Day 90: Revelation 19-22 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Revelation 19-22 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

I find it interesting that the near the beginning of the bible we see a marriage (Adam and Eve in Genesis 2), Jesus begins his public ministry with a wedding (by attending the wedding in Canna in John 2), and now we find one near the end of the bible (Revelation 19). The marriage relationship points us to God’s design like no other earthly relationship that we may have.  Each wedding is a look back to the first wedding there in the garden and a look forward to the marriage supper of the Lamb. 

In these final chapters we see a great separation of mankind. On the one hand, we have those who are welcomed into the new Jerusalem, eternal life, etc. But on the other hand there will be those who never trust in the Lord and they will cast into the lake of fire. God’s judgement is always fair.

In Revelation 21:3 we see what makes heaven, heaven, God will dwell with his people once again. This was what was lost at the fall. This is what was demonstrated with the tabernacle in the wilderness and later the temple in Jerusalem. This is what is demonstrated in Christ. This is the promise received by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We will never be far from the LORD. The mountains are brought low, the valleys are raised up. The sea is clear. The light is the LORD himself.

One final thought. The gates to the city are made of pearl. Pearls are the only precious stone made by an organic creature. A little sand cause irritation in a clam and the clam covers it and covers it until it is no longer and irritation, but has become something valuable. When we cross through the pearly gates we will remember a life marred by sin, but redeemed by Jesus. Our brokenness will ultimately be covered over and fixed by the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

FATHER, Thank you for the grace of studying your word. Thank you for the opportunity to read the new testament together for the last 90 days. I ask that you would give us wisdom for the generation and moment that we live in. I pray that we would make the must use of our time for your kingdom and your glory. We look forward to the return of Christ and when all things are truly made new. 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 71: Philemon (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

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

The Epistle of Philemon is a letter written by the Apostle Paul, to a man name Philemon concerning the reception of a former servant named Onesimus. We know that Philemon was seemingly wealthy man and that he hosted his local church to meet in his house (1:2). (In the New Testament era, most of the churches met in the houses of wealthy patrons. There were not many church buildings until centuries later.)

Paul writes as a close friend of Philemon. He had prayed for Philemon often ( 1:4) and kept up with him, hearing from others about Philemon’s well-being as well as his actions and attitudes (1:5). Paul was even planning to visit Philemon (1:22), and perhaps Paul had even been instrumental in Philemon’s own faith in the Lord (1:19).

Onesimus who was Philemon’s servant was spiritually lost while he served Philemon (1:11). He had chosen to run away to Rome and had probably stole some goods from Philemon (1:18). Yet, when he got to Rome he ran into Paul, who was instrumental in bringing Onesimus to faith in the Lord (1:10, 16). Paul is now sending Onesimus back to make things right with Philemon (1:17-21). This is an excellent epistle about forgiveness and restoration among individuals in the infancy of the church. Those first Christians really did struggle with some of the same issues we struggle with today.

FATHER, thank you for the reconciliation that begins when we trust Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. Thank you that being reconciled to you causes us to seek reconciliation with others. Thank you for the forgiveness offered to us through the blood of Jesus Christ. I pray that we forgive others because we know what it is to be forgiven by Jesus Christ.  Thank you for the grace to shepherd your flock. 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 68: 1 Timothy 4-6 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

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

The Apostle Paul writes, in chapter four, about those who will depart from the faith and follow deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons (4:1). This is a stern warning to us today to test the spirits and keep our doctrine pure. Indeed Paul charges Timothy to make sure that he continues to teach sound doctrine (4:13) and continue in the doctrine that Paul taught (4:16).

When I was studying for the ministry at a Christian college, some of the students wanted to steer clear of any sort of doctrinal discussion.  They would say something like, “we have no creed but Jesus.” The problem I had with them is that is seemed like they wanted to avoid ALL doctrine. Don’t get me wrong, there are SOME doctrinal debates that are worthless (one only needs to read yesterday’s post for more on that point). But when we avoid all doctrine together, we really create our own doctrine or set of beliefs, a false doctrine. The doctrine or teaching that Paul shared with Timothy was good, sound doctrine and it was profitable for Timothy’s growth and the growth of the local church.

The first few verses of Chapter five are instrumental in figuring out how we should treat one another. Because of age and generational differences it can be easy to perceive things differently than others in the church. As a pastor it is crucial that I communicate in ways that are respectful and appropriate. Recognizing these differences and approaching members, who may be in error, in the way that I would approach respected members of my own family, can be a helpful. 

Paul writes, that believers are to take care of their own household (5:3). The burden for caring for elderly relatives, who cannot care for themselves,  should fall back to the family, not to the church (or the government).  The church had an elaborate system of taking care of widows, but only those who had legitimate need. There is wisdom in placing the care of our loved ones back in our hands and there is grace in taking care of the needs of those who have no other means.

FATHER, I pray that you would keep us from error and that we would be intent upon studying and teaching your word. I pray that our lives would exhibit the doctrine we hold to in your word. Keep us from idle chatter, but focused on the truth of the gospel. Give us grace in relating to one another who are of differing ages. Help us to treat one another with respect, even when a difficult discussion is in order. Thank you for the privilege we have of caring for one another and being united in caring for those who have no one else to care for them. We are grateful for your Word. Thank you for the great grace you have given me in shepherding your flock. 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 60: Ephesians 1-3 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

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

Congratulations! We are on Day 60 which means we are 2/3 of the way through the New Testament and 2/3 of the way through the challenge! Keep it up! Hopefully reading through the scripture like this (and writing about it) is becoming a healthy habit for you!

Chapter one of Ephesians is one of the most wonderfully written descriptions of redemption in Christ. Paul immediately follows up his description of redemption with prayer (1:16). This theology (truth about how God saves us) provokes Paul to prayer and it should to provoke us to prayer as well. We should pray fro wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of God (1:17-19). Paul wants his readers to know what is theirs in Christ (1:18).

I once was given a neat little remote control plane that had a few small propellers on the wings.  I love to play with it. I couldn’t ever figure out how it would take off, it didn’t have any wheels. So I would throw the plane lightly and hit the throttle.  One day a friend came over and I showed him the plane and how I flew fly it. He asked if he could have a turn. He flipped a switch, the wings changed direction and the plane took off like a helicopter. I was amazed. The plane had always had that ability. It was designed that way. All I needed to do was to flip the switch and a whole new feature of the plane would be accessible. Paul prays that those who read this letter wouldn’t be content to just play around with their faith in Christ, but that they would know fully about their salvation.

In chapter two Paul presses deeper into theology and worship. I say worship, because truth about God provokes our hearts to worship. In Chapter three Paul shares a brief  testimony about his call to take the riches of the gospel to the gentiles and delights that they should know the fullness of their salvation.

FATHER, We thank you for the gift of faith and salvation in Jesus Christ. We pray that we would grow in our understanding of the faith. We lift up friends and family members who have publicly identified with you and we pray that they would increasingly grow in the knowledge of their faith as well. I ask for grace to teach and preach to your people all the wonders of your Word and I pray that the Holy Spirit would provoke worship in our hearts. Thank you for the grace it is to lead your church. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

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Day 54: 2 Corinthians 4-6 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from 2 Corinthians 4-6 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

Chapter four is encouraging. Paul  encourages us to endure when we face trials and opposition in the Christian life. I appreciate Paul’s charge, “do not lose heart” (4:1, 16). He compares the present trials to light afflictions in light of eternity (4:17-18).

I’m looking forward to the return of Christ when all is set right. I look forward to the glorious resurrection body that will allow us to experience the presence of the LORD (5:1-8).  This great expectation that we have in Christ should provoke us to live lives set apart for His glory (5:15). We are new creations and we no longer have to live as we once did, we are free in Christ (5:17). As those who have been set free, we are in the position of preaching the ministry of reconciliation to our fellow men so that they might know and experience the grace and forgiveness of God as we have (5:19-21).

Chapter six highlights two results from being made new in Christ. One is that we should press others to enter the Kingdom now while they can. “Now is the acceptable time; Behold now is the day of Salvation” (6:2). The other is that we should live holy lives. We don’t become holy to be saved, but when we are saved, we should start the process of becoming holy. This includes being careful of our closest associations. Paul warns us not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers (6:14).

FATHER, Thank you for the grace and ministry of Reconciliation. We give you all the praise and the glory for making us New Creations in Christ. We ask for grace and encouragement to endure whatever struggles we would face in this life. May they be viewed as light and momentary afflictions compared to the glory of Eternity. We ask for earnestness on our part to spread the gospel of reconciliation and holiness in our lives. Thank you for the grace to shepherd 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 41: Romans 1-3 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

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

Paul jumps right into the gospel in Romans. He is not ashamed (1:16). He is making his appeal to both the Jews and to the gentiles. Paul says in chapter one that what can be known about God is plain in creation, but our perverse hearts seek something else to worship (1:20-21). The reason we sin is because we are sinners and that’s not something that takes place on the outside, that’s a heart issue!

[Side Note: a lot of people are fond of pointing out homosexuality in this passage (1:26-27). It is there, but there are also a lot of other sins that are listed as the result of our rebellion against God (1:28-31). Some that are a lot more evident in society. Things like gossip, disobedient to parents, boasting, being unloving, or unmerciful. We are warned in chapter two of judging those who do these things while doing them ourselves. Romans 2:4 stands out as a gem of hope against the backdrop of condemnation and the coming wrath of God… We should be those who seek repentance not the condemnation of those who are in sin.]

Paul says that the purpose of our conscience is to bear witness against us,  condemning us or justifying us as the case may be (2:15).  We take notice that our conscience is internal, in our hearts. Our consciences are not an outside influence like an angel sitting on our shoulder whispering in our ear. If we are really going to be acceptable to God we have to change from inside out. We must be changed in the heart (2:29). 

Paul reminds us that we are all sinners (3:23). We all miss the mark. We all inwardly don’t long or aspire of our own accord to glorify God. We are bent and broken creatures. So bent and broken that the only one who could really straighten us out is God himself. And that is exactly what He did through Jesus Christ (3:24-26). We grab hold of this being made right with God though God by faith (3:28).

FATHER, Thank you for the gift of faith and of salvation. We lift up those who seem content to live in sin and plead for their repentance. We plead for our own hearts so often bent by sin and swayed by the philosophy of this world. Thank you for the high calling of shepherding your people. Give us grace 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 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 7: John 19-21 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from John 19 – 21 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend” ( John 19:12).

Pilate has a choice to make. Release Jesus because he finds no fault in him, or crucify Jesus to settle the crowd. It seems like an obvious choice. Do you do the right thing, or do you do the wrong thing because in the end it benefits you the most (or at least spares you some hassle)? Pilate chose the path of least resistance. That is the way of this world. Jesus was showing us a different way. Doing the right thing, even at great cost and personal sacrifice. Jesus calls his followers to be like him (and not like Pilate).

Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these? (John 21:15).

In the Greek language several words are used for love, two are used in this passage.  Jesus asks Peter the first two times, “Peter do you love me? (agape – Strongest form of love).” Peter responds, “Lord, you know I love you” (phileo – like a brother). The third time Jesus asks, “Peter, do you love me (phileo – like a brother).” This is when Peter breaks down and recognizes the weakness in his own Character and says, “Lord, you know I love you” (phileo -like a brother).

Likewise, Jesus’ statements to Peter come to life when you understand the Greek a little better. The first statement is “take my lambs to pasture” (a long term experience). The second, “feed my sheep” (a short term experience). The third statement “take my sheep to pasture” (a long term experience).

This is a beautiful picture of Jesus restoring Peter. You will remember that when Peter denied Christ three times (see John 18:17, 25-27) with the rejection seeming more sever each time.  Here Jesus is asking Peter if he loves him, each time the command “feed my sheep” growing in responsibility.

Here is how I am praying through this passage today:

FATHER, Thank you that you are a restoring God. Thank you that you restored Peter even though he denied you. I am asking you to today to bring back to faith and repentance those who I know need restoration. I pray also what we would be bold witnesses for the gospel when and where we are given the opportunity. I lift up those who are hurting, those who are wandering, those who are healing, those who are in pain, those who have forgotten you, I pray for those in my care as a pastor. Give me boldness to speak your truth in love, to carry out the ministry of reconciliation and to encourage them in the faith. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

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Day 6: John 16-18 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from John 16 – 18 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

Thought 1: There were two opposing wills at work in the events leading up to and surrounding the crucifixion. The leaders willed that Jesus would die so they could hold on to their kingdom and keep the status quo (11:50). Jesus willingly went with those who had assembled to take him captive (18:11).  He willingly laid His life down so that He could pick it back up again in resurrection (John 10:18). As we look back and we read these events unfolding, we hear Jesus tell us that while the world schemes to overcome him, that the disciples should not worry, for he has overcome the world (16:33).  

I’m fond of saying that the worst day in all of history was also the greatest day. Sometimes we look at our lives and wonder if God really cares. See the care that Jesus extends to his disciples on the worst week of their life. They will feel left, abandoned, distraught, and seemingly hopeless. Yet, Jesus knowing what He will endure, challenges them to be prepared. What is about to unfold will look like losing, but will really be winning. It will taste sour, but will heal like good medicine. It will be painful, but will produce life (16:20-22).

We will encounter trouble in this life. There will be moments where we feel like we are losing. We will face persecution, loss, perhaps even suffer unjustly at the hands of others and all the while it will be painful, it will hurt, it will make us wonder if God is really there for us. Like the disciples we might feel abandoned and for a moment our world will be spin. But for those in Christ, we must know that we are not abandoned, we are not losing, we are not without hope… He has overcome. Our joy will be greater on the other side of all this trouble.  Even in the death of a believer, there is greater joy on the other side (John 6:40).

Thought 2:  The gospel must spread. Jesus prays in John 17, not just for his immediate disciples, but for those who will believe through the witness of the disciples (17:20). That includes me in two ways. One because I have received the gospel. But, secondly because I am entrusted to share the gospel with others so that they may also believe. We get to take part in making God known to the nations.  We get to bring the gospel light to places of darkness. And we don’t go alone!  Jesus is the one who continues to make His name known!

Here is how I am praying through this passage today:

LORD, Thank you for the gift of faith and belief. I am grateful for those you have put in my life that have been faithful to share your word with me. I pray that you would use me in the lives of others. Thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit. Thank you that He guides me. I pray the entirety of John 17 with you. Thank you for leaving the John 17 prayer in your word so that I might know how you have prayed for me and others who have believed on you. I lift up those who are facing trouble and tribulation around the world because of their faith in you. I ask that they would be encouraged today and strengthened by you. I lift up those I know in my own circles today, friends and family facing hardships, those who are sick and in need of healing, those who are facing their last moments, those I get the privilege of shepherding, those who I will invite to believe on you, and those who have wandered for far too long . I ask that we all would have our greatest joy in you. Strengthen us this day by your Word and your Spirit. 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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