives drive pure living. Corrupt motives can only make you look clean on the outside. 

Here is how I am praying through this passage today:

LORD, Thank you for how Jesus transforms our lives. I pray that your gospel would continue to transform my life and I would continue to grow in my faith. I pray for those who will hear your word today in so many different churches. I pray for prepared hearts that will be “good soil” for the word of God. I ask for faithfulness for other pastors and myself as we share 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 11: Matthew 11-12 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Matthew 11 – 12 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

The passage we read today has many implications.  What jumps out at me the most is the persistence of the “religious” crowd to reject Jesus. He does miracles and they complain because it is the Sabbath. They have envisioned a particular way to celebrate the Sabbath day and have added rules to clarify (that really just obscure) how the Sabbath was to be observed. They had listed out extra rules that defined what exactly was “work” that should not be done on the Sabbath. The Sabbath was a gift to mankind. It was given to a nation that had been slaves and didn’t know what it was like to rest. It provided clarity for women to take off (by not having to prepare a meal) and even foreigners who were traveling through. When Jesus heals, they imagine that Jesus is then breaking the Sabbath day by “working.”  Jesus points out their hypocrisy by demonstrating that they would do more work on the Sabbath to save an injured animal than they would for a man who has spent his life kept from working by a physical deformity. (If you attend Little Escambia we will have a message in a few weeks on the Sabbath day)

Later the religious crowd accuses Jesus of casting out Demons by the power of the Devil. Jesus warns them that they are treading on dangerous ground. To see the work of the Holy Spirit and to claim it comes from Satan is the worst kind of perversion possible. Indeed it is the unpardonable sin.  When a man looks at the brightest light in the room and protests that it is only making the darkness more rampant, he has lost more than the way, he has lost hope of ever finding the way.

I know that many people fret over if they have committed the unpardonable sin. Generally speaking if you are fretting about committing the unpardonable sin… you haven’t committed it. Jesus is speaking here of hearts so hardened against God that they attribute the work of God, to the devil, rather than repent. If your heart is that hardened against God, you wouldn’t be worried about the unpardonable sin.

This is also a sobering reminder of the necessity to pray and share the gospel no matter the outcome. We should know with certainty that the gospel never changes. It leads to life, but there will always be some who will reject it, no matter how bright the light shines.

Here is how I am praying through this passage today:

LORD, Thank you that you have given us the gift of work and the gift of rest. I pray that our true rest would be in you. Thank you that we can know you. Thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit in the life of believers. I pray that He guides our lives. Today I lift up those who I am sharing my faith with, I pray for eyes to see and ears to hear the truth of your gospel. I am lifting up those who are sick and would long to work if only their health were restored. I pray for their healing.  I pray for those who have overcrowded their lives and need to find real rest in you. I thank you for the joy of pastoring 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 10: Matthew 8-10 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Matthew 8 -10 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

What sticks out to me in these chapters this morning is the issue of faith and belief.  Jesus could and would heal, but those asking for healing knew that the power to heal wasn’t in their hands, it all belonged to Jesus. They weren’t just sending good vibes through the universe as if positive thinking would heal them. They weren’t trying to ignore the illness or deformity that plagued them, as though if they fooled themselves into thinking they were healthy it would make them healthy. NO… we see time and time again, there was a real and raw feeling of emptiness and brokenness that only Jesus could answer.

Go back with me to the paralytic man (9:1-8). Jesus said to the crowd, “For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?” (Matthew 9:5). Think about that question for just a moment. What does this paralyzed man want to hear? What is the desire of his heart?  He is broken. There is no other cure. There isn’t a miracle surgery out there that can change his condition. He is desperate… has come for healing and so if Jesus just merely wants to please this man and his friends, all Jesus has to do is heal this man and He’s got a fan.

But Jesus isn’t looking for a fan, He is looking to bring real healing into this man’s life, a healing that is deeper than this man even knows to look. He has come to heal the rift in his soul. He has come to forgive his sins and reconcile him to God! So he says, “Your sins are forgiven.” 

What does it cost to heal this man? Seemingly it’s just a few words upon the divine lips and this man is restored to health? What does it take to forgive this man of his sin? The story of the gospel of Matthew is not over. This pronouncement sets Jesus on a course for the cross.

Here is how I am praying through this passage today.

LORD, I thank you that you are a healing God. That in your kingdom there is no sickness or disease. I thank you that those of us who have been crushed by infirmity will find true relief in you. I praise you that sometimes we get a glimpse of the kingdom coming by seeing miracles of healing in our own day. Today, I ask that you would be pleased to work that kind of miracle for a friend of mine who is suffering. I lift up the many individuals I know who are sick and struggling with infirmity. I want to thank you that you are a forgiving God. Thank you for forgiving me. Today I pray for those who are lost in their sins and don’t know it. I ask that they would find true forgiveness through the mercy of the cross. I pray that we would all receive and realize the greatest gift of your grace. Thank you for calling me into ministry and giving me the charge to lead your people. I pray that you give me great grace and insight in preaching the gospel and pointing people to you . 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 9: Matthew 5-7 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Matthew5-7 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock (Matthew 7:20-24).

Today’s passage is the Sermon on the Mount. So many “classic passages” of scripture are found here. The Lord’s Prayer (Some call it the model prayer), the admonition against judging, don’t lust, love your enemies, the beatitudes, the wise and foolish builders, and the list goes on and on. I really enjoyed taking half a year and preaching through these chapters last year. What stuck out to me today was what Jesus said at the end of the message and quoted in part above.

Jesus warns us that just like a tree is known for its fruit, so a follower of Jesus will be known by their obedience to his commands.   You cannot shrink away from this no matter how hard you try.  Jesus makes demands on those who would follow Him. I think sometimes this message gets placed on the back burner because of our emphasis on grace.

While it is true we do not earn or merit salvation… it is true that perfect obedience was necessary for salvation and Jesus provided that obedience on our behalf.  Now he calls us to join Him in His obedience to the Father. Salvation isn’t given to us because of our obedience, but our salvation is a good reason to become obedient to God.

The call to the kingdom of God isn’t to come and live in your own power, but to come and live in the power that God provides. Obedience is the only way forward in the Christian life, everything else is only sinking sand.

Here is how I am praying through this passage today:

LORD, I am praying for your kingdom to come, and your will to be done. Help me set my heart on your kingdom and your righteousness. I want to be the wise man who built his house on the rock. I trust you with the cares of this world. Today I lift up those who are building their lives  on sand and they don’t even know it. I pray confidence for those who have put their trust in you that their lives are ready to withstand the storm. Draw us near you today. 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 8: Matthew 1-4 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Matthew 1-4 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

The reading for today centers on the beginning of the earthy ministry of Jesus. The gospel writer Matthew is sure to include genetic line of Jesus, in which four particular women are uncharacteristically mentioned (Tamar in 1:3, Rahab and Ruth in 1:5, and Bathsheba, called Uriah’s wife here in 1:6).  Knowing their individual stories helps provide context of the birth of Jesus. (If you don’t know their stories, look them up, they are singled out here for a reason).

The earthly family tree of Jesus has prostitutes, adulterers, and foreigners. These women were grandmothers of the Messiah. Each one living through broken circumstances to bring another life into this world.  In their arms they held the promise of the messiah. They held on to the same promise that was given to the first broken women, Eve,  on her way out of the garden…

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15).

I think we can draw a point of application to our own lives here. We don’t always see the big picture or how our lives are intertwined with others. We know that God can work through sorrow and heartache to bring about something greater than we could imagine even if we don’t see it in our own moment. The small joys of children after tragedy were blessings in and of themselves, but they were also the sight of God’s hand of sovereignty moving to bring the Savior into the world.

The scripture picks up with the birth of Jesus and carries on through Jesus’ baptism, temptation, and the calling out of some of the first disciples. I was particularly struck by the temptation passage.  On the Surface, Jesus quotes scripture to overcome temptation.  This is how it is often taught. But let’s go a little deeper. The first verse Jesus quotes is  Deuteronomy 8:3, “Man shall not live by bread alone.”  It helps to know the whole verse that this quotation comes from:

[Deu 8:3 ESV] 3 And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.

The verse that Jesus quoted refers not just to the temptation that Satan was offering (food), but also hints at the provision of God. Just like God had lead Israel into the dessert, he had lead Jesus into the dessert (4:1) and just like God provided for Israel,  God would provide all Jesus needed. He didn’t need to create a shortcut. How often does it seem like things aren’t working out and how quickly do we look for a compromise. Rather than seeking God. Jesus succeeded where the Nation of Israel had failed to trust God.

We aren’t just entertained that Jesus whooped up on the Devil by quoting the bible, we are also drawn in and challenged to trust God alone for salvation. Do we trust that God will provide all the bread we will need (Remember in John 6, Jesus says that He is the bread of Heaven)?

Here is how I am praying through this scripture today:

LORD, thank you that you take broken lives and use them. I pray that you would mend all of our brokenness hurt and pain. Thank you that Jesus trusted you in the midst of temptation. I pray that you would keep me from temptation. I pray for those who are struggling today. I lift up the brokenhearted, those who have lost spouses, those who have started over in new communities, those who have found themselves as strangers in a new land, those who have been cheated on, those who have cheated, those who have been mistreated by family. I pray for those who are facing temptation and face addiction, I pray for those who lost sight of you and need to come home. I pray for those who are trusting in you and holding on to your promises. I pray for those who are facing trials and crisis of faith moments. I pray for those who I get to shepherd and those who minister to me. I thank you for the Holy Spirit and how He moves in my life. May our confidence be in you alone, no matter what the world may throw our way today. 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 7: John 19-21 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from John 19 – 21 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend” ( John 19:12).

Pilate has a choice to make. Release Jesus because he finds no fault in him, or crucify Jesus to settle the crowd. It seems like an obvious choice. Do you do the right thing, or do you do the wrong thing because in the end it benefits you the most (or at least spares you some hassle)? Pilate chose the path of least resistance. That is the way of this world. Jesus was showing us a different way. Doing the right thing, even at great cost and personal sacrifice. Jesus calls his followers to be like him (and not like Pilate).

Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these? (John 21:15).

In the Greek language several words are used for love, two are used in this passage.  Jesus asks Peter the first two times, “Peter do you love me? (agape – Strongest form of love).” Peter responds, “Lord, you know I love you” (phileo – like a brother). The third time Jesus asks, “Peter, do you love me (phileo – like a brother).” This is when Peter breaks down and recognizes the weakness in his own Character and says, “Lord, you know I love you” (phileo -like a brother).

Likewise, Jesus’ statements to Peter come to life when you understand the Greek a little better. The first statement is “take my lambs to pasture” (a long term experience). The second, “feed my sheep” (a short term experience). The third statement “take my sheep to pasture” (a long term experience).

This is a beautiful picture of Jesus restoring Peter. You will remember that when Peter denied Christ three times (see John 18:17, 25-27) with the rejection seeming more sever each time.  Here Jesus is asking Peter if he loves him, each time the command “feed my sheep” growing in responsibility.

Here is how I am praying through this passage today:

FATHER, Thank you that you are a restoring God. Thank you that you restored Peter even though he denied you. I am asking you to today to bring back to faith and repentance those who I know need restoration. I pray also what we would be bold witnesses for the gospel when and where we are given the opportunity. I lift up those who are hurting, those who are wandering, those who are healing, those who are in pain, those who have forgotten you, I pray for those in my care as a pastor. Give me boldness to speak your truth in love, to carry out the ministry of reconciliation and to encourage them in the faith. 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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