Day 19: Mark 4-6 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

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

Today I was struck by the parable of the seed growing (4:26-29).  So many times we wonder at what God is up to in our life or the lives of people around us. We proclaim the gospel and it seems like no one is listening. We tell others of God’s love for us and our desperate need for Him but wonder if it is having any impact.

Then there is growth. In the quiet, in the stillness, after all the striving and all the needless fret on our part, the seed grows. In the silence, pushing against the darkness, reaching up to the light a plant is formed. Drawing strength from the earth, water and sunshine provided the plant continue to reach heavenward, spreading it’s leaves, embracing the sunlight and finally giving back fruit according to it’s purpose. Then comes the harvest.

Sometimes we are impatient to see the harvest. The one thing we often forget is that the harvest is determined by the planting. Are you planting to see the kingdom of God expanding in your life, in your community and around the globe. Plant much, harvest much.

I am also reminded that Jesus took naps (4:38). When I was younger, I didn’t think that naps could be spiritual,  but the older I get there are several times I’ve realized that the most godly thing I could do was take a nap. Depending on what you have been through or are headed into, a nap can sometimes be helpful in focusing on the mission that God has us on. Naps indicate that we believe God is the one in control (Psalm 127:2). Don’t get it wrong, Jesus isn’t lazy, he’s often at the point of exhaustion in these chapters,  the point is, in his humanity, he took naps when he needed them and we would be well served to to do the same.

Jesus casts a bunch of demons out of a guy and into a heard or swine. Rather than being amazed and worshiping God, the people plead with Jesus to leave (5:17). Jesus was bad for the economy. The regular Jewish folks wouldn’t have minded so much about the pigs because they were an unclean animal, but the folks in that region were probably selling them to the Romans to make a profit. So they wanted him to leave. Rather than leave those folks without a witness though, Jesus challenges this man to say and tell of what Jesus had done for him throughout the region (5:19).

It appears as though Jesus moves around a lot in the gospel of Mark. The distance between places isn’t as great as you would think, just a few miles in several instances. Sometimes a visual is helpful to put all the pieces together. Here is a diagram that shows the different places Jesus traveled in the sequence that Mark records things.

Here is how I am praying through this passage today:

FATHER, Thank you for giving us your word! I pray that many seeds of your gospel are planted today that will germinate in fertile hearts and grow. I thank you for what you do in our lives to produce growth, trust, and dependence on you! I pray that we will be witnesses in our own families and communities today as well as those around the world. Thank you for the grace to lead and shepherd others. I pray that you would multiply ministry 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 18: Mark 1-3 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

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

You may have noticed that Mark covers a lot of the same ground as Matthew, but he does it in a little quicker fashion. Mark also provides a few more details that we don’t necessarily see in Matthew.

Jesus goes to a solitary place to pray well before daylight (1:35). I’ve heard some folks use this as an argument that we should all do our devotions in the morning. I don’t know that that is the case. I am not as much of a morning person as I would like to be, but I am generally more focused late at night. I’m generally in God’s word both times. The more important thing I think is that Jesus needed alone time to pray and if he needed it, I probably need it even more. 

Another thing was how he named disciples and trusted them with some pretty big tasks (3:13-19).  Jesus knew that for his mission to be successful he had to not only share the burden of ministry but empower the disciples to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. If there was anyone who could do it better it was Jesus, yet rather than take the ministry back, he gave it away. Things have not changed that much in the church over 2000 years. We are still called to call new disciples, equip them and challenge them to take the gospel to the corners of the globe, this is how ministry multiplies.

There is a subtle theme emerging from Mark’s perspective. Jesus is being charged as a Sabbath breaker because he heals on the Sabbath (3:2). But we often see Jesus withdrawing and taking time to pray alone in ways that I doubt those charging him ever did. Jesus demonstrates what a real Sabbath looks like.

The application for me today is to make sure that the busier I get, the more time I find to slip into communion and fellowship with God.

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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Hey I’ve Blogged through the book of Mark nearly 10 years ago! Go back and see some my older posts that share a little more detail!

Day 17 Matthew 28 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Matthew 28 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

I love the hope that is present in the resurrection! I always find it interesting that the women who were following Jesus were the first to hear and spread the news of the resurrection.

I wonder how much money the chief priests and elders had to pay these soldier to say they fell asleep and didn’t see anything (12-15). I wonder how hard your heart had to be to hear of all of these events from credible sources and still choose to dig into your pockets to create a cover up story.  Surely these men knew at this point that they were playing their hand against God? I suppose some people know the truth and still choose to try and act against God.

Generally speaking we think of the going aspect of the Great Commission. Today though I was reminded of the “teaching them to observe all the I have commanded you” aspect of the Great Commission.  As followers of Jesus we are to be obedient to Christ as well as teaching others to be obedient to Christ.  We generally think of teaching as information, like history class, but the teaching that seems to be referenced here seems more of the “how to do something” sort, kind of like vocational school. Are we being obedient to God and teaching others to do the same?

Here is how I am praying through this passage today:

FATHER, Thank you for the resurrection and the hope that we have in Jesus because of it! Thank you for those who first heard and saw that event and then told others. I pray that we would be bold in our witness today. I pray that we would be those who seek to be obedient to your commands and disciple others to do the same. I ask for wisdom for parents in training our children and grandchildren. I ask for grace as a pastor to lead your congregation. I lift up those who are struggling with belief 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 16: Matthew 25-27 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Matthew 25-27 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

What you do with what you have, matters in the kingdom of God.” There was a portion of the wedding party that missed the festivities because they were not well prepared and had foolishly counted on the wedding starting earlier (25:3). The foolish servant didn’t invest his talent and therefore had nothing to show for it (25:25). Those who ministered to the least of these ‘Breatheren’ were rewarded (25:34). (I put Breathren in scare quotes because a lot of people read over this passage and think that this is a general niceness to strangers and while that is a good and even godly thing to do, what is referenced here is hospitality to brothers and sisters in Christ). As believers we are more obligated to minister to those closest to us such as family, church members, etc. We can also be generous to meet needs of those we are not obligated to help. For more on this see my blogging series on the Gospel and the Poor.

Today’s reading progresses from Jesus sharing parables about the coming of the kingdom to chapters 26 and 27 which detail the events of his betrayal, crucifixion and death.  I don’t know what was going on in Judas’ head when he decided to betray Jesus. I’ve heard a few different ideas suggested, but I think they are at best guesses. I do know this though, Judas did find himself very remorseful after the fact (27:3-4). Yet for all his remorse he didn’t find repentance. Its very sad really. Part of me really wants Judas to find redemption the way we know that Peter does.

Here is how I am praying through this passage today:

FATHER, I pray that we would be faithful to honor you with what we are given and that we would consider the weighty matter of Christ’s return with all seriousness. I pray for those who don’t know Christ as Lord and Savior and pray that today would be a day of salvation. I pray that you would use my conversations with friends and strangers to point them to you. I thank you for the calling 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 15: Matthew 22-24 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Matthew 22-24 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

In the midst of addressing the religious crowd about their hypocrisy, Jesus tells a parable about a wedding feast that illustrates that those who should have been excited about the wedding didn’t take it seriously (22:5) or were completely unprepared (22:11).

A couple of interesting points  for those of you following along with the Ten Commandment series at Little Escambia Baptist Church. The question from the Pharisees about taxes is answered by Jesus holding up on of their coins (he didn’t have one) and asking, “whose image and inscription is this?” (22:20) Then when they reply Jesus says,  “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (22:21) We usually catch on that Cesar’s image is on the coin, but sometimes we are slow to recognize that People are made in God’s image. We owe Cesar the coin, but we owe God our lives.

Jesus summarizes the great commandment, He uses two. Love God and Love your Neighbor. Loving God relates to the first four commandments and loving your neighbor relates to the other six. The reason Jesus doesn’t just say to love God, is because then we would be tempted to think we are loving God even when we neglect our neighbor and vice versa.

In chapter 23 Jesus really doesn’t let up on the scribes and pharisees. What popped out to me was how many times he calls them blind while he pronounces the woes. This leads to his sorrow over Jerusalem and his pronouncement in chapter 24… Hold on to this, because this context is important. I think a lot of people get Matthew 24 a little bit wrong, or misconstrue a few things. It is important to read the chapter in context. There is a tendency to read the entire chapter as an essay on what will the end times be like, but as I have studied this passage I think a great deal of what Jesus says here speaks more directly to the destruction of the temple (notice the context of 24:1-2).

Matthew 24:3, The Disciples ask three questions of Jesus…

1.Tell us, when will these things be,

2.and what will be the sign of your coming

3. and of the end of the age?”

Matthew 24:15-16, The Abomination of Desolation is something that can only happen in the temple in Jerusalem. Jesus warns those in “Judea” to flee… so this is in reference to the destruction of the temple and all that is attached to this passage such as pray that it doesn’t take place on the sabbath, etc. is related to the destruction of the temple.

Matthew 24:23, After this event if someone tells you they are the Christ, or that Christ has returned… be wary.

Matthew 24:27, when Jesus returns you will know it. It won’t be like the first time.

Matthew 24:34, This now appears to be the bookend that ties this all together with the destruction of the temple, “this generation will not pass away.” The temple was destroyed in AD 70 a round about forty years after Jesus made this statement.

The real point to these chapters is that Jesus will return and it will be when we least expect it. He will judge the world and reward those who have been faithful to follow Him. I look forward to His return and I hope to be found me faithful.

Here is how I am praying through this passage today:

FATHER, Thank you for the gift of your word! I pray we would all be prepared for what ever events will unfold in our lifetime. Thank you for what it means to be made in your image and thank you for the gracious commands you have given us to love you and to love one another. I pray that we would continue to grow in our love on both accounts. Today I pray for those who are lost apart from you and are unprepared. I pray that they would come to faith in you. I lift up those who are sick and longing for relief, I pray that you would provide healing. I ask you to keep us vigilant in our anticipation of what you have in store for us. I pray that I do all of my part in presenting everyone complete who you have put in my care as a pastor. 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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