Jesus didn’t come to die, but to beat death (Matthew 1-4)

Have you ever read the geneology in Matthew chapter one? It’s still kind of a new thing for Americans to rediscover their geneology. (A cousin did some geneological work for us and discovered that some of our ancestors were on the Mayflower!) However, there are places around the world where your geneology is your resume. If you don’t have the right ancestory, you don’t get the job!

It is neat to hear the interesting details about your ancestors but why do we get Jesus’ ancstery here? One reason is to display that he was descended from King David. The Messiah would have a claim to the Davidic throne. The other reason is to display the humanity of Jesus.

The bible teaches that Jesus was perfectly God and perfectly man. In theological terms we call this they hypostatic union (Jesus is 100% man and 100% God). So when it comes to his geneology, it’s interesting to learn what “kind of people” were in Jesus’ family tree.

Like most family tree’s there are the stand outs and there are the generations that we’d all rather pretty much try and forget. There are some really great folks listed in Matthew chapter one, but what jumps out to most people are the women on the list. (Generally women weren’t included in geneologies.)

Woman or man, every one of the ancestors in the geneology of Jesus were sinful human beings. Abarahm and Isaac both lied about their relationships to thier wives and put the covenant promise of God at risk. Jacob decieved his father and stole Esau’s blessing. Judah wanted to finagle his way out of a legal and moral obligation to Tamar. Tamar disguised herself and slept with her father-in-law. Rahab was a prostitute before she married Salmon. David commited adultery with another man’s wife and then had him killed. Solomon worshiped false gods and married numerous foreign wives. We really don’t have time to list it all sinful things Jesus’ ancestors did to get the picture (and those are only the sins we know about).

Jesus stepped into this long line of sinners to take away their sin. I’m grateful for that, because I come from a long line of sinners as well. Everyone in that long line of sinners that came before Jesus… died. And I know that short of His return, I’ll die one day too. Death and sin go together and with them comes sorrow. The good news is that Jesus came to conquire sin. He didn’t come to die, but to beat death. He was born into humanity so that we might be born again.

Father, thank you for the perftect atonement that can be found in Jesus who became a man so that he might liberate fallen humanity. Thank you for sending him to the cross for my sin and raising him from the dead that I might have eternal life. Sometimes I still struggle to embrace the depth to which you love us. Help me to grasp how to love others like you have loved me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

RESOURCES:

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Join us in reading though the New Testament in 90 Days! You can find the plan and previous posts here.

Do I Boast in the Lord or in Myself? The Second Part of Gideon’s Story (Judges 7)

This story is all about boasting, a special kind of boasting, boasting not in our own ability, but in God’s ability to save. That’s important because as long as we are boasting in our own accomplishments we will never have time to trust God to save us.

 Have you ever heard the story of the Emperor’s new clothes? It goes a little something like this: The emperor hires two new tailors to make a suit for him. He pays a nice sum of money, they take measurements, and he expects them to return with a brilliant suit. The tailors are tricky folks and they play on the emperor’s gullibility and desire to be loved by others. They tell him that they have made a one of a kind unique suit, in fact it is so special that only those who are pure of heart can see how splendid it really is.

So it comes time to try one the suit and they show up with a box of nothing. They go through the motions just like they were laying out a real suit, but there is nothing there. They ask the emperor to disrobe so he can wear the special new suit. The emperor doesn’t see a suit, but not wanting to feel stupid, pretends he does. They pretend to help him fit in the suit. They ask him if it’s too snug, or if it fits just right and then they go on praising him, telling him how fine he looks in his new suit.

Then they start to call the castle staff in starting with the butlers and maids. They describe to these kind gentle folks that only those pure of heart and fit for service in the palace can see how splendid the fabric really is. Each person who comes in is afraid to admit that if they say the emperor is naked that it will reveal that they are not pure of heart and were never meant for palace work anyway. Finally there whole palace is in an uproar about how brilliant the emperor’s suit is. No one dare says that they can’t see it and they all go on pretending in order to cover their shame.

The next thing you know someone yells out, “Let’s have a parade and show everyone how brilliant your new suit is!” and of course that’s a good idea because everyone in the palace is pretending to be able to see this imaginary suit.  The situation escalates quickly and the emperor is now marching out in front of his whole castle staff down the road through the village. People are running ahead announcing the reason for the visit from the emperor and that only those, “pure of heart, fit for a kingdom like ours can see how brilliant the suit really is.” The band assembles. The people, not wanting to betray their inability to see the suit all play along.

Then the procession rounds a corner and a little child who didn’t hear the announcement looks up and sees the king marching naked through the street with all his staff behind him, with the band playing, with all the people telling him how wonderful he looks in his new suit and says, “you’re naked!”

The charade is up! Everyone’s worst suspicions were realized. There never was a suit, it was all made up by some lazy tailors who wanted the kings money.

In a way we are like the king and all the towns folk when we boast about ourselves and what we have done. Boasting is like the emperor’s new clothes because we all stand in need, but boasting ignores that real need and shifts focus onto a lie that says, “I have enough.” People who have a problem boasting about themselves are trying to cover over a real need. To put it in perspective it’s like saying, “I know I am a sinner, but I’m really good at basketball,” or “I know that I can’t forgive that person for what they’ve done to me, but I’m really beautiful.” Or “I know that I’m going to spend eternity away from God in a place called hell, but man can I sing.” Boasting in ourselves is like the king who boasted in his new outfit. He was actually boasting in his ignorance.

The nation of Israel was overrun by Midianites. God had sent word that he would deliver them through the hand of Gideon, but He was going to do it in a way that it was obviously God who won the victory. The Israelites needed to know that even in their weakness that God was strong. They needed to boast not in themselves, in their nakedness, but in the God who covers over sin and provides for deliverance.

  1. When we are WEAK, we see God’s STRENGTH

Then Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon) and all the people who were with him rose early and encamped beside the spring of Harod. And the camp of Midian was north of them, by the hill of Moreh, in the valley. The LORD said to Gideon, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’ Now therefore proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is fearful and trembling, let him return home and hurry away from Mount Gilead.'” Then 22,000 of the people returned, and 10,000 remained. And the LORD said to Gideon, “The people are still too many. Take them down to the water, and I will test them for you there, and anyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall go with you,’ shall go with you, and anyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ shall not go.” So he brought the people down to the water. And the LORD said to Gideon, “Every one who laps the water with his tongue, as a dog laps, you shall set by himself. Likewise, every one who kneels down to drink.” And the number of those who lapped, putting their hands to their mouths, was 300 men, but all the rest of the people knelt down to drink water. And the LORD said to Gideon, “With the 300 men who lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hand, and let all the others go every man to his home.” (Judges 7:1-7 ESV)

Did you catch that? God reduced the size of Gideon’s army by over 99%! First, let’s get one thing straight the 32,000 people he gathered together weren’t enough to take on the enemy! We are told that the soldiers of Midian numbered around 135,000!

So let’s do a little battle math. Let’s assume that all things are equal and so every guy can kill one guy. You’d need 135,000 guys to fight for you, not 32,000. Let’s say that you’re guys are really awesome and they do have the home court advantage so they are good for at least 2 of the other guys. You still need about 68,000.

Put it in money terms. Let’s say you’re trying to get enough money together to buy a really nice car. Something like a Lambrogini. You find one decked out, on sale for $135,000.  You don’t have $135,000 so you raise money, you promise rides out to your friends if they invest, you pick up odd jobs, you wash dogs, you sell your parents stuff at yard sales and you work really hard and you come up with $32,000. It’s impressive right? But it’s not enough to buy the car, but given your skills in raising the money you may feel like it’s enough to enter a negotiation. Now imagine that $20,000 walks off and you are left with $12,000 to negotiate with for a $135,000 car. Now imagine that it’s down to $300… Do you know what kind of car you buy for $300? At that point you are just buying it for the parts.

How ridiculous to walk into a car negotiation for a $135,000 car with only $300 in your pocket! You wouldn’t even call the guy. It’s not enough!

That is how it looks for Israel when it comes to defeating Midian. It’s impossible! No one in their right mind is looking around at any point in this whole thing thinking, “I think we have enough guys, send some home.” In fact, if you’re just one of the guys waiting to go to war and you see everyone else walking off because of this or that, you get worried. Look at verse 2 though, it’s important for the LORD to illustrate a point to Gideon and all of Israel. He is the one who delivers.

In our society we look at weakness as a flaw. We don’t like weak characters in our movies. We love it when one guy comes in and is able to do what a whole team of folks would do in real life. We like the strong. We like the strong so much that sometimes we fake it. We put masks on to cover over our weakness. We boast in our accomplishments so you won’t see our failures and we talk about the failures of others so that you are too busy looking somewhere else to see us for who we really are. The paradox of the gospel enters at this point because no strong men can be saved; no pretender will be either. Only those who come to a point of honesty about their weakness will truly ever be made strong.

The Apostle Paul, perhaps the most preeminate Apostle from history said this:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10, ESV

Paul knew that acknowledging weakness isn’t a curse, it’s a blessing. Being weak and realizing that there is no way that you can get out of a situation puts you in a position to give all the praise and glory to God. Paul looked at his own circumstance and knows that it is God who provides for him. The LORD is his strength and you are never stronger than when you have the LORD on your side.

Here is how you worship. When you know exactly how much God has done for you because you were unable to do it yourself you celebrate. You want to see a worship service? Go hang out with people who used to be drug dealers and prostitutes but have been saved by the grace of God. You want to hear people sing God’s praise with passion, go hang out with inmates who met Jesus while in prison. Why? Because these people have a better picture of what it’s like to receive God’s forgiveness and strength over sin.

If you drop your wallet and I find it and hand it back to you, you might be grateful because there might have been $20 in there. How much more grateful would you be if I found it and it had $200, or even if it had $2000. Our gratitude grows with the money we feel like we’ve lost.

How much more grateful will we be when we know that God has forgiven our sins against him! Most of us don’t even realize just how much that is. We are uncelebratory in worship because we are used to faking strength and boasting in our own accomplishments that we don’t realize how much he has done for us! Just like we need to know and celebrate what God has done in delivering us from our sins, Israel needs to know God is their deliver in this moment. So it’s down to 300.

  • God is patient with us in our WEAKNESS

That same night the LORD said to him, “Arise, go down against the camp, for I have given it into your hand. But if you are afraid to go down, go down to the camp with Purah your servant. And you shall hear what they say, and afterward your hands shall be strengthened to go down against the camp.” Then he went down with Purah his servant to the outposts of the armed men who were in the camp. And the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the people of the East lay along the valley like locusts in abundance, and their camels were without number, as the sand that is on the seashore in abundance. When Gideon came, behold, a man was telling a dream to his comrade. And he said, “Behold, I dreamed a dream, and behold, a cake of barley bread tumbled into the camp of Midian and came to the tent and struck it so that it fell and turned it upside down, so that the tent lay flat.” And his comrade answered, “This is no other than the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel; God has given into his hand Midian and all the camp.” As soon as Gideon heard the telling of the dream and its interpretation, he worshiped. And he returned to the camp of Israel and said, “Arise, for the LORD has given the host of Midian into your hand.” (Judges 7:9-15 ESV)

So this is what we know about Gideon. He’s always asking second guessing the LORD’s plan. First when God appears to He asks for a sign and so the LORD burns up a meal that Gideon brought out. Then we didn’t talk about this but Gideon puts out a fleece and asks God that everything but the fleece would be wet in the morning, then he puts out on the next day and asks that only the fleece would be wet and everything else would be dry. Now God says, “If you are still scared to go into battle just sneak down there and listen to what they are saying.” God gives him a third sign that He will be with Gideon.

We might be prone to giving Gideon a hard time, but how many times do we play these same sorts of head games with ourselves. God might be leading you to share the gospel with a classmate and so you do things like. “OK God if you are really telling me to share with them, then they will be the first one in class today” or “They will be sitting up front by the teacher.” And all sorts of stuff like that. Just so you know, it’s not the devil telling you to share the gospel with someone and it wasn’t the devil wanting to free Israel. We just need some help and encouragement knowing that God is going to go with us.

Sometimes God does come down to our terms like he did with Gideon and the fleece. Most often he delivers on his terms, like with this dream that Gideon overhears the man talking about. Gideon is so pumped about this that he runs back and rallies the troops… all 300 of them and hatches a plan.

  • Often it isn’t a matter of supernatural ability, but natural ability used in a supernatural way. (Gideon is more like batman than superman)

And he divided the 300 men into three companies and put trumpets into the hands of all of them and empty jars, with torches inside the jars. And he said to them, “Look at me, and do likewise. When I come to the outskirts of the camp, do as I do. When I blow the trumpet, I and all who are with me, then blow the trumpets also on every side of all the camp and shout, ‘For the LORD and for Gideon.'” So Gideon and the hundred men who were with him came to the outskirts of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, when they had just set the watch. And they blew the trumpets and smashed the jars that were in their hands. Then the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the jars. They held in their left hands the torches, and in their right hands the trumpets to blow. And they cried out, “A sword for the LORD and for Gideon!” Every man stood in his place around the camp, and all the army ran. They cried out and fled. When they blew the 300 trumpets, the LORD set every man’s sword against his comrade and against all the army. And the army fled as far as Beth-shittah toward Zererah, as far as the border of Abel-meholah, by Tabbath. And the men of Israel were called out from Naphtali and from Asher and from all Manasseh, and they pursued after Midian. Gideon sent messengers throughout all the hill country of Ephraim, saying, “Come down against the Midianites and capture the waters against them, as far as Beth-barah, and also the Jordan.” So all the men of Ephraim were called out, and they captured the waters as far as Beth-barah, and also the Jordan. And they captured the two princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb. They killed Oreb at the rock of Oreb, and Zeeb they killed at the winepress of Zeeb. Then they pursued Midian, and they brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon across the Jordan. (Judges 7:16-25 ESV)

This plan is ingenious! Gideon’s men surround the camp. They wait for a shift change. This is important because here is what would have happened at a shift change. 1/3 of the army would have been asleep. 1/3 of the army would have just woken up and taken their spot to guard the perimeter of the camp. And 1/3 of the army would be walking back to their tents with their weapons having just come off guard duty. So the 1/3 of the guys who were asleep get woken up in the middle of the night. They hear the enemy trumpets. They grab their weapons and behold there are already armed men in the camp. They go straight to battle not knowing that they are fighting their own guys. The guys on guard duty turn around and see people fighting and think the enemy has already advanced through the camp and so they join the fray and a massive army destroys itself in one night.

The cool thing is that this little plan seems to be Gideon’s plan. God used Gideon in his weakness to hatch a really cool plan that would deliver the whole army into their hand without much fighting. Gideon’s God given military brilliance would have never come to light had he not been pushed into leading the nation of Israel.

They chase down the Midian leaders. The whole thing comes full circle as the leaders go into hiding and are eventually caught. Where are they caught? One is caught and beheaded at a winepress, like where Gideon was threshing wheat when the LORD appeared to him and the other was caught and beheaded at a rock, like the one the LORD showed Gideon that he would be with him by burning up a meal.

You might find yourself like a Gideon, hiding, thinking there is no way that God can use you. Can I tell you, He can and he will. You may have a calling to go across the room to share Jesus with a friend, coworker, family member, or even a stranger and you are wondering, “Will God go with me?” I can promise you, he does! It may not work out as you intend, but when you trust him he is with you. You may be scared because God has given you a vision much larger than you are and you wonder why or how it could ever be accomplished. Know this, when you are little, God is big. When you fear God, you don’t fear people.  

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 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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Day 10: Matthew 8-10 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Matthew 8 -10 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

What sticks out to me in these chapters this morning is the issue of faith and belief.  Jesus could and would heal, but those asking for healing knew that the power to heal wasn’t in their hands, it all belonged to Jesus. They weren’t just sending good vibes through the universe as if positive thinking would heal them. They weren’t trying to ignore the illness or deformity that plagued them, as though if they fooled themselves into thinking they were healthy it would make them healthy. NO… we see time and time again, there was a real and raw feeling of emptiness and brokenness that only Jesus could answer.

Go back with me to the paralytic man (9:1-8). Jesus said to the crowd, “For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?” (Matthew 9:5). Think about that question for just a moment. What does this paralyzed man want to hear? What is the desire of his heart?  He is broken. There is no other cure. There isn’t a miracle surgery out there that can change his condition. He is desperate… has come for healing and so if Jesus just merely wants to please this man and his friends, all Jesus has to do is heal this man and He’s got a fan.

But Jesus isn’t looking for a fan, He is looking to bring real healing into this man’s life, a healing that is deeper than this man even knows to look. He has come to heal the rift in his soul. He has come to forgive his sins and reconcile him to God! So he says, “Your sins are forgiven.” 

What does it cost to heal this man? Seemingly it’s just a few words upon the divine lips and this man is restored to health? What does it take to forgive this man of his sin? The story of the gospel of Matthew is not over. This pronouncement sets Jesus on a course for the cross.

Here is how I am praying through this passage today.

LORD, I thank you that you are a healing God. That in your kingdom there is no sickness or disease. I thank you that those of us who have been crushed by infirmity will find true relief in you. I praise you that sometimes we get a glimpse of the kingdom coming by seeing miracles of healing in our own day. Today, I ask that you would be pleased to work that kind of miracle for a friend of mine who is suffering. I lift up the many individuals I know who are sick and struggling with infirmity. I want to thank you that you are a forgiving God. Thank you for forgiving me. Today I pray for those who are lost in their sins and don’t know it. I ask that they would find true forgiveness through the mercy of the cross. I pray that we would all receive and realize the greatest gift of your grace. Thank you for calling me into ministry and giving me the charge to lead your people. I pray that you give me great grace and insight in preaching the gospel and pointing people to 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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DAY 9: Matthew 5-7 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Matthew5-7 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock (Matthew 7:20-24).

Today’s passage is the Sermon on the Mount. So many “classic passages” of scripture are found here. The Lord’s Prayer (Some call it the model prayer), the admonition against judging, don’t lust, love your enemies, the beatitudes, the wise and foolish builders, and the list goes on and on. I really enjoyed taking half a year and preaching through these chapters last year. What stuck out to me today was what Jesus said at the end of the message and quoted in part above.

Jesus warns us that just like a tree is known for its fruit, so a follower of Jesus will be known by their obedience to his commands.   You cannot shrink away from this no matter how hard you try.  Jesus makes demands on those who would follow Him. I think sometimes this message gets placed on the back burner because of our emphasis on grace.

While it is true we do not earn or merit salvation… it is true that perfect obedience was necessary for salvation and Jesus provided that obedience on our behalf.  Now he calls us to join Him in His obedience to the Father. Salvation isn’t given to us because of our obedience, but our salvation is a good reason to become obedient to God.

The call to the kingdom of God isn’t to come and live in your own power, but to come and live in the power that God provides. Obedience is the only way forward in the Christian life, everything else is only sinking sand.

Here is how I am praying through this passage today:

LORD, I am praying for your kingdom to come, and your will to be done. Help me set my heart on your kingdom and your righteousness. I want to be the wise man who built his house on the rock. I trust you with the cares of this world. Today I lift up those who are building their lives  on sand and they don’t even know it. I pray confidence for those who have put their trust in you that their lives are ready to withstand the storm. Draw us near you 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 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 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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Day 4: John 10-12 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

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

“I have come [as] a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness.  “And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. “He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him–the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day. (John 12:46-48, NKJV)

John’s message continuing to be pounded out. Jesus will be lifted up. Jesus is the light of the world. Jesus is being rejected by people who should be the first to welcome Him, etc.

Then a few other things jump out at me from the text today.

1. Between the reading for yesterday and the reading today a new and subtle theme is emerging.  Through both the man born blind and the death of Lazarus we see places where the darkness seems to be winning. When questioned about it Jesus comments that these events are for God’s glory. The light shines the brightest after the darkness. Blindness wasn’t the end for that man. Death wasn’t the end for Lazarus. In the midst of suffering and injustice it is important for us to remind ourselves that these current conditions are not the final, but rather shadows before the sunrise. We’ll see this again with the dark hours at the cross and the morning of the resurrection.

2. Jesus continues to make a distinction between those who believe in him and those who reject him.  He used the analogy of a shepherd and explained that the pharisees didn’t follow because they weren’t his sheep. Following Jesus demands that you actually follow him. My fear is that there are many today who are religious like the Pharisees who do not follow Jesus in the only real way that counts.  They offer lip service and can tell you where the lines are, but don’t seek to lovingly trust and obey Jesus themselves.

3. I think sometimes we can imagine that if we just present the truth in a better way that more people will believe, but we have to remember that near the end of chapter 12 Jesus illustrates that the same light brings belief in some and hardens hearts in others. Charles Spurgeon summarized this thought well when he said, “The same sun with melts wax hardens clay. And the same gospel which melts  some persons to repentance hardens others in their sins.”

Here is how I am praying through these chapters today:

Lord, Thank you that you are the Good Shepherd. Thank you for Shepherding me. I look to you today for wisdom and leadership. Guide my steps, direct my path, let my heart continue to long to follow after you all the days of my life. Keep me from straying. Thank you that even when we face the dark shadows of life that you are there, you are in control and you love me. I pray for those who are sick and hurting, those who have wandered, those who are estranged in their family relationships, those who grew up in church and are far from you, those like me who are under-shepherds charged with leading your flock, those who don’t know you, those who have yet to hear, those who have hardened their hearts, would we all be touched by your word today and drawn to follow you in faith and repentance. 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 3: John 7-9 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from John 7-9 follow the link providedhere to read the ESV online.

“I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.” – John 8:24

There are several themes that pop out in today’s reading. We are reminded that Jesus has come to reveal God, expose hearts and ultimately bring healing to the nations.  Have you noticed the repetitive themes? Jesus is the light. He is living water. Jesus is from Heaven. Jesus will be lifted up. Jesus came to his own, but was rejected. Those who receive him are given the right to become children of God.

The Apostle John is beginning to really press forward the question, “what will you do with Jesus?” Will we receive Him or will we reject Him? We have a decision to make about who Jesus is: Is he God in the flesh as John indicates (1:1, 1:14, 8:48-59) or someone  else? That decision determines everything.

Jesus says that whoever commits sin is a slave to sin (8:34). We might think we are free but our illusion of freedom is only that of being able to choose which sin we want to be our master. The only true and lasting freedom, freedom to do what we were created for, comes from following Jesus (8:36).

What moved me to worship today is the brief promise of the Holy Spirit (7:37-39). He is the Spirit alive in me that gives me the only real power I have ever had to overcome temptation and begin to reject sin in my life. I was reminded once again that God has not just delivered me from darkness but sustains me to walk in the light.

Here is how I am brought to prayer today:

Lord, I pray that we never miss you in our midst. Give us insight into who you are and what you have come to do. Looking ahead I trust in the promise that you have gone to prepare a place for me and that I know you are the Way. Thank you for Living Water and the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life. I lift up those who are sick, taking care of the sick, those who are aimless, the wandering and the wondering, those who are joyful and those who are facing sadness and loss, those who are in my care and those I care about I ask that we all would find our joy in abiding in you 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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