September 23

September 23

Pause and Reflect

I love these “pause and reflect”days because I have been reading the New Testament for many years, and I never want it to become less powerful with familiarity. This is the account of how God made it possible for human sinners to be reconciled to a perfect Creator!

So as you review your journal today, and as you catch up on any readings you missed this week, pause to reflect on the things you have read, and let your heart be “strangely warmed” (to quote John Wesley) by the amazing truths of God’s love in Jesus.

Have a great day!

Mark.

September 22

September 22

Jesus’ Demands of Discipleship — To follow Jesus is to make Him your first priority.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Matthew 8:18-22

Reading 2: Luke 9:43-62

Reading 3: Matthew 16:24-26

Yesterday we saw that God’s love is powerful to give us what we need, and that our response is to serve Jesus. Today we learn more about the cost and the benefits of following Jesus.

The disciples are having trouble understanding what it really means to follow Jesus – they want to call down fire from heaven on those who don’t welcome Jesus, and they want to stop others who are not in their group from casting out demons in Jesus’ name. But Jesus corrects them because their perspective is wrong. He also corrects those who want to be His followers for the wrong reasons.

Child-like discipleship involves completely trusting Jesus – no turning back. That is what it means to take up your cross; willingly losing your life to follow Him.

Have a great day!

Mark.

September 21

September 21

Jesus’ Healings in Capernaum & Nain — The servant, the widow’s son, & Peter’s mother.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Luke 7:1-16

Reading 2: Matthew 8:5-17

Reading 3: Isaiah 53:4

Did you know that Jesus is drawn to faith? With the centurion’s servant, the healing was released in response to the master’s faith.

Did you know you don’t need faith to receive a miracle from Jesus? The widow was simply grieving the devastating loss of her final link to life, when Jesus stepped in to raise him from the dead.

Are these two stories contradictory? Not at all. The key is that Jesus has compassion on all humanity, and responds to our need as well as our faith. So the centurion and the widow both received what they needed – one by faith and the other by compassion. Peter’s mother-in-law likewise experienced the power of God in healing, freeing her to do what she wanted – to serve Jesus and His followers.

How will you respond to all God has given you?

Have a great day!

Mark.

September 20

September 20

Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount — The Beatitudes, kingdom-life, & Jesus fulfilling the scriptures.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Matthew 5

Reading 2: Matthew 6

Reading 3: Luke 6:17-49

This is perhaps Jesus’ most famous teaching, or rather compilation of teachings. There is so much in these chapters that I urge you to take some additional time and read them more than once, reflecting on the wise instructions of Jesus! This truly is Jesus’ manifesto for Kingdom life, and if we took it to heart and lived this way, the world would be a very different place.

If you catch what He is emphasizing for you today, you will be a very different person!

Have a great day!

Mark.

September 19

September 19

Jesus’ Choosing of the 12 — Jesus prays all night, chooses 12 apostles, & is criticized by family.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Luke 6:1-16

Reading 2: Mark 3:1-21

Reading 3: John 15:12-17

Today we see Jesus selecting a group of leaders to help Him with the ministry – the challenge is the numbers of people who are coming asking for healing and deliverance, the solution is to give twelve people authority to cast out demons.

But don’t miss this in the account – these apostles were to be WITH Him and to be sent out to preach. The primary purpose of Jesus drawing others alongside Him was to be with them, investing Himself in them and leading them by example.

That was incomprehensible to the religious leaders – they looked only for personal authority and position. Their followers were followers, not friends. No wonder they missed what God was doing, and would not answer Jesus when His questions exposed their wrong motives.

Jesus us calls us His friends – that means anything is possible today.

Have a great day!

Mark.

September 18

September 18

Jesus’ Ministry to Sinners — Jesus eats with sinners & forgives them.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Luke 5:29-32

Reading 2: Luke 7:36-50

Reading 3: Luke 18:9-14

Beware the myopia of religion! Religion says “try harder to reach God by your efforts.” But today’s readings show us that Jesus is drawn to sinners, and called to sinners, and is the answer for sinners.

So if you are aware of your sin today, you are better off than someone who believes they are a good person, and who tries to be better in order for God to accept them.

Jesus came to save the sick, not the presumed healthy. The fastest disqualification for grace is self-righteousness.

And the degree to which we receive forgiveness affects the extent to which we show love to Jesus (and to others).

In this world, humility and a repentant heart are seen as signs of weakness, but they are the only doorway to forgiveness and relationship with God.

Who will you encourage with these truths today?

Have a great day!

Mark.

September 17

September 17

Jesus’ Healings in Capernaum — Jesus heals a leper & a paralytic is lowered through a roof.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Luke 5:12-26

Reading 2: Mark 1:32-45

Reading 3: Mark 2:1-12

Today we learn from two healings in Galilee. Remember this is Jesus’ home region. In Nazareth He is seen as “Mary’s boy” but in the rest of Galilee He is renowned as the powerful teacher who heals people. This threatens the religious leaders who would have tried their best to turn the crowds against Jesus.

Maybe that is why the leper was hesitant to go to the priest as instructed? Whatever the reason, he tells what Jesus has done and scores of people are drawn to follow as a result. May the same be said of our testimony to Jesus!

Then some friends bring a paralytic to Jesus, and exhibit great faith in tearing up a roof to lower him in front of Jesus where they know the man will be healed. Interestingly, knowing the man’s heartfelt need along with his physical need, Jesus first tells him his sins are forgiven. In that culture sickness was commonly held to be the result of the person’s sin. This guy must have had a great weight of guilt on his shoulders – his sin must have been great to render him incapable of physical work.

This of course offends the religious leaders whose whole system depends on keeping everyone feeling guilty so they will do what the religious leaders say. And Jesus rightly points out that it is easier to say the unprovable “your sins are forgiven” than the easily verified “stand up and walk.” The paralyzed man benefits twice from the religious leaders’ self-interest. First his sins are forgiven, and then he gets his mobility back! And neither of those were within his grasp before his friends decided that Jesus was the answer to his problems.

May God do more than you can ask or imagine today – not merely for you but for those around you who have no faith, and no hope!

Have a great day!

Mark.

September 16

September 16

Selah – Pause and reflect

Each reading this past week has seen Jesus either claim to be God, demonstrate He is God, or reveal God in some other way.

First let’s review our journals from this week to remind ourselves of what God has highlighted for us from these revelations.

Then, let’s ask God how we can re-present Jesus by demonstrating God’s presence and power in some way today, or in the week ahead.

Have a great day!

Mark.

September 15

September 15

Jesus’ Disciples Called — Jesus calls people to begin following Him.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Matthew 4:18-25

Reading 2: Luke 5:1-11

Reading 3: Matthew 9:9-13

Jesus can already draw a crowd (we saw that yesterday). But today we see that he’s more interested in relationship than mere celebrity. He selects some unlikely people and tells them to be His disciples. This was an established model in that culture but it was still revolutionary for a rabbi to call “sinners” to follow Him.

Notice, too, that Jesus is not afraid to show His power in supernatural acts to help people trust Him. The same thing is happening (but is under-reported) in many countries where it is forbidden or dangerous to be a follower of Jesus today. By means of dreams and other supernatural events, many are coming to Christ.

For Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John, the miracle was very personal – they had caught nothing all day (even though they were experienced fishermen) – but in obedience to Jesus’ instructions they caught enough fish to impress even them! And then Jesus says “now let’s catch people!”

What is Jesus asking of you today? Does it seem crazy or impossible? Try saying “yes, Lord” and see what happens!

Have a great day!

Mark.

September 14

September 14

Jesus’ Ministry at Capernaum — John the Baptist is jailed & Jesus heals people.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Matthew 4:12-17

Reading 2: Isaiah 9:1-2

Reading 3: Luke 4:31-44

Jesus quickly became famous, popular, and powerful. Or so it seems from these readings. However, remember the 30 years of preparation we read about two weeks ago. This was no sudden outbreak of miraculous favor; rather it was the fruit of the choices and priorities which Jesus had cultivated since childhood.

He also had a very clear sense of His calling and commission – notice how He resists calls to do what the crowds ask, instead choosing to obey God and fulfill His calling despite the cost to his popularity.

The climate was clearly not all in Jesus’ favor either – His cousin John has recently been jailed and the rulers are getting nervous about the popularity of these rabbis!

Through it all, the lesson for us is to be authentic in our discipleship – to follow Jesus and do God’s will. When we do, God will handle the rest, and He will get the glory.

Have a great day!

Mark.