Day 26: Luke 7-9 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

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

In the gospel of Luke we often find faith in unsuspecting places. The faith of the centurion to recognize that Jesus has the authority to heal from afar is one of those places (7:1-10). Jesus had just spoken in his hometown about their apparent lack of belief and that even in Old Testament times that God sometimes chose to do works among those who were outside of the covenant nation of Israel (4:25-27). As we keep reading, we will see a faithful response from those you wouldn’t expect. Today in the same chapter we saw the sinful woman (Luke 7:36-50) who interrupts a party to clean Jesus’ feet. While she was probably a Jewish woman, she was certainly out of her social context.

Along the lines of the woman who washes Jesus’ feet, I thought it was profound that Jesus uses this as a teaching moment for Simon (the host) about forgiveness. I think it is always easier to see someone else’s sin.  The human heart is prone to gawk, make fun of and demand repentance for the wrongs that we see others commit.  We seldom ever like to take the time for honest self-evaluation of our own hearts. If I’m not careful I will see the sins of others and in my mind be way too harsh, not thinking or realizing that I have sin that has to be dealt with too. Those who have come to Jesus by grace through faith need to extend the same grace we have received to others.

Forgiveness is one of those things that is easy to do on paper, but hard in real life. Forgiveness for me is often a process and seldom ever is it a single event. I continually need to be reminded to forgive other for offenses big and small in the same way that I have been forgiven.

The big take away for me today was 8:18. We must be careful in how we hear. God’s word wasn’t meant for the purpose of information alone. It was meant for transformation. I know all about how to diet. Believe it or not, I have read books (that’s right plural) on dieting, exercising and losing weight. My problem is I haven’t done anything with what I know and my waste-line shows it. For all of that information to profit me anything I have to DO it. It’s the same with God’s word. Knowing how to forgive and forgiving are two different things. Those who do God’s word, get more from it than those who merely read it… What a challenge that was to read today! Are we hearing God’s word to transform our lives?

Finally, I wonder what it must have been like for the Gaderene demoniac to be healed of his demon possession and sent then home to tell others about what the Lord had done for Him? Here is a man who was ready to leave it all behind and jump in a boat and follow Jesus (8:38). This is the kind of disciple that Jesus was hard pressed to find. Yet here he finds one and his command isn’t to go to the darkest streets of Jerusalem, or even to go to the utter most parts of the earth. Jesus instead says, go home and tell those people what I’ve done for you (8:39).

He was already where God was calling him to go. He needed to be a sign and a witness of God’s faithfulness among his own people.  God had placed him in that area for a purpose.

Have you ever wondered that you might have that goofy brother-in-law for a purpose? That you might have found that family doctor for the sake of the gospel conversations you’ll have in the midst of being sick? Have you contemplated that God might want to use you to reach that child that is always hanging out at your house with your son or daughter?

FATHER, thank you for the grace and forgiveness that I have found in Jesus Christ. Help me to never forget the love and forgiveness that I have received. Help me to see my sins honestly before you and be quick to repent. Give me grace to be quick to forgive others when they sin against me. Help me to look for opportunities to share my faith with those that you have already put in my life. Thank you for the privilege 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 25: Luke 4-6 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

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

It never really occurred to me before that the devil tempts Jesus with authority here early in his ministry (4:6). Authority is one of those things that Jesus declares after the resurrection (Matthew 28:18). I have no doubt that the devil was offering Jesus a “shortcut,” so to speak, but I had never grasped the explicitness of it until this morning.

Jesus obviously isn’t a pragmatist. The best way is always God’s way. It may not be the quickest, or even most effective, but it is the right way. I wonder sometimes, where am I tempted to take short cuts? I get how authority without the cross was a temptation to power here, but I wonder if it wasn’t also a temptation to take the shorter, quicker, most effective route?

Tree’s produce fruit after their kind (6:43-45). The scripture isn’t concerned with how much fruit there is here (though there are thought on this in other passages). What is at stake isn’t how much, but what kind. Makes me think about what kind of stuff comes out of my life? Is my life overflowing with the joy I have in Jesus or is it something else? If it is something else, what? why?

This passage also isn’t concerned with growth. I think I might step on some toes here but there is a way to grow in the wrong direction. Bad trees grow and they produce bad fruit. The measure of the Christian life isn’t just generic growth, but specific fruit. What kind of fruit are you producing.

There is much more to ponder, but here is where I hung out in my thoughts and meditation today. Am I producing the real fruit of Godliness in my life? Are you?

Here is how I am praying today:

FATHER, thank you that Jesus didn’t give in to temptation, but was tempted in all ways as we are, yet was without sin. I am glad that you understand my temptations. Today I pray that you would lead me away from the things that tempt us to sin and closer to you. I pray that we would be those who don’t only hear your word, but we would be those who do your word. I ask that the real fruit of godliness would be evident in my life. We don’t want to play at Christianity or church. We want all that you have for us. I pray that you make us all more like Jesus. Thank you for the gift of leading and praying with others. I ask for your blessings on us today, may it be a fruitful day for your kingdom and your glory. 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 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 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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