Day 24: Luke 1-3 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

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

John the Baptist’s message in Luke 3 speaks volumes. There is a version of Christianity that is all knowledge and little action, all smoke and no substance. If I am not careful I could be like that… posting thoughts on scripture, preaching sermons, counseling folks, etc. All that can be done and done convincingly with just a little bit of knowledge.  Real repentance has significant action behind it as John demonstrates to those who ask him what they should do (Luke 3:10).

Someone can go through the motions and be “clean”  (like baptism here) but their heart can be “wicked.”  The pharisees lined up with everyone else to be baptized (See Luke 3:7 and Matthew 3:7). Out of everyone there, they had the longest list of deeds that they could point to in order to certify their righteousness. They made a religion out of being “righteous.” They even added extra rules for righteousness. Yet, the one thing that separated their deeds from the fruit of repentance was their heart.

If we are to honor God in our repentance it is important that the followup to the big spiritual highs take place. Repentance may start for a man at an alter at the end of a service, but it will show up in his life long after that in how he deals with his wife, children, computer, driving habits, etc.

Later in Luke we will read the parable of the prodigal son. The older brother has always fascinated me because he is obedient, but we are left with the impression that he misses the party. Real repentance begins in the heart, or it may begin with the action if your heart isn’t there yet… but in the end it encompasses both a right motive and right deeds.

I’m praying that my identity is so swept up in Christ today that I forget what other motives might be out there and live with a heart that beats purely for God.

FATHER, Thank you for the gift of your Word. As I reflect to day on the message of John the Baptist I ask that we would be those who continually live a life of repentance and change. I thank you that we don’t bare this burden alone, but the Holy Spirit guides our steps and helps us all along the way. Thank you for the grace of studying and sharing your word. 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 23: Mark 16 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

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

Mark 16:7 jumped out at me today. Jesus said, “Go tell the disciples… AND PETER” (emphasis mine).  Tradition tells us that Peter is the Apostle behind the gospel of Mark. It is certain that Peter remembers this part very well. He had denied Jesus and when Jesus rose from the grave he wanted to make sure that Peter knew he was still part of the group.

The last eleven verses of Mark are somewhat controversial as they don’t appear in some of the earlier manuscripts.  Controversy aside, there is a great commission like statement found in Mark 16:15. The idea is also found in the other gospels, Acts.

God has made the way to rescue sinners from His wrath through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ who was crucified, buried and risen from the dead. This is indeed good news and the world should hear! Believers are called to be ambassadors of Christ! We are to take the good news everywhere, including to people who may not count the gospel as good news. We are to go!

But where are we to go? If we are not careful we will become mistaken and think we are to go places (indeed that may be part, but it is not the whole), but the command to go and make disciples is not about geography as much as it is about people. People who at this very moment stand outside the kingdom of God. People who may have never even heard the gospel. The command is to go to the people, not the place. Sometimes we have to go places to get to the people, but please make no mistake we go to share the good news with people.

The implications of this are huge! My region has an abundance of churches, and yet there are people who have not clearly heard the gospel.  The condition of those who have not heard in my region is the same as those who have not heard in another area or country with less churches. Again the command isn’t to go to places, but to go to people! Darkness is darkness wherever it exists. We can no longer use the fact that there are more people without the gospel in another region of the world as an excuse to just give our money and not search out those who are without Christ on our own neighborhoods. (We should give and give generously to reach people across cultural divides, but not in replace of sharing the good news in our own culture).

Here is how I am praying today:

FATHER, Thank You for the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus and that that means for the forgiveness of our sins. I pray for those who have yet to clearly hear the gospel in my community. I pray for the opportunity to speak of your truth and love to them. Thank you for the privilege 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 20: Mark 7-9 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Mark 7-9 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

The Pharisees were professionals at praising God with their lips, but having their hearts set against him. It’s a terrible thing to live so completely and fully for yourself while proclaiming God’s kingdom with your lips.

In this world their is a great temptation to profess a love for God with our lips and change the rules (7:9-13).  We seek to make God in our image, to assume what He would say or how He would feel about something simply because that is the way we feel about it. Many people capitalize on the fact that God is a “loving” God and then turn around and define love in some other way than God defines it. They end up removing the jealousy of God, and maybe even forgetting His wrath.

Keep reading though. Read the words of Jesus. Don’t use the love of God to say that their is no Hell. Hell is real and people go there. Jesus said better to fight sin than go there (9:42-48). Justifying your sin will surely send you there no matter how much you profess the love of God.

The Pharisees had the same issue. They said that honoring your parents was more of a suggestion and if you wanted to pledge your money to the temple instead of supporting your parents in their old age, that you were righteous for doing it (7:9-13). But they were wrong. They were dead wrong.  They were not near to God with their hearts. Their jaws moved, their gums smacked, but their heart wreaked of the foulest things (7:21-23).

You have a bad heart when you just want to justify your sin under the love of God. Sure God forgives, but not without repentance. Repentance isn’t just acknowledging what you’ve done, but agreeing with God about what you’ve done and turning away from it.

Here is how I am praying through this passage today:

FATHER, Thank you for your word and where it brings conviction. I pray that we wouldn’t be like those in chapter seven who deceived themselves into thinking they were right with you, but really were far from you. I pray that we would not be ashamed of you, but that we would pick up our crosses and follow you. I thank you for the privilege of being a father and leading my family. I pray that I lead them all well. Thank you for the grace of shepherding 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 17 Matthew 28 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Matthew 28 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

I love the hope that is present in the resurrection! I always find it interesting that the women who were following Jesus were the first to hear and spread the news of the resurrection.

I wonder how much money the chief priests and elders had to pay these soldier to say they fell asleep and didn’t see anything (12-15). I wonder how hard your heart had to be to hear of all of these events from credible sources and still choose to dig into your pockets to create a cover up story.  Surely these men knew at this point that they were playing their hand against God? I suppose some people know the truth and still choose to try and act against God.

Generally speaking we think of the going aspect of the Great Commission. Today though I was reminded of the “teaching them to observe all the I have commanded you” aspect of the Great Commission.  As followers of Jesus we are to be obedient to Christ as well as teaching others to be obedient to Christ.  We generally think of teaching as information, like history class, but the teaching that seems to be referenced here seems more of the “how to do something” sort, kind of like vocational school. Are we being obedient to God and teaching others to do the same?

Here is how I am praying through this passage today:

FATHER, Thank you for the resurrection and the hope that we have in Jesus because of it! Thank you for those who first heard and saw that event and then told others. I pray that we would be bold in our witness today. I pray that we would be those who seek to be obedient to your commands and disciple others to do the same. I ask for wisdom for parents in training our children and grandchildren. I ask for grace as a pastor to lead your congregation. I lift up those who are struggling with belief 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 16: Matthew 25-27 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Matthew 25-27 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

What you do with what you have, matters in the kingdom of God.” There was a portion of the wedding party that missed the festivities because they were not well prepared and had foolishly counted on the wedding starting earlier (25:3). The foolish servant didn’t invest his talent and therefore had nothing to show for it (25:25). Those who ministered to the least of these ‘Breatheren’ were rewarded (25:34). (I put Breathren in scare quotes because a lot of people read over this passage and think that this is a general niceness to strangers and while that is a good and even godly thing to do, what is referenced here is hospitality to brothers and sisters in Christ). As believers we are more obligated to minister to those closest to us such as family, church members, etc. We can also be generous to meet needs of those we are not obligated to help. For more on this see my blogging series on the Gospel and the Poor.

Today’s reading progresses from Jesus sharing parables about the coming of the kingdom to chapters 26 and 27 which detail the events of his betrayal, crucifixion and death.  I don’t know what was going on in Judas’ head when he decided to betray Jesus. I’ve heard a few different ideas suggested, but I think they are at best guesses. I do know this though, Judas did find himself very remorseful after the fact (27:3-4). Yet for all his remorse he didn’t find repentance. Its very sad really. Part of me really wants Judas to find redemption the way we know that Peter does.

Here is how I am praying through this passage today:

FATHER, I pray that we would be faithful to honor you with what we are given and that we would consider the weighty matter of Christ’s return with all seriousness. I pray for those who don’t know Christ as Lord and Savior and pray that today would be a day of salvation. I pray that you would use my conversations with friends and strangers to point them to you. I thank you for the calling to lead 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 15: Matthew 22-24 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Matthew 22-24 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

In the midst of addressing the religious crowd about their hypocrisy, Jesus tells a parable about a wedding feast that illustrates that those who should have been excited about the wedding didn’t take it seriously (22:5) or were completely unprepared (22:11).

A couple of interesting points  for those of you following along with the Ten Commandment series at Little Escambia Baptist Church. The question from the Pharisees about taxes is answered by Jesus holding up on of their coins (he didn’t have one) and asking, “whose image and inscription is this?” (22:20) Then when they reply Jesus says,  “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (22:21) We usually catch on that Cesar’s image is on the coin, but sometimes we are slow to recognize that People are made in God’s image. We owe Cesar the coin, but we owe God our lives.

Jesus summarizes the great commandment, He uses two. Love God and Love your Neighbor. Loving God relates to the first four commandments and loving your neighbor relates to the other six. The reason Jesus doesn’t just say to love God, is because then we would be tempted to think we are loving God even when we neglect our neighbor and vice versa.

In chapter 23 Jesus really doesn’t let up on the scribes and pharisees. What popped out to me was how many times he calls them blind while he pronounces the woes. This leads to his sorrow over Jerusalem and his pronouncement in chapter 24… Hold on to this, because this context is important. I think a lot of people get Matthew 24 a little bit wrong, or misconstrue a few things. It is important to read the chapter in context. There is a tendency to read the entire chapter as an essay on what will the end times be like, but as I have studied this passage I think a great deal of what Jesus says here speaks more directly to the destruction of the temple (notice the context of 24:1-2).

Matthew 24:3, The Disciples ask three questions of Jesus…

1.Tell us, when will these things be,

2.and what will be the sign of your coming

3. and of the end of the age?”

Matthew 24:15-16, The Abomination of Desolation is something that can only happen in the temple in Jerusalem. Jesus warns those in “Judea” to flee… so this is in reference to the destruction of the temple and all that is attached to this passage such as pray that it doesn’t take place on the sabbath, etc. is related to the destruction of the temple.

Matthew 24:23, After this event if someone tells you they are the Christ, or that Christ has returned… be wary.

Matthew 24:27, when Jesus returns you will know it. It won’t be like the first time.

Matthew 24:34, This now appears to be the bookend that ties this all together with the destruction of the temple, “this generation will not pass away.” The temple was destroyed in AD 70 a round about forty years after Jesus made this statement.

The real point to these chapters is that Jesus will return and it will be when we least expect it. He will judge the world and reward those who have been faithful to follow Him. I look forward to His return and I hope to be found me faithful.

Here is how I am praying through this passage today:

FATHER, Thank you for the gift of your word! I pray we would all be prepared for what ever events will unfold in our lifetime. Thank you for what it means to be made in your image and thank you for the gracious commands you have given us to love you and to love one another. I pray that we would continue to grow in our love on both accounts. Today I pray for those who are lost apart from you and are unprepared. I pray that they would come to faith in you. I lift up those who are sick and longing for relief, I pray that you would provide healing. I ask you to keep us vigilant in our anticipation of what you have in store for us. I pray that I do all of my part in presenting everyone complete who you have put in my care as a pastor. 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 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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