October 15

October 15

Jesus’ Teachings on Prayer — The Lord’s Prayer, the persistent friend, & God the Father.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Luke 11:1-13

Reading 2: Matthew 6:5-14

Reading 3: John 15:5-8

Three classic passages on prayer today: the persistent friend teaches us that God wants us to come to Him with our needs, the Lord’s prayer teaches us to come to God as our loving Father, and the analogy of the vine teaches us that our fruitfulness comes from asking ANYTHING and the answers bring glory to God!

So again we see that this One Story is all about humanity being reunited with divinity in Jesus; God wants us to be in a love-filled friendship with Him so much that He is willing to do all that it takes to make that possible. How could you and I not accept God’s gift on those terms?!

Have a great day!

Mark.

October 14

October 14

Pause and Reflect

As you review your journaling today, and maybe as you look back at some of the recent readings to catch up with any you missed, there are two words you will read again and again: I AM.

What does God, the I AM, say to you today through that name, I AM?

I AM with you.

I AM enough.

I AM for you.

I AM here.

What does He say to you?

Have a great day!

Mark.

October 13

October 13

Jesus’ Ministry as the Good Shepherd — Jesus the Good Shepherd & His sheep.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: John 10

Reading 2: Ezekiel 34

Reading 3: Isaiah 40:9-11

Jesus continues to teach Israel about His calling and mission, while simultaneously exposing and condemning the pride and other sins of the religious leaders. In using the illustration of the shepherd, Jesus is not simply drawing an object lesson from a well-known role in the society of the time. He is also linking the description to prophecies from hundreds of years before.

As we have seen in previous weeks, Jesus fulfills prophecy again and again, proving His miraculous ministry and supernatural calling.

Even today, Jesus combines the past and the present to lead us into our future. As you look back, trace his working in your life (whether you saw it or not at the time). Then consider what God is doing in your life today, and the promises He has given you for the future. These three together are your foundation for faith, and faith does not disappoint – it is the substance of things hoped for!

Have a great day!

Mark.

October 12

October 12

Jesus’ Ministry in Jerusalem — Healing a blind man, the tragedy at Siloam, & spiritual blindness.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: John 9

Reading 2: Luke 13:1-5

Reading 3: 2 Corinthians 4:1-6

As we trace God’s One Story through the life of Jesus, there are so many powerful principles that stand out. This is because Jesus came to reveal God the Father as well as to shine light on human sinfulness before fully rescuing us from our helplessness.

Astoundingly there are still those who will not see that light, while others are hungry for it. The man born blind had a formidable handicap – without sight he could not work, and there was no state welfare system to take care of him. Begging was his only option, but that was hindered by the prevailing theology that it was his fault he was blind – that he had sinned (or maybe his parents) and this blindness was God’s judgment. Thus he was a marked man, and who wants to give money to someone God is judging?

Then Jesus comes along, and his disciples ask whose fault caused the blindness. Jesus replies, in a God-revealing way: “We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us. The night is coming, and then no one can work. But while I am here in the world, I am the light of the world.”

There’s that “I AM” again! And he heals the man. So we see (literally) that God does not want us blind – He wants us to see His love even though we are all blinded by sin. Blindness is for healing, not judging.

So God does not work by judging and condemning now that Jesus is here; that was the way to keep sin under control until Jesus arrived. Now the full picture is visible (to those who will see). God gives us a way to be healed and forgiven – through repentance. Today’s passages show us that repentance is a change of direction, and a transformation of vision, that humbly accepts God’s undeserved grace without trying to earn it by our own efforts.

Have a great day!

Mark.

October 11

October 11

Jesus’ Ministry in Jerusalem — The woman caught in adultery & Jesus claims to be the “I AM”.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: John 8

Reading 2: John 3:16-21

Reading 3: Exodus 3:13-15

When Moses asked God His name in Exodus 3, the answer was universally applicable: “I AM.”

And God intends Moses to use “I AM” as God’s proper name; just as we might say (if asked who are you?) “I am Name” so God says to Moses “I am I AM”

Moving into the gospels, and bringing this knowledge with us, it is powerful to read how many times Jesus says “I am…” At the time, He was perhaps the only one who recognized the significance of what He was saying, but the gospel writers recorded it so that all believers could later grasp the significance.

To the religious leaders, the statement “Before Abraham was, I AM” was blasphemy – a man calling himself God. But of course we know with hindsight that they were missing the very reason Jesus was saying this – He IS God! The Messiah is both God and man – and so incapable of blasphemy.

What is even more revolutionary is that God (in Jesus) reveals Himself to be non-condemning of sin, honoring of authority, totally devoted to truth, and absolutely committed to the freedom of all of us who are slaves to sin.

Today, rejoice that there is a human being who lived a perfect life, who came to make God tangible to us, and who willingly substituted for us in punishment so we can be united with Him in life and love.

Have a great day!

Mark.

October 10

October 10

Jesus’ Ministry at the Feast of Tabernacles — Arriving secretly & the water of the Spirit.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: John 7

Reading 2: Isaiah 44:1-8

Reading 3: Isaiah 55

Today Jesus arrives secretly at the Feast of Tabernacles, because the Jewish leaders are trying to kill Him. But He is still called to teach and lead people to God, so He teaches in the Temple midway through the feast. The religious leaders are confused and offended at His teaching, but the people generally accepted Him as the Messiah.

Then, at the end of the feast, Jesus makes His famous offer of living water through the Holy Spirit for all who believe and come to Him. This fulfilled the promise given to Isaiah that the gift of the Holy Spirit would be like a spring of living water. And the later promise (in chapter 55) says that these miraculous events will bring honor to God.

And we live in the days after Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit is available to live in everyone. Today, let His presence fill your life and let your life fulfill His promises! This is how we can live the supernatural lives we learned about in yesterday’s reading.

Have a great day!

Mark.

 

October 9

October 9

Jesus’ Sending of More Disciples: Sending 70+ more, the Good Samaritan, & Mary/Martha.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Luke 10

Reading 2: Matthew 9:35-38

Reading 3: Matthew 6:25-34

Have you ever felt out of your depth spiritually? God has challenged you to step out and you know you are beyond your own capacity? That must have been how the 72 felt. They would have been following Jesus for a while, and even seeing the 12 apostles doing the ministry alongside Jesus (with varying degrees of success). They probably said “Amen” when Jesus told His followers to ask the Lord of the abundant harvest to send out workers into the harvest (Matthew 9). But now, they find themselves commissioned and sent to be the answer to their own prayers!

This is an insight into God’s preferred method of working: get us into situations where we are out of our depth, so that the results depend on God, and we are stretched to rely on His power, not our own. Reflect for a moment on this truth: because you are a follower of Jesus, you are called to re-present Him in your daily life, guided by the Holy Spirit.

And to keep us humble when God does great things through us, Jesus encourages us to remember that we will be part of heaven’s multitude one day, where ALL the glory will go to God, and we will be part of the eternal party celebrating His power and victory.

Now if you are wondering who to go to, as you bring God’s good news to those around you, the next story is for you. The short version of the Good Samaritan is that helping someone is the highest form of neighborly love, even if that person is the complete opposite of you. If Christ followers would embrace this principle, we could heal the scars of racism and injustice rapidly, and be seen to be so radical in our love, that radical hate would have nowhere to hide.

And speaking of hiding, that may have been what Martha was doing when she tried to create a fine feast for Jesus and the disciples: hiding behind her cooking skills. Mary by contrast was willing to be seen as “lazy” and “uncaring” by listening to Jesus in preference to being busy. Mary was commended for her brave choice.

So don’t hide behind efforts to impress; instead step out and show the world that Jesus is Lord, by doing all that God tells you to do (even if it is impossible)!

Have a great day!

Mark.

October 8

October 8

Pause and Reflect

Good morning!

Yesterday we ended with a brief reflection on forgiveness. If you had an opportunity to give away forgiveness to another person yesterday (whether they knew it or not), I invite you to reflect further on the fruit of that forgiveness: what changes to do see in your heart?

And whether you did so yesterday or not, take a moment to ask God if there is someone else you can forgive today (maybe even yourself?!)

Jot your forgiveness reflections in your journal as a reminder to do this often.

Have a great day!

Mark.

October 7

October 7

Jesus Answers The Disciples’ Questions: Jesus on children, offenses & forgiveness.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Matthew 18

Reading 2: Psalm 131

Reading 3: Deuteronomy 19:15

After yesterday’s focus on Peter’s lack of understanding of God’s ways, today we take a wider view and see how all the disciples misunderstood God’s priorities. But along with correction (such as showing them a kindergartner as a model of the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven) Jesus brings some encouraging truths. God the Father will not stop until lost ones are found. We have authority to forbid and permit events on earth, and heaven will agree.

And then He moves on to answer a question arising from another of Peter’s mistaken understandings! Peter probably thought he was doing well suggesting he could forgive someone seven times. Most of us would stop after three or four attempts! But Jesus raises the bar out of reach: seventy-seven or seventy times seven! (Some scholars even say seven to the seventieth power). His point is not that forgiveness is impossible, but that forgiveness can only be a gift from God, just as we could never earn millions of dollars to repay a huge debt, so we depend on God’s kindness to forgive us our sin.

And having been forgiven, let’s not make the same mistake as the servant in Jesus’ story and fail to forgive a much lesser debt owed to us by another. Unforgiveness leads to bondage and torment. Forgiveness is simply passing on to those who have wronged us a little of the fortune we have been freely given.

Why not take a moment to reflect on the magnitude of God’s forgiveness in your life, then give some of that treasure away in the form of forgiveness to another?

Have a great day!

Mark.

October 6

October 6

Jesus’ Transfiguration: Peter’s experience on the mountain and his comments on scripture.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Matthew 17

Reading 2: Luke 9:27-45

Reading 3: 2 Peter 1:16-21

Yesterday we saw Peter going from commended and commissioned “On this foundation I will build…” to corrected and contradicted “get behind me satan…”

Today we see another dramatic interaction between God and Peter, which again results in Peter being firmly put in his place!

It is so encouraging to see that the apostles were human and prone to wild swings of belief – full of faith one moment and directly opposing God’s purposes the next! And through it all, Jesus loves His followers and teaches them patiently about the Father, the Kingdom, and the future.

Peter has so many “pendulum swing” experiences that he is an inspiration to those of us who are deeply aware of our own failings in following Jesus! At the end of today’s main chapter, he even catches a fish with his tax money in its mouth. That’s a humorous way for God to provide for an impetuous former fisherman whose insecurity shines through at every opportunity!

Many times it seems that Peter, along with his fellow disciples, was clueless about what Jesus was teaching them. Yet all these experiences wrote deeply on Peter’s heart, changing him over time. When he came to write his second letter, he described the same prophecies that he had not understood earlier as: “lights shining in the darkness, until the day dawns and Christ shines in your hearts”

Clearly, the reversals and the corrections bore fruit – Peter knew the light of Jesus shining in his heart. How about you and I today? What correction will we receive? Where will we discover we have misunderstood God? How will the light of Jesus shine brightly in our lives?

Have a great day!

Mark.