Day 55: 2 Corinthians 7-9 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from 2 Corinthians 7-9 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

Sometimes sorrow is necessary. Paul had written a stern letter to the Corinthians that had caused them grief. His desire wasn’t to hurt their feelings, but to bring them to a place of repentance. We live in a culture that is increasingly afraid to hurt feelings, but sometimes hurting feelings is necessary for someone to experience genuine, godly sorrow.

There is a difference between worldly sorrow and godly sorrow (7:10). Worldly sorrow is being sorry you got caught. Maybe you would be glad to do it again if you could guarantee that no one would find out. Godly sorrow is being sorry that you ever did such a thing to begin with. Sorry that your heart would be so opposed to God that you would even have acted that way. Godly sorrow agrees with God about the seriousness of sin and truly grieves over your condition. Godly sorrow is what leads to repentance. You’ll never  find real repentance apart from Godly sorrow.

In Chapters eight and nine, Paul turns his attention to giving and generosity. He shares about the generosity of other churches in the midst of affliction (8:2-3) as well as the model of Christ (8:9). He reminds the Corinthians of two facts concerning our giving to the work of the LORD. He encourages them that, “God loves a cheerful giver” and that our gifts aren’t to be given under grudging circumstances (9:5,7).  We are to give with a joyful attitude. He also reminds the Corinthians that we reap what we sow (9:6,10). Not to say that we get more money because we give more money.

SIDE NOTE: We Reap what we sow is true with all the spiritual disciplines. We gain joyfulness when we give joyfully. We gain knowledge when we study God’s word. We have a deeper understanding of God the more we talk to God in prayer. We get the blessing by being with God’s people that we can’t get when we don’t gather with God’s people. There is always a fruit to doing the right thing spiritually.

FATHER, thank you for godly sorrow that brings about genuine repentance. I pray that we would never shy from speaking your truth in love so that others might experience eternal life in Christ. Thank you for the basic instructions in giving generously that we received from your word today. I pray that we would all be joyful and generous givers because of how Jesus gave to us. Show us how to be diligent in our sowing so that we might be bountiful in our reaping. 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 48: 1 Corinthians 4-6 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from 1 Corinthians 4-6 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

It is the Lord who judges me (4:4).  If it’s true for Paul then it is true for us. Jesus will be our judge. No one knows our heart. People may hate us. They may love us and be our biggest fans. However, the truth is that their opinion doesn’t count in the courts of Heaven. The God of all the universe will judge us rightly and He knows us.  Others can and will practice their own judgement, but it doesn’t matter. Those words of discouragement. Those word’s of flattery. Those whispers of doubt… They don’t really count in the one court that really matters. It’s before Jesus that we individually stand or fall.

On the other hand. There is no fooling God. He knows our hearts. We’ve not always been what we should be, thought what we should think, or done what we should do. We should be aware that the God of the universe will be our judge and He cannot be deceived.

As we dig deeper into 1 Corinthians we see a church that is divided on many fronts. Some were puffed up with pride and judging others not reckoning that we each stand or fall before the Lord (4:1-5). They had allowed open and blatant sin to go on unaddressed in the congregation (5:2). There were some who were so far at odds with one another that they were suing their brothers. They couldn’t even find someone from within the church to mediate their troubles (6:5). The behavior is so bad (6:8) that Paul has to remind the church at Corinth that the unrighteous won’t be in Heaven (6:9). He urges them to remember that(if they are truly saved) they are no longer what they were but that they are completely new in Christ (6:11).

FATHER, We pray for the unity of your church today. We pray for grace to know that each one of us will stand or fall before you our Maker and our Master. We ask for grace to lead lives that bring you glory and that when we do stand before you, we will hear the words, “Well Done.” We ask for grace not to judge our brothers more harshly than we ought. We pray for discernment and boldness to address blatant sin when it would appear in our midst. We ask that we would be jealous for the holiness of YOUR church. Thank you for the amazing grace of the gospel and the transformation that has taken place in our lives. We pray for brothers and sisters who find themselves in conflict and we ask not for the wisdom of man, but the power of God to bring about reconciliation and peace. Thank you for the grace to lead your church. 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 44: Romans 10-12 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

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

In Romans 10 Paul continues to point the readers to faith in Christ. Romans 10:2 is the verse that the Lord used to bring me to conviction of sin in my own life. I realized that I had a religious zeal for the things of God, but I didn’t know the LORD.  Hearing that particular Word of God at that time produced saving faith in my own heart (10:17).

Chapter 11 deals with questions about Israel (God’s chosen people) and their presumed rejection of Jesus. It is not as though the purpose of God has failed, but that it has been enlarged (11:12).

Moving into chapter 12, the Apostle Paul begins to write with more application in mind.  Most of what Paul has written so far, has been laying the foundation of a good theology. You will notice this trend in almost all of Paul’s letters. Theology comes first then the practical application flows last. This is what we see in Romans: Man is sinful, Jesus died to bring you to God, God is sovereign, therefore work together, love your enemies and trust God to deal out justice.

[SIDE NOTE: The point of a good theology is action. Some people live with a false dichotomy between theology and action. They say they believe one thing and behave another way. Then others just reverse the false dichotomy and say its all about action and forget why they do what they do. The truth is to have a fully colored in worldview you need to not only respond to God in faith, but know that previously you were separated from God by your sins.]

A love that focuses on the action and not the principle isn’t any kind of real love anyway. Its a coerced at best and a thin veneer over vileness at worst. Only resting in real truth about God and his character will ever free you to truly love your enemies

FATHER, Thank you that Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. I pray your word would go out far and wide today and many would put their faith and trust in you. I pray for boldness on our part to share the gospel so that others might believe. I praise you that you are too infinate to fully comprehend and humble myself to realize that I need your counsel in every area of my life. I pray that you would equip me to do my part in the body of Christ and exercise the gifts that you have given me, for your glory and the edification of the church. I pray that my heart rests in you today and I love others in the same radical way that I am loved by you. Help me to grow even more in my knowledge of your love. Thank you for the calling to preach your word and prepare your people. I pray that I would walk faithfully with you all the days 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 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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Day 5: John 13-15 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

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

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. “(John 14:15-17)

Judas couldn’t have had a better pastor and he betrayed Jesus. The reality of a Judas in the ranks of the disciples should challenge us to examine our own hearts. If He could “follow” Jesus and still not fully believe it is possible for us to be near church but not fully committed to Christ. The realness of Judas should cause us to make our calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10).

Jesus offers another glimpse of the coming Holy Spirit!  As we draw closer and closer to the cross, the message turns more and more towards the Trinity and especially now in these chapters towards the role of the Holy Spirit who has come to us as a “Helper.”

The only power we have to keep Christ’s commandments comes from the Holy Spirit alive in us! How arrogant we are to assume that we are fully capable of fulfilling the commands of Christ on our own. We are like Peter making bold claims about our allegiances when we walk in peace, but running away like a coward when the pressure is on.  The power to obey and follow comes from abiding and walking with Christ on a consistent and daily basis. Continually submitting areas of our life to Christ, not in our strength, but in the power that comes from the Holy Spirit of God.

Here is how I am praying through this Passage today:

LORD, I thank you that you care for me. I ask you to examine my heart and life today. I know that there is nothing that you have called me to do that I can do on my own. I must depend on you. I ask you to prune from my life the things that would distract me from your purpose for my life. Please direct the steps ahead of me. I pray today for those who are wandering, those struggling with acceptance and belonging, those who are seeking you but find the cares of this world difficult to resist, those who know they need to let go of addictions, those who know they are prone to distraction. I lift up the sick, the hurting, those in the process of healing, those who carry sorrow, and worry.  I lift up the people I am charged to lead. I pray today that we would all find ourselves abiding in 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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Acts 3: The Generosity of God

The book of Acts is record of how the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The emphasis of the first three chapters is on the power of the Holy Spirit to complete that mission. In chapter one the apostles are told to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit (1:4). In chapter two the Holy Spirit comes in Power and three thousand souls are added to the church (2:41). Now in chapter three, through the power of the Holy Spirit a lame man is healed.

This story is really amazing because it testifies to the generosity of God! Here there is a man who was born lame is sitting as close to the temple as he can get (lame men weren’t permitted inside the temple). He has no source of income, no disability check, no food stamps. He simply depends on the generosity of others. He’s no fool. He sits by the temple at the time of prayer where people will be coming in and out. He’s also situated close to where the  money changers would be doing business and as a result strangers would have a few more lose coins than normal. He begs to survive… to get by. He doesn’t have a lot of money… He’s a beggar with no hope of ever improving his situation.

But then he sees Peter and John and they don’t have any money to give him. Instead they lock eyes with him and offer them what they do have… The generous power of God to heal a beggar! Do you get it? Do you see the irony. The Beggar doesn’t have any money. That’s why he begs. He’s poor. He’s destitute. He can’t even walk. All he can do is beg. All he can do is ask for help and on this day GOD answers.

The Apostles reach out their hands and command him “Get up.” Such a harsh command for a man who cannot respond on his own, no matter how much he wills it. His body broken from birth. But something happens… he is able! God has made him able! This man who had nothing to offer. This man who has nothing to give for the miracle… gets up and walks! And he walks, no… skips right into the temple (3:8). He’s praising God. Ten minutes before, he was a lame man, but now he walks with Apostles.

How great is God that he gives to those who cannot repay Him. He is generous beyond all measure. This man who was unable to enter the temple because of his deformity is now made able by the working of the Holy Spirit. If God can heal a lame man’s body, He is most certainly able to save us all from our own spiritual bankruptcy.