When Jesus asks you a question. (Matthew 22-24)

I am working through the Cornoa virus. It’s no fun. Lots of fever, chills, and all the other stuff. If the last serveral days and next several days seem off. I’m probably writing with a fever. One of the things I found most difficult about maintaining a daily bible reading time while I’m sick is that reading has become more wearysome. Several years ago I downloaded an app that reads the bible to you. Today instead of reading the text myself I let the app do it and it was easier to concentrate.

The story is told of a young man who showed up at the Louvre museum one day. He came to the Mona Lisa, perhaps the most famous painting in the world and a masterpiece. He begins to make fun of the painting. He points out what he thinks are flaws and inconsistencies. A large crowd gathers as he mocks the painting and it’s artist, Leonardo Da Vinci. Just then the curator to the museum walks up to hear the comotion. Finally when he can take it no longer he says, “Young man, the Mona Lisa is not on trial here today. It is recognized around the world as a master piece. But you are on trial today, because while you made your accusations and assumptions your ignorance became evident to everyone.”

Jesus and the religious leaders get into it in these chapters. The religious leaders question him, hoping to trip him up and make him stumble in what he says. However, his responses reveal how little the religious leaders really knew. Somewhere along the way the religious leaders fell in love with the idea of appearances, but they missed out on the real thing. Jesus compared them to white-washed tombs. Pretty on the outside, but full of death and decay. The sad things is all these leaders had to do was recieve Jesus. But they loved their power and postition so much that they knew who he was and they rejected him.

Father, guard me from thinking too much of myself or doing things for mere appearances. Certainly we should live godly lives, but I pray that godliness is found in a transformed heart, not a thin vinere meant to impress others. In Jesus Name, Amen.

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How Do We Love Like That? (John 13 – 15)

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. – John 13:34

When I tuck my kids in bed we have a little routine that we often go through where we will say the Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments together. Several years ago, we started reciting the eleventh commandment as well. At first my kids were surprised that there was an eleventh commandment. It’s not found in Exodus 20, or the Old Testament for that matter. It’s found in today’s reading in John 13:34 where Jesus says, “A new commandment I give you.” What was that commandment? It was to, “love one another; as I have loved you.

From time to time my kids when they were younger get a little silly at bedtime and have tried to change this commandment. One of them when she was too young to really know what she was doing would say, “to love like I love my milk.” I would always gently correct her and say, “we are to love one another as Jesus loved us… and oh how He loves us, to take our sins on Himself, to leave heaven for earth, and to die for our sins. He loves us more than we can think or imagine!”

I think if He had left the command at, “love one another,” we’d have an easier time with it all. We’d just do our best and try to love one another like we love our “milk” or whatever. But the truth is that we would quit loving milk or whatever if it became too difficult. We could quit, give up, and start loving something else. Jesus didn’t tell us to love like that. He told us to love one another like He loved us in the context of going to the cross for our sins!

How do you love someone who has sinned against you? How do you forgive them for them for the hurt and the wrong they have caused? You can’t do it in your own strength and power. You have to be continually trusting in the Lord to provide. I really appreciate that where Jesus repeats the command in John 15:12 it comes in the context of abiding (remaining) in Him. It reminds us that there is no way to really love our brother on our own. We weren’t meant to live the Christian life in isolation. We were meant to live as branches connected to the one true vine, all of us drawing our strength from our Lord.

I confess that there are times I have attempted to do ministry on my own and in my own strength, but it just can’t be done that way. I’m greatful for the command to abide in Christ.

Today is especially difficult for me as I’ll be conducting a second funeral for a friend in 2021. I was especially helped by John 14 today as well as reminded to draw all of my strength from the Lord.

Father, Thank you for your commandments. They are not hard or burdensome but actually very freeing. How much anxiety I bring on myself when I try and figure things out and do things my own way. It’s when I lean into you, trust you, abide in you, that I find myself energized and empowered by the Spirit. I ask for your blessing today to abide in you and strength for a difficult day. I rejoice that Jesus has gone before us to prepare a place for us. In Jesus Name, Amen.

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Day 84: Revelation 1-3 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

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

The book of Revelation (notice it is NOT book of “Revelations” as so many are fond of calling it. There is no “s”) is one of the most organized books of the bible. It begins with John on the island of Patmos on the Lord’s Day (Sunday) receiving a vision from the LORD (1:9-10). It comes with a blessing for those who read it (1:3). The first three chapters contain an introduction and seven brief letters written to seven churches.

In chapter one, John sees the risen Christ (1:18). Jesus appears differently than we might suspect (1:13-16). He has white hair, is bright as the sun and his voice is like many waters. All the descriptions of Jesus listed here will be referenced later. Many of the things in the book of Revelation have their key in earlier portions of scripture, especially the Torah (the first five books). Once you have read the Old Testament you are more prone to catch many of the references made in Revelation. For example, you will think of the seven lamps in Exodus 25:37 when you hear about seven lamp stands (1:12).

Each letter to the seven churches follows a similar theme. Jesus first makes a reference to his own attribute(s), listed in chapter one (for example: the one who holds the seven stars in his right hand). Then he shares an affirming word for what the church is doing right. Followed by a, “Nevertheless, this I have against you” statement, which indicates an area the church needs to fix. Then next will be a word on how to respond followed by the, “he who has an ear to hear…” statement.

This formula is great for comparing the churches and understanding how the please the Lord. It is also helpful in seeing how to address our brothers and sisters in error. If the Lord should see fit to correct his people by this formula, well then it seems like a good one for confronting our brothers in sin. We might remember the character of God, affirm the positive, call out the unresolved issues, provide direction and clarity with a reminder that it is a grace to have the word of the LORD applied to our lives.

FATHER, thank you for your amazing word. We look forward to reading Revelation and pray that we are blessed by it. We ask for wisdom and discernment to understand. We pray for ears to hear what you would be saying to us. Thank you for the incredible grace of leading your congregation in this unique time. 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 80: 2 Peter (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from 2 Peter follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

The Apostle Peter writes in a way to persuade us to live holy lives that are pleasing to the Lord. In his first letter, he addressed a dispersed church suffering under persecution. In this second epistle, he is writing to those who are still suffering mild persecution in the form of ridicule and harassment.

He paints the picture of the imminent return of Christ. Peter wants to challenge and provoke us to holiness and preserve his readers in the truth. There are lots of false prophets in the world and many who would seek to mock or belittle the church of God. So much so that it may seem like the church is “loosing” in a particular generation. Peter reminds us that God is in control and he is not concerned with what men might say. The confidence of God is not in what people say about him, but in who He is.

Sometimes it’s not hard to figure out why the world would reject the gospel (3:3). Given the choice of accepting Jesus as Lord or playing the impostor and taking the title for themselves. Many people would rather play the king for a day than see Jesus as Lord of all. Scoffers, scoff because they don’t want it to be true.

 

FATHER, Thank you for your word. It is truly our daily bread. I pray that you would watch over us this day and guide us closer to you in personal holiness and love for all the saints. Give us wisdom in dealing with those who seek to distract us from serving you. I pray that we would point others to you as our only hope. Thank you for the grace 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 77: James (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

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

I am so glad that we are reading though James today. I needed to be reminded of James 1:2-5! We are certainly experiencing trials of various kinds. Virus trials, reaction trials, big trials, small trials, people trials, technology trials, all types of trials… I am grateful that the LORD is in control. I am also glad that we can ask Him for wisdom. We need wisdom especially today as we deal with things we have never dealt with before.

We are also reminded to bridle our tongue (1:26). Opinions abound about how to react to this virus, if the virus is real, how bad the virus is, who is or is not taking the virus seriously, etc. We can and should exercise self control over our speech about others and our fears.  Our discourse should be civil.

I have to admit that James 4:13-15 jumped out today. If ever there were a time when all of our plans have changed it is this one.

Finally, James 5:16-18 remind us to confess our sins and pray. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much (5:16).  Let’s pray today against the spread of this virus, against fear, and for our communities.

FATHER, Help us to count it all joy in the midst of these trials. We ask for wisdom and discernment in making day to day choices. I ask that you would guide our steps and direct our path. We confess that we cannot predict the future and make certain our plans. Show us how to love our neighbors in the midst of crisis. We ask for you to spare our communities from the spread of this virus. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

A Little Extra: Have you ever considered that sometimes what we call wisdom may end up being demonic (3:5)?  Not that I’m saying God is against smarts… Just the opposite, we are to have a renewed mind. But that sometimes the lines we sell ourselves are actually just lies from the pit of Hell. Like when someone says that they’d be happier if they were divorced and were back on the dating scene… not Godly wisdom!!! That’s a lie meant to wreck you.

A little dope won’t make you feel better in the long run. Alcohol doesn’t really numb the emotional pain, sir, your getting drunk maybe what is causing all the pain (for you and for others). And a little slice of chocolate cake for dessert with enough frequency will kill you just as dead as those cigarettes will.

Worldly wisdom, demonic wisdom is persuasive, but it isn’t really wisdom. It’s a lie dressed up as the truth and sold in the package of “looking out for number one,” or “it will make me “feel” better.” Don’t buy it. Get your wisdom from God… Submit to God, Resist the Devil… and He will flee from you.

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 73: Hebrews 3-5 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Hebrews 3-5 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

In chapter three of Hebrews, the author states that Jesus is better than Moses (3:3).  Moses lead his people from captivity to the promised land. Yet, the Nation of Israel chose not to believe God when they came to the edge of the promised land and so they wandered the dessert for 40 years until an entire generation died off (3:8-10, 17). Knowing that persecution is coming, the author of Hebrews challengers the readers to be careful, lest they too fall into unbelief in the face of fear (3:12,19).

Chapter four begins the discussion of the sabbath rest. The author looks forward with anticipation to the rest that is afforded those who have believed Christ (4:3). We are charged that there is a rest to come, that we may be prevented from entering into that rest, through our disobedience (4:11). We are challenged to let the word of God have full effect in examining our hearts and exposing our motives (4:11-13).

The text flows from the end of chapter four and into chapter five stating that Jesus is the great high priest (4:14).  He is one who understands our temptation and weaknesses (4:15) and stands ready to receive us in our confession and repentance. We have been granted incredible access to God through him, and  should have no problem approaching the throne of grace (4:16).

FATHER, we thank you for the gift of belief and trust in you. I pray that we would be those who persevere in our faith even when we face obstacles that might cause of fear or concern. I pray that we would never forget the incredible high priest we have in Jesus who stands at the right hand of the father making intercession for us even now. I thank you for your grace that is so overwhelming. Thank you for the grace to pastor 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 70: Titus (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

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

Paul writes this short epistle to Titus, a true son in the faith (1:4). He begins quickly, charging Titus to appoint elders on the island of Crete and listing their qualifications (1:5-9). He then goes on to task Titus with restoring/keeping order in the church (1:10-16).

In chapter two, Paul offers a strong description of qualities of a sound church.  He challenges Titus to set an example (2:7-8) and to boldly proclaim the truth (2:15). Titus is there to establish order through both his conduct his teaching.

In Titus 3:8-11, Paul writes,  that Titus is to both maintain good works and have nothing to do with the people that continue to cause serious division over ancillary matters. Sometimes people just talk to stir up trouble. Their doctrine isn’t worth anything because it doesn’t manifest itself in good works. Giving ear to those who are filled with pointless and trivial banter only heightens the issue or causes an errant individual to believe that they are on to something.  The task given to Titus is to correct the pointless talkers, not to hear them out.  If the individuals who have wholeheartedly fallen for the false spirituality of miner doctrine will not listen to correction, then Titus is to abandon them and leave them to themselves. He certainly isn’t supposed to give them a platform in the church.  While this might seem harsh, it’s actually very loving.

Father, we thank you that you are a God of order. We thank you for the offices of the church and those you have given to fill those offices. We pray that we would be those who hold fast to true doctrine that would be demonstrated in our good works. Thank you for the great grace 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 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 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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