When Jesus asks you a question. (Matthew 22-24)

I am working through the Cornoa virus. It’s no fun. Lots of fever, chills, and all the other stuff. If the last serveral days and next several days seem off. I’m probably writing with a fever. One of the things I found most difficult about maintaining a daily bible reading time while I’m sick is that reading has become more wearysome. Several years ago I downloaded an app that reads the bible to you. Today instead of reading the text myself I let the app do it and it was easier to concentrate.

The story is told of a young man who showed up at the Louvre museum one day. He came to the Mona Lisa, perhaps the most famous painting in the world and a masterpiece. He begins to make fun of the painting. He points out what he thinks are flaws and inconsistencies. A large crowd gathers as he mocks the painting and it’s artist, Leonardo Da Vinci. Just then the curator to the museum walks up to hear the comotion. Finally when he can take it no longer he says, “Young man, the Mona Lisa is not on trial here today. It is recognized around the world as a master piece. But you are on trial today, because while you made your accusations and assumptions your ignorance became evident to everyone.”

Jesus and the religious leaders get into it in these chapters. The religious leaders question him, hoping to trip him up and make him stumble in what he says. However, his responses reveal how little the religious leaders really knew. Somewhere along the way the religious leaders fell in love with the idea of appearances, but they missed out on the real thing. Jesus compared them to white-washed tombs. Pretty on the outside, but full of death and decay. The sad things is all these leaders had to do was recieve Jesus. But they loved their power and postition so much that they knew who he was and they rejected him.

Father, guard me from thinking too much of myself or doing things for mere appearances. Certainly we should live godly lives, but I pray that godliness is found in a transformed heart, not a thin vinere meant to impress others. In Jesus Name, Amen.

RESOURCES:

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It’s not what you do, it’s what has been done for you (Matthew 19-21)

My son and I have been playing an adventure video game. The main character has a backpack that you can load up with stuff. I’m impressed with how much it actually “holds” but it does have a limit. I went to pick up a new item the other day and the game said I couldn’t add anything else until I got rid of something in my back pack. The item I was trying to pick up was way more valuable than the stuff I already had and so I gladly made the trade.

As Jesus deals with the rich young ruler, it becomes apparent that this guy seems to have it all… and that was the problem, he had too much. Too much confidence in his own ability to “do” something to merit eternal life. This guy didn’t need to “do” anything, he just had to recieve what Jesus would do for him. The only way that trade would really take place is if he let go of the stuff he was holding on to. (not because Jesus wanted his money, he said to give it all to the poor!) The only way we can approach Jesus and it do us any good is to come humbly and empty so that he might fill us.

Father, thank you for your amazing gospel of grace. Thank you that it’s not what I can do to earn eternal life that get’s me into the kingdom of heaven, but what you have already done. Help me to be free from distraction and trust in you completely in every way. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

RESOURCES:

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Clean Hands or Clean Heart? (Matthew 13-15)

it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.

Matthew 15:11

Today, everyone is talking about washing hands. We all know the drill; wear a mask, stay six feet apart, wash your hands, avoid large crowds, etc… We are all certainly more aware and concience of germs than we used to be. Most of us (I would like to think), practiced generally good hygene before all this but with Covid-19 there is a new hyper awareness. So culturally when Jesus doesn’t seem to think its a big deal if his disciples wash their hands or not, it really jumps off the page.

The modern reader might be worried about if Jesus knew or cared about germs. While there might be plenty of helpful hygene information in scripture (there is more than you might suspect), the primary concern of those complaining was a tradition handed down like it was a law. The Jewish folks had a ritual practice of washing hands before they ate. It symbolized being clean before God and only taking in what is right, pure and wholesome. It wasn’t really a law but it was a symbol. Therefore in the eyes of those watching, when the disciples didn’t conform to the rutual practice, they appeared to be hypocrites.

Jesus used this opportunity to expose the hearts of those who were quick to condemn his disciples. God wasn’t nearly as concerned about if someone had ritually clean hands as much as we was about if they had a spiritually clean heart. He charged the Pharisees and scribes of holding on to the forms (appearance) of God’s law, but completely ignoring the substance (the actual Law of God). He quoted Isaiah in saying that they honored God with their lips but, there hearts were far from God.

We might give the Pharisees and scribes a hard time because they should know better, but some times we can be guilty of the same thing. There are many who try to hold on to some sort of appearance of godliness rather than actually seeking to honor and obey God from the heart. We shold be careful of putting on a “show” and more intent on allowing God to conform us into the image of Chirst.

Father, I pray that I would never obscure the substance of your word with a mere form or practice. I thank you that Jesus is the only one who can make us truly righteous from the inside out. I pray that we would all be found righteous in him. I pray that we would all be surenedered and sensative to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives that He might conform us more and more into the image of Christ. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

RESOURCES:

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Judgement Day is Coming (Matthew 11-12)

I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak

MATTHEW 12:36

I remember the first semester of my freshman year of high school. Most of the school work came easily to me and just like 8th grade, I assumed I’d make really good grades with little effort. I had signed up for Spanish class that summer to go a head and get it out of the way. I made the mistake of believing I’d pick up on things naturally like I did in the other classes and so I spent alot of time goofing off with my friends in the class. When the first test rolled around I knew I was in trouble. My brain didn’t learn foreign languages the same way I was able to learn in other classes. I knew then I had to buckle down and study harder. I also thought that there was plenty of time to catch up and so I went on cutting up in class. I really didn’t learn anything that semester other than a few curse words in Spanish that I had looked up in the Spanish-English dictionary.

It really shouldn’t have surprised me when my teacher told me I had failed the class. Yet, somehow it did. I had the delusion that it would all somehow get better. I told myself that I’d have time to buckle down and learn. I thought I could fix it. Before I knew it, report cards were out and I started my high school transcript with a big fat F.

The current that runs just beneath the surface through these two chapters is that there is a day of judgement coming. There will be a day of reckoning. It will be here quicker than anyone can imagine. Jesus declares that previous generations known for their wickedness, will judge those of his day. They would have repented of their sins if they had the witness of Christ Himself. Yet these cities hardened their hearts against God. You can’t read these chapters without seeing the urgency that judgement day is coming and will be here before you know it.

I’ve often wondered what Jesus will say about my generation on the day of judgement. We seem to have no lack of bible study tools and resources. We have so much available to us. Yet we often try and reduce God’s Word to trivial little cliche’s and rob it of it’s power.

I was convicted by Matthew 12:36 today. We live in a world of careless words. It can be too easy to get caught up in the fray and think it’s no big deal. Don’t be decieved, judement day is coming and what you say now will judge you then. It’s not too late to repent and turn to Christ for Salvation.

Father, I am sobered by your words in Matthew 11-12 today. There were many who didn’t recieve your witness, many who will stand on the day of judgement and be condemned by their idle word. Guard our hearts from taking anything trivial that is urgent. Help us to be bold in proclaiming the gospel to our friends, neighbors, and around the world. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

RESOURCES:

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Touch (Matthew 8-10)

I miss hugs, handshakes, and high fives. We are physical creatures and we were meant for physical touch. There is something reassuring about holding the hand of your spouse, hugging your friends, and even greeting folks you have never met before with a hand shake. It means even more to hold the hand of a friend in prayer as you face some of life’s scary moments like surgery, illness, or in a room waiting to hear news about a loved one.

Physical touch outside of family has been kept to the bare minimum this last year due to the virus. The fact that Jesus touches so many people in Matthew 8-10 jumped out at me as I read it today because touch has taken on a whole new meaning in our culture. I’ve read all of these verses before, but I saw this aspect of more clearly because of what we are going through (social distancing, lock-downs, changed plans, etc.). That’s the way it works with reading through God’s word. It never changes, but you do, and as you come back again and again you see new insights you have never seen before. Today I saw that Jesus definately takes a hands on approach.

It’s not like he wasn’t dealing with illness either. He touched a leper at the beginning of Matthew chapter eight! Even in those days folks knew not to touch people with Leperosy. Jesus wasn’t afraid because he brough healing with his touch.

Throughout centuries he has used touch to heal people. Where the gospel went, hospitals were established. One of the key ways the gospel still goes out today is through medical missions. Some of our Christian organizations are still serving on the frontlines of the epedemic offering sites for testing and now some are opening up places to recieve the vaccine.

Jesus touched people because he cared for people. Those who have placed their faith in Christ are called to care for one another. In the midst of a pandemic our care sometimes that means we are withhodling physical touch but withholding physical touch should never mean withholding care. I’m grateful many have found old and new ways to bless and encourage one another. I look forward to the day when touching won’t have such a stigma and we can shake hands, hug, and highfive again. Until then, I am grateful for a God who cares for us.

Father, thank you for the gift of touch. Jesus could touch because he was fully human. He could heal because he was fully God. Thank you for the way you have used your church to be the physical hands and feet of Christ ministering in my life this week. Thank you for how you use me to minister to others. I pray for healing from this virus and I pray your Gospel goes out with boldness. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

RESOURCES:

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No Matter What My Plans Are For Others, You Follow Me (John 19 – 21)

Jesus said to him, “If I will that he remain till I come, what [is that] to you? You follow Me.”

John 21:22

I try and get my ten thousand steps in each day and sometimes when I need a few extra steps I’ll walk the hallway in our house. When my youngest kid sees me doing that, she challenges me to a race. She loves going back in forth in the hallway to see who gets to the door first. She’ll often say, “I win you lost.” or I’ll taunt her and say, “I win, you lose.” What can I say, we’re both competative. Everyonce in a while we end up changing the competition, I’ll stop walking and we start playing some other silly game (That conincidentally I’m really good at). Before I know it, I’m way down in my step count again. Somewhere along the way my focus changed from getting in steps to teaching my child sportsmanship aka how to be a good loser because Dad’s the best.

Peter was walking with the risen Jesus. He has just been restored to ministry. Jesus is telling him the plan for his life. He’s letting him know that he will face persecution, but that Jesus will be with him all the way. While they are walking Peter gets distracted and notices the other disciple lagging behind them and wants to know what the Lord’s plan is for the other disciple. Jesus response is one that should help us all to stay in our lane. He simply tells Peter it doesn’t matter, but that Peter is to follow him.

I know in ministy sometimes it can be really easy for me to get distracted by seeing what other ministries and preachers are doing. It’s tempting to compare church size, budgets, baptisms, etc. and either pat myself on the back because someone is doing “worse” or to feel like I’m striking out at T-ball because someone is doing better. Jesus hasn’t called up to play the comparison or competition game, He has called us to follow Him.

Father, I confess that I too can be walking in lock-step with you and then be quickly distracted and moved by what others are or aren’t doing. It is easy to lose focus. Thank you for the solid reminder today that my job is not to compare or compete with others, but to simply follow you. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

RESOURCES:

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They Did Not Know Him: John 1 – 3

I saw an old friend the other day. I didn’t recognize them because they had a mask on. Yet all the things they were saying were vaguely familiar. Finally when the mask came down and they were revealed I realized who I had been talking too. I was so embarrassed. I should have recognized my friend.

What if God we’re speaking to you and you didn’t know it? That’s exactly what John says happened when Jesus dwelt among us. The very people who should have recognized him, didn’t. Further John reminds us that it wasn’t because he was wearing a mask, but because sin had blinded our hearts. The good news is that Jesus had come to deal with our sin and give us new hearts.

A Few General Observations: God himself stepped back on to the planet He created and His people did not know Him. As I read this morning and I was reminded of the creation account. What we see in Genesis before the fall is that people walked with God. They knew God. They enjoyed His presence. Now when God walks among his people agian, they don’t recognize Him (John 1:10).

What is particularly disheartening is that his “own” people didn’t receive Him. By “own” people we can assume we are talking about the nation of Israel. These were God’s chosen people. He caused them to come into being through the miraculous birth of Isaac. Delivered them through Moses. Then He continued to choose and bless them all through the Old Testament. These people, even in their existence, were a testimony to the work of the One True Living God. So how did they miss Him?

In Chapter three we begin to see the whole picture. Jesus comes as light revealing God to all who will see, but many don’t want to see because they love the darkness (3:19). Sin has blinded us to Seeing Jesus for who He is, but Jesus has come to deal with our sin.

Prayer: Father, I am so thankful that you have revealed yourself to your creation that we might know you. Thank you for saving me from my sin and causing me to be born again. Thank you for the power of the Holy Spirit in my life. I pray that your light would shine in my life so that it might be evident to all that you are the one who has changed me from death to life. I’m Jesus name, Amen

Resources For further reflection

The Lightlings (Children’s Book) by RC Sproul (affiliate link)

Pass Me Not O Gentle Savior (Hymn) by Fanny Crosby

Day 89: Revelation 16-18 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

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

The reading today is filled with a lot of imagery that many others have attempted to interpret so I won’t add anything there. What I’d like to notice is the wrath of God, especially as it concerns the persecution of the saints. God cannot be loving without being wrathful. Those two attributes go together. Indeed, because God is loving that He is wrathful. God loves the martyrs so he avenges them by pouring out his wrath. Notice that God’s wrath isn’t like ours. He makes no mistakes in judgement. It isn’t undeserved, if anything God has been patient with mankind by not pouring out his wrath sooner.

Notice also how this wrath serves to harden the hearts of those who hate God. They continue to curse him and blaspheme rather than repent and come to God on his terms. The fact that the wrath comes in waves serves to demonstrate that there is time and opportunity for repentance, but people continue to harden their heart. They would rather shake their finite fist at the Creator than repent of sin and turn to Him…. They are broken beyond repair. They will not turn from their sin.

I think this passage should cause a real sobriety among God’s people. We should recognize that God is in control, he will bring justice in his own time and at the exact right time. We should be quick to repent knowing that God offers all sorts of opportunities along the way to seek repentance. We should also be scared to ever harden our heart against God.

FATHER, I pray that we have tender hearts today. I ask that we would be ready to receive your word. We stand in awe of your greatness and your sovereignty. We are thankful for your patience and we rejoice in your justice. We pray that we would always be quick to repent when we find ourselves in sin. Thank you for the grace of leading 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 88: Revelation 13-15 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

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

There is much that remains a mystery about the symbolism we find in the book of Revelation. One thing that really stuck out to me today was how the gospel will go out to all the nations. John observes in the passage we read today, “Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth–to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people– saying with a loud voice, “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water” (Revelation 14:6-7).  This reminds me of where, Jesus, speaking to the disciples about the end of the age, says, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14).

It seems as though in John’s vision that we are getting very near the end. I am grateful that though all the really scary stuff, we still see the light of the gospel going to all the world even in the midst of persecution and hardship.  I think this says something about the grace and benevolence of God to call his people to repentance. 

FATHER, Thank you for the power of the gospel that has transformed my life. Thank you that the gospel must and will go out to the entire world. I pray that in my generation that we are faithful to take your gospel as far and fast as we can take your message. I pray that we would remain strong in the face of whatever obstacles or challenges we may face. 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 87: Revelation 10-12 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

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

I will confess that there is much about this part of Revelation that still remains a mystery to me. That being said, there are several things that stick out to me. In 10:8-11, where John is given a scroll to eat is reminiscent of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 15:16) and Ezekiel (Ezekiel 2-3). The big difference between these prophets and the instruction given to John, here in Revelation, is to many peoples, tongues, and nations, whereas the other prophets seem to have a call specifically to the Nation of Israel.

Speaking of Israel, the woman mentioned in chapter twelve seems to be a pretty clear reference to the covenant people of God, known as the Nation of Israel. The sun, moon, and twelves stars motif (12:1) first appears in Josephs dream (Genesis 37:9-10) about the sun, moon, and eleven stars who bow down to him. His father understands the dream to refer to all of Joseph’s family (the very beginning of the Nation of Israel). Also the woman giving birth to a child is a symbol used in Isaiah (Isaiah 26:17, 66:6-9). In those references the woman is understood to be God’s covenant people, Israel.

I don’t have a ton of clarity on the other figures that are beginning to appear here other than to note that the members of the Satanic or Unholy Trinity are beginning to make their appearance. This false trinity consists of the Dragon, the Beast, and the False Prophet. We will see a fuller picture in the reading ahead.

My biggest take away from reading this portion of scripture is simply this. There is a lot that I do not understand. There are symbols that I can’t figure out. There are characters that I don’t know where they fit… but I do know that in the book of Revelation, God is still on his throne. He isn’t surprised. He knows future events and while there is a lot of mystery to the details of how things will unfold, there is no mystery to the fact that God is in control and bringing everything, even rebellious creatures to submission. And for that insight I am grateful.

FATHER, We rejoice in your sovereignty. I confess I don’t know what a lot of these things symbolize, but I rejoice to know that when events unfold, you are not caught off guard. We rejoice that all of world history is coming to completion in you. We pray for your guidance and grace in our hour, especially in the days of uncertainty in which we now live. Direct our path for your glory. Thank you for the incredible grace of watching over 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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