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.

Find out about New Testament 90 – Here

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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.

Find out about New Testament 90 – Here

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Appointing Faithful Leaders (Nehemiah 7:1-2)

Appointing Faithful Leaders (Nehemiah 7:1-2)

We all have mountaintop and valley experiences in life. When it comes to spiritual matters I’ve learned that shortly after the mountaintop moment there will be a time of temptation. I have to be more aware than ever after camps, conferences, or even weekly preaching where I have been sharing or learning life transforming truth from God’s Word. It will be those moments in which I think something great has been accomplished that I will find myself challenged.  It usually begins with the temptation to coast. We usually justify coasting because of everything we have been through or our tiredness after an event. I’ve learned though that this is the exact time I don’t need to coast and no matter how tired I am, I need to keep the routine that has drawn me near to God.

It is normal to experience a mountaintop moment like camp and think your world has changed and maybe your world has changed, but it won’t be different for long without some intentionality to help you get through the valley that follows the mountaintop.

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Now when the wall had been built and I had set up the doors, and the gatekeepers, the singers, and the Levites had been appointed, I gave my brother Hanani and Hananiah the governor of the castle charge over Jerusalem, for he was a more faithful and God-fearing man than many.(Nehemiah 7:1-2 ESV)

Nehemiah understood that once the wall was built, the work wasn’t over.  There was still more to do. Leaders needed to be appointed. The people were feeling good about themselves and the work that God had accomplished through them. However, Nehemiah realized that without Godly leadership in place, even a city with walls could fall prey to its surrounding enemies.

He makes appointments to watch and guard strategic places along the wall and in the city. Most importantly he places his brother, as someone he can trust, in charge of the city. This is both someone who will be a Godly leader and someone who won’t give in to the pressures of people like Sanballat and Tobiah.  Nehemiah knows that he has to leave and go back to the king. He had already made that promise.

No Expert Builders Listed (Nehemiah 3:8,32)

No Expert Builders Listed (Nehemiah 3:8,32)

Have you ever felt under-qualified for a task? Like maybe somebody has got to do something, but you can’t do it because the task is bigger than you or requires more knowledge or training than you have? I can’t imagine what it would have been like had the disciples known up front how Jesus would transform their lives and send them to the utter most parts of the earth with His gospel. Each one would have probably rejected the idea out of hand. No way they could do that, but they could and they would. A little time with Jesus shapes us not into the person we think we are, but into the person he has always intended us to be. As the old saying goes, “He doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called.”

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Rebuilding the wall in Nehemiah’s day was no exception. What I love most about Nehemiah chapter three is that while we hear about all the folks who put their hand to rebuilding the wall we don’t hear about any that are qualified. We don’t read word’s like carpenter, stone mason, architect, expert builder, or even handy man. Instead we read things like, priest, perfumer, goldsmiths, and merchants. These are the qualified builders who rebuilt the wall! No expert builders are present! God uses all sorts of people!

You may feel like you are in over your head or are playing in a bigger league than you should. You may think, “I’m just a teenager” or “I just don’t have the gifting. What can I do anyway?” The beauty of taking on a God sized task like reaching your neighborhood, school, or city is that God does all the heavy lifting. He puts us in proximity to others whose hearts are stirred and creates movement. In the end it is His call that qualifies you and no matter how good your resume gets, the call will be the only credentials you ever really needed.