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 21: Mark 10-12 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

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

Entrance into the kingdom of God is given to those who come simply like children (10:15). You can’t trust in your own riches or own strength to get you in (10:24b). It seems impossible that anyone would humble themselves in this way. It certainly isn’t the natural default of sinful men. But what seems impossible with men is possible with God (10:27).  Indeed, no one comes to God in their own strength or power, but like a blind man calling out for Jesus to have mercy, we receive mercy (10:47).

The way of the Kingdom of God isn’t to jockey for position, but to serve others (10:43-44). We are not to hold personal grudges but are  called to forgive others for the things they have done to wrong us (11:25-26). If you have ever found it difficult to forgive someone for something they have done to you, it is helpful to know that this command comes in the context of faith and prayer that can move mountains (11:22-24). It is helpful to know that our faith isn’t in our ability, but in God (11:22). 

It is interesting to note the dialogue between the Pharisees and Jesus over taxes (12:13-17). In church on Sunday we just talked about not making any images to worship God, because we were made in his image. Here Jesus calls us to give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and give to God the things that are God’s. We are to give ourselves back unto the Lord.  

Here is how I am praying through this Passage today:

FATHER, Thank you for continuing to reveal yourself through your word. Thank you for providing the way of humility and trusting Christ to find salvation in you. I pray that we all follow you today and walk in humble obedience. I pray that we are those who forgive others who sin against us. Thank you that the power to forgive and ask for other great things in prayer. I pray that you would have all of my life. Thank you for the great grace that you have blessed me with in being able to shepherd and 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 20: Mark 7-9 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

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

The Pharisees were professionals at praising God with their lips, but having their hearts set against him. It’s a terrible thing to live so completely and fully for yourself while proclaiming God’s kingdom with your lips.

In this world their is a great temptation to profess a love for God with our lips and change the rules (7:9-13).  We seek to make God in our image, to assume what He would say or how He would feel about something simply because that is the way we feel about it. Many people capitalize on the fact that God is a “loving” God and then turn around and define love in some other way than God defines it. They end up removing the jealousy of God, and maybe even forgetting His wrath.

Keep reading though. Read the words of Jesus. Don’t use the love of God to say that their is no Hell. Hell is real and people go there. Jesus said better to fight sin than go there (9:42-48). Justifying your sin will surely send you there no matter how much you profess the love of God.

The Pharisees had the same issue. They said that honoring your parents was more of a suggestion and if you wanted to pledge your money to the temple instead of supporting your parents in their old age, that you were righteous for doing it (7:9-13). But they were wrong. They were dead wrong.  They were not near to God with their hearts. Their jaws moved, their gums smacked, but their heart wreaked of the foulest things (7:21-23).

You have a bad heart when you just want to justify your sin under the love of God. Sure God forgives, but not without repentance. Repentance isn’t just acknowledging what you’ve done, but agreeing with God about what you’ve done and turning away from it.

Here is how I am praying through this passage today:

FATHER, Thank you for your word and where it brings conviction. I pray that we wouldn’t be like those in chapter seven who deceived themselves into thinking they were right with you, but really were far from you. I pray that we would not be ashamed of you, but that we would pick up our crosses and follow you. I thank you for the privilege of being a father and leading my family. I pray that I lead them all well. Thank you for the grace 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 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 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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