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 22: Mark 13-15 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Mark 13-15 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

Jesus went to the garden to pray. He brought a few of the close disciples with Him and left them to keep watch. He had just spoken of the need to watch and pray in the previous chapter (13:32-37).  He wanted them to keep watch, however, they let him down by falling asleep. Jesus comments that they should pray against this temptation because, “the spirit is willing and the flesh is weak” (14:38).

Jesus was facing his own crucial moment. A moment that would effect all of them. He was praying to the Father for another way, but pressed on to pray, “Not what I will, but what you will” (14:36). The disciples didn’t know what was coming, or at least they didn’t know the immediacy of it. Jesus knew it was coming and was trying to prepare them.

We don’t always know that is coming down the road in our lives. There have been several moments where life seemed to be going fine and then something suddenly happened and we had to adjust and change direction. We’ve lost loved ones, addressed a health crisis, etc. In the grand scheme of things these are all relatively small things that we didn’t see coming that affected our life and schedule. Had we known about them in advance or even known when we would face something, we might have been better prepared. Jesus reminds us that there are events that we do know will unfold and they could unfold in our life time (13:32-37). Are we ready? Are we living at those who are ready for Christ to return at any moment?

Here is how I am praying through this passage today:

FATHER, Thank you for the blessing of your word. Thank you for grace to look into this moment you shared with your disciples. I pray that we would be those who are expectant and ready for your return. I pray that we would not be lazy or fall into temptation because we assume your return is a long way off, but that we would be those who are diligent and ready. 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 21: Mark 10-12 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

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

Entrance into the kingdom of God is given to those who come simply like children (10:15). You can’t trust in your own riches or own strength to get you in (10:24b). It seems impossible that anyone would humble themselves in this way. It certainly isn’t the natural default of sinful men. But what seems impossible with men is possible with God (10:27).  Indeed, no one comes to God in their own strength or power, but like a blind man calling out for Jesus to have mercy, we receive mercy (10:47).

The way of the Kingdom of God isn’t to jockey for position, but to serve others (10:43-44). We are not to hold personal grudges but are  called to forgive others for the things they have done to wrong us (11:25-26). If you have ever found it difficult to forgive someone for something they have done to you, it is helpful to know that this command comes in the context of faith and prayer that can move mountains (11:22-24). It is helpful to know that our faith isn’t in our ability, but in God (11:22). 

It is interesting to note the dialogue between the Pharisees and Jesus over taxes (12:13-17). In church on Sunday we just talked about not making any images to worship God, because we were made in his image. Here Jesus calls us to give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and give to God the things that are God’s. We are to give ourselves back unto the Lord.  

Here is how I am praying through this Passage today:

FATHER, Thank you for continuing to reveal yourself through your word. Thank you for providing the way of humility and trusting Christ to find salvation in you. I pray that we all follow you today and walk in humble obedience. I pray that we are those who forgive others who sin against us. Thank you that the power to forgive and ask for other great things in prayer. I pray that you would have all of my life. Thank you for the great grace that you have blessed me with in being able to shepherd and 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 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 19: Mark 4-6 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

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

Today I was struck by the parable of the seed growing (4:26-29).  So many times we wonder at what God is up to in our life or the lives of people around us. We proclaim the gospel and it seems like no one is listening. We tell others of God’s love for us and our desperate need for Him but wonder if it is having any impact.

Then there is growth. In the quiet, in the stillness, after all the striving and all the needless fret on our part, the seed grows. In the silence, pushing against the darkness, reaching up to the light a plant is formed. Drawing strength from the earth, water and sunshine provided the plant continue to reach heavenward, spreading it’s leaves, embracing the sunlight and finally giving back fruit according to it’s purpose. Then comes the harvest.

Sometimes we are impatient to see the harvest. The one thing we often forget is that the harvest is determined by the planting. Are you planting to see the kingdom of God expanding in your life, in your community and around the globe. Plant much, harvest much.

I am also reminded that Jesus took naps (4:38). When I was younger, I didn’t think that naps could be spiritual,  but the older I get there are several times I’ve realized that the most godly thing I could do was take a nap. Depending on what you have been through or are headed into, a nap can sometimes be helpful in focusing on the mission that God has us on. Naps indicate that we believe God is the one in control (Psalm 127:2). Don’t get it wrong, Jesus isn’t lazy, he’s often at the point of exhaustion in these chapters,  the point is, in his humanity, he took naps when he needed them and we would be well served to to do the same.

Jesus casts a bunch of demons out of a guy and into a heard or swine. Rather than being amazed and worshiping God, the people plead with Jesus to leave (5:17). Jesus was bad for the economy. The regular Jewish folks wouldn’t have minded so much about the pigs because they were an unclean animal, but the folks in that region were probably selling them to the Romans to make a profit. So they wanted him to leave. Rather than leave those folks without a witness though, Jesus challenges this man to say and tell of what Jesus had done for him throughout the region (5:19).

It appears as though Jesus moves around a lot in the gospel of Mark. The distance between places isn’t as great as you would think, just a few miles in several instances. Sometimes a visual is helpful to put all the pieces together. Here is a diagram that shows the different places Jesus traveled in the sequence that Mark records things.

Here is how I am praying through this passage today:

FATHER, Thank you for giving us your word! I pray that many seeds of your gospel are planted today that will germinate in fertile hearts and grow. I thank you for what you do in our lives to produce growth, trust, and dependence on you! I pray that we will be witnesses in our own families and communities today as well as those around the world. Thank you for the grace to lead and shepherd others. I pray that you would multiply ministry 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 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!