September 30

September 30

John the Baptist’s Murder — Herod beheads John the Baptist for his wife, Herodias.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Matthew 14:1-12

Reading 2: Mark 6:14-31

Reading 3: Matthew 11:11-12

We have seen the opposition to Jesus, and the change in His ministry as a result (teaching in parables). Today we read about further challenges, as Jesus’ cousin John the Baptist is murdered by Herod.

In Herod we see a conflicted, weak, yet powerful man. Without God’s Spirit to guide him, Herod is capable of evil despite his respect for what is good. Without God we are powerless to do good!

By contrast, Jesus is full of the Holy Spirit and can endure times of great testing and challenge. Even though the death of John is an unjust act by an evil ruler, Jesus is not threatened. He takes his disciples away to a quiet place, and undoubtedly repeats to them what he had previously said about John and the Kingdom of God (in Matthew 11:11-12).

What challenges are you facing? What ungodly pressures surround you? Go to the quiet place and reassure yourself that the Kingdom of God is advancing unseen, and you are part of that coming victory!

Have a great day!

Mark.

September 29

September 29

Jesus’ New Teaching Style — After Israel’s rejection, Jesus starts teaching in parables.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Matthew 13

Reading 2: Isaiah 6:8-10

Reading 3: Psalm 78:1-4

After the conflicts yesterday, we see Jesus change His style of teaching. The religious leaders and authorities have rejected His Messiahship when presented with it clearly, now He teaches in parables to confuse those who are wise in their own minds while feeding those whose straightforward faith allows them to see the Story behind the story.

His narratives help us imagine the truths He is communicating, and to see them in human terms. Often these stories contain a “twist” that we find hard to comprehend from our limited perspectives (such as “why does God let the weeds grow among the wheat?”).

Parables are stories with a clear teaching point. The key to understanding parables is to look for the main point the story is making. It is often a mistake to try to apply a parable more widely than the main point of the story.

The word parable is Greek and means “throw alongside.” It was common for Eastern teachers like Jesus to throw out word pictures and stories alongside the experiences of their followers. These parables caused people to reflect more deeply on what the rabbi was saying, while those who thought they already knew everything would dismiss the teaching as “mere stories.”
So the question for us today is not “do you understand every detail of these stories?” but “what main thing does God want to teach you as you reflect on what Jesus says here?”

Have a great day!

Mark.

September 28

September 28

Jesus’ “Work” on the Sabbath — Jesus heals on the Sabbath & the unpardonable sin.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Matthew 12

Reading 2: Hosea 6:6

Reading 3: Isaiah 42:1-4

Jesus shows Himself true to one of the prophecies about Him in today’s readings: Isaiah prophesied “He will not falter or lose heart until justice prevails throughout the earth.” In Matthew 12 we see Jesus faithfully declaring God’s heart, motivation, and priority: “I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings.”

By contrast, the Pharisees are obsessed with detail (such as the disciples snacking on the Sabbath) and with devaluing Jesus as a way to reinforce their own position. As such, they fail on both counts. They focus on the detail yet miss the reason for the detail. They reject Jesus and end up accepting satan instead.

We have a faithful Savior who longs for us to know Him. Let’s not allow satan to distract us with self-effort or condemnation!

Have a great day!

Mark.

September 27

September 27

Jesus’ Sending of the 12 — Jesus prepares the 12 for conflict & sends them out.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Matthew 10

Reading 2: Micah 7:5-7

Reading 3: Mark 6:7-13

Our last reading ended with Jesus’ instruction to pray that God will send workers into the harvest. No doubt the disciples were happy to pray that, because they saw all that Jesus was doing, and wanted to see more.

However, it is unlikely that they expected to be the answer to their own prayers! Right away Jesus teaches His followers what battles they will face as they become workers in the harvest, and He sends them out!

Notice first that they are sent out two-by-two. Six ministry teams to multiply the works of Jesus. And they are true to their Master’s mission: they tell people to turn away from self-centered sin, and turn to God, and then they show the power of God by meeting the needs of the time (mostly healing and deliverance).

I wonder how much more powerful the gospel message would be today if there were more need for supernatural power to be demonstrated? God has not changed, but our world and its belief system has. The ways we show God’s power may be different today, but they are nonetheless essential.

God is sending you. To whom will you go, and what will you say and do?

Have a great day!

Mark.

September 25

September 25

Jesus’ Ministry at Sea of Galilee — Jesus calms the sea & casts out Legion.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Luke 8:19-40

Reading 2: Mark 4:35-41

Reading 3: Mark 5:1-20

After telling us to come to Him for rest yesterday, Jesus demonstrates more examples of rest today, all through radical obedience to God’s direction.

First He takes His disciples across the lake in a storm – which He sleeps through, then calms with a command.

Then He calms the storm in one man’s tortured life, by casting out many demons with a similar command to that used in the storm.

And finally, we see the man now set free being sent to his own people to testify of the storm-calming power of Jesus!

What storms do you face today? And what is God telling you to say to them?

Have a great day!

Mark.

September 23

September 23

John the Baptist’s Doubts — John questions Jesus from prison & Jesus comments on John.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Luke 7:18-35

Reading 2: Matthew 11

Reading 3: Isaiah 35:3-6

One man who laid down his life for Jesus’ sake was John the Baptist – he prepared the way for Jesus and was arrested before he could see the miracles we have discussed these past weeks.

Having paid a heavy price to prepare the way for the Messiah to come, John is anxious to know that his sacrifices have not been in vain; that the one he introduced truly IS the Messiah. And Jesus is pleased to confirm that in ways that John would understand uniquely – using the fulfillment of prophecy.

And Jesus adds a note to anyone who is weary after following God’s instructions (as John surely was): “come to Me and you will find rest for your souls”. John was prevented from doing this by his imprisonment, but we can do this daily – receive the light burden that Jesus gives – follow, obey, rest.

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.