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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3 Things I Taught My Son By Cutting The Grass.

Being a dad is a big deal. Last week I taught my seven-year-old to cut the grass (push mower). I was hesitant to unleash him with a spinning mechanical blade, but his mom wasn’t there to stop me so I went for it and I’m glad I did (just kidding, she trusts me). In the process we had several unplanned father-son moments as his attention was hyper-focused on learning to mow the grass. Here are a few that I caught myself teaching him.

cutting the grass

  1. Your Actions and Lack of Actions Affect Others.

Our first task was to fix the self-propelled components of the mower. Though he is a strong kid, he is just seven. Having the self-propelled component working would help him be successful. So we got out the tools, pulled the cover off and started cleaning things up and looking at why it didn’t work. As we were doing this together, he was goofing around and touching stuff on the mower. I knew there was no real danger since starting a mower is an involved process but I asked him, “What would happen to my hands right now if you accidentally started the mower?” Of course he knew by where my hands were that he would “cut them off.” I then asked, “Is that something you want to do?” Of course he didn’t. So I suggested that when someone is working on a machine the best thing to do is stand back and watch, unless you are asked to help.  We then talked about how all of our actions affect others.

2. It is Easy to Mistake The Symptoms for the Problem.

Once we were fixing the mower we talked about how what we perceived as the problem (the self-propelled component wasn’t working) was actually a symptom of the real problem. Likely a part had broken, a belt had slipped, or we simply got to much stray grass had gotten under the cover. As it turned out there was a ton of grass and the belt had slipped off. It was an easy fix. In the process though we talked about how in everything from lawn mowers to relationships that when something is broken, we often see the effects before we can analyze the cause. It takes wisdom to look for what caused the problem and fix it instead of just looking at the problem and complaining.

3. Always be on Guard Against Mission Drift.

Mission drift is common in everything from cutting grass to life in general. If we are not careful we will be more concerned with where we are than where we are going and in doing so we will end up way off course! Without a vision for what needs to be accomplished it is easy to worry more about pushing the mower than where you are pushing the mower too. He learned this all too quickly as the first few rows were crooked, leaving pockets of uncut grass in some places, and mowing over the same territory twice in other places. I shared that We must always keep an eye on what God has called us to or we will miss the mark simply because we thought more of the moment than we did the outcome. I applied this especially to living under authority. I shared that even I as a parent and pastor fall under the authority of scripture.  It’s easy to respond to the feelings of the moment, but wise men go back to what God has said and follow that path.

I’m sure that a lot of the conversation went over his head. Yet, it has also become a background song to his life. He knows more about cutting grass and more about life than he did a week ago. I’m reminded that our children often learn more from us as they join us in activity than they do when we sit them down to have a specific conversation. I’m always looking for those teachable moments.

COULD WE BE GETTING JESUS WRONG? (REVIEW)

Getting-Jesus-Wrong-smCould we be getting Jesus wrong? Author Matt Johnson thinks so, he’s done it. He offers a compelling read simply entitled Getting Jesus Wrong: Giving Up Spiritual Vitamins and Checklist Christianity. Matt offers several ways that Christians in America misunderstand Jesus. The first several chapters cover different ways that we have reimagined Jesus to be something more of a life coach, a visionary, a keeper of the checklist, etc. Through it all Matt is very transparent with his own struggles of how at different times he had different false images of Jesus in his mind. I appreciate this introspective look very much and Matt comes off as very approachable so when he turns his attention to the remedy the reader is willing to hear and weigh what Matt has to say.

This second part of the book from a pastoral perspective is golden because Matt simply comes back to the gospel. He reorients the reader to the simple facts of law, grace, and redemption through Jesus offering a better way forward in following Jesus than some of the false impressions he had tried earlier.

Over all I thought it was a great read. I enthusiastically recommend it as a brief look into the modern church and how if we are not careful we can lead folks astray. I really appreciate Matt and his heart in writing. You can find it on Amazon for a reasonable price, here.

An similar book written from a different pastoral perspective is Made in Our Image  by Steve Lawson.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received an electronic copy of this book free from LitFuseGroup.com as part of their Blog Tour Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission from Amazon. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”