Day 14: Matthew 19-21 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

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

We cover a lot of ground in these few chapters. The topics of divorce and celibacy are mentioned as well as the story of the Rich Young Ruler. However, what really jumps out at me are the parables that exhibit God’s grace. It seems as though there will be some surprise characters in the kingdom of Heaven. There will be some who come to faith in the 11th hour (20:6) and there will be some who begin their life in rebellion to God, but end in faithfulness (21:28-32).

These parables stand in stark contrast with Jesus’ second cleansing the temple (21:12-17) and his more specific Parable or the Wicked Vine Dressers (21:33-46). It helps to know that the national symbol for Israel was a grape vine and Jesus spells out exactly what he means by this parable (21:43). There is a clear rejection of the religious establishment and an emphasis that the gospel is intended to go to the whole world.

Chapter twenty-one also emphasizes that the religious leaders had rejected the authority of Jesus… But to sure, the rejection of the leaders doesn’t change the fact that Jesus is the authority. When you reject God’s authority, all you end up doing is hurting yourself (21:44). There was a saying that went around back in Jesus’ day that when to the effect of, “when a clay pot falls on a rock, the pot breaks… and when a rock falls on a clay pot, the pot breaks.”  One way or the other the only real reaction of a collision between a clay pot and a rock is for the pot to break.

Funny thing about the authority of God. When you submit to him, you have greater potential than when you rebel.  The cornerstone was the one by which the whole building was pieced together. It became the model and foundation for all the other stone work on a building. When we build our lives upon the authority of Jesus Christ, we become conformed to his image and are an extension of his kingdom at work in humanity.

Here is how I am praying today:

LORD, I thank you that you can wonderfully save individuals from their sins in the eleventh hour and that you radically save some individuals who begin their life in rebellion. Help me to never give up on others, assuming that it is too late or that someone is too set in their ways. I pray that you would grant me opportunity to share your gospel today. I pray that we would line our lives up on the corner stone of Christ Jesus. I pray for comfort, hope, and a sense of your presence for those who are grieving. I pray for strength for those who feel week and discernment for those making decisions today. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

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

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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 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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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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