October 31

October 31

Jesus’ Ministry Before His Betrayal — The widow’s mite, End Times Prophecy, & giving.

Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Mark 12:38-44
Reading 2: Luke 21
Reading 3: 2 Corinthians 8:1-12

Part of our reading today continues yesterday’s theme – the contrast between religious pride (which is offensive to God) and true faith (which is attractive to Him).

And in the midst of the contrast between the poor widow and the powerful, prideful religious leaders, Jesus talks of the troubles which are to come before He returns.

His prayer is that we be strong enough to endure and meet Him face-to-face.

In light of the teaching about the widow, I don’t think the strength we need to endure is found in money, power, position, or recognition!

Have a great day!

Mark.

October 30

October 30

Jesus’ Message on Religion — Appearing religious vs. exercising justice, mercy, & faith.

Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Matthew 23
Reading 2: Micah 6:8
Reading 3: James 1:22-27

Jesus often speaks against religion, but today He is clearer than ever in His condemnation of empty behavior. Religion is man’s effort to please God, while God desires relationship that revolutionizes our interaction with Himself and one another.

God is not asking for observance of regulations but for embrace of transformation.

How will that be seen in your life today?

Have a great day!

Mark.

 

October 28

October 28

Jesus’ Debates with Religious Leaders — Debating the Pharisees, Sadducees, & a lawyer.

Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Matthew 22
Reading 2: Romans 13:1-7
Reading 3: Psalm 110:1

In His final week in Jerusalem, Jesus teaches very clearly (for those who can see the meaning) about the plan of God to overthrow empty religion and usher in a Kingdom of righteousness. Along with that, His stories tell  those listening what will happen to Him. Of course those stories only made sense with the benefit of hindsight after the resurrection, but it is another sign of the power and authenticity of Jesus that He would be able to correctly foretell His own fate, when so much rested on those who opposed Him. Clearly fulfilling these prophecies could not be the work of a manipulative deceiver! And Jesus wins every argument, leaving his opponents lost for words.

The key is having ears to hear, and eyes to see. That is what the disciples had (at least after Jesus was raised from the dead) and what the Pharisees, Sadducees and other leaders did not. But Paul cautions us to recognize that al authority is given by God, and even when the motives are wrong and the outcome is ungodly, we are still to submit to God and to the authorities He has instituted and allowed. Have you ever thought about how God’s plan was fulfilled through all these power-hungry, self-righteous evildoers?!

For the believer there is no cost too great: if submission to authority causes us to suffer, God sees and will bring justice (as well as using the example as a witness to unbelievers). Even if we are killed we win – because we were created for eternal relationship with God, which comes in the Kingdom of Heaven, not just on this earth in this lifetime.

Have a great day!

Mark.

October 27

October 27

Jesus’ Triumphal Entry — Entering Jerusalem, cleansing the temple, & cursing the fig tree.

Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Matthew 21
Reading 2: Psalm 118:19-29
Reading 3: Zechariah 9:9

God had told His people that their King would come to them riding humbly on a donkey. So imagine the excitement when the people see Jesus coming into Jerusalem in the manner prophesied! Unfortunately the prophecies also mention “the stone the builders rejected” and sure enough, the religious leaders, the wicked farmers of Jesus’ story, reject Him and will shortly kill Him.

Notice that this took place miraculously, but also that the expectations of the crowd were not rooted in God’s plan. That contrast will play out in a roller-coaster of events in the next few days’ readings, but God is in control!

Have a great day!

Mark.

October 26

October 26

Jesus’ Ministry in Jericho — Zacchaeus, the Parable of the Talents, & healing the blind.

Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Luke 19:1-27
Reading 2: Matthew 25:14-30
Reading 3: Mark 10:46-52

As Jesus draws nearer to Jerusalem for the last time, His teaching and actions focus on bearing fruit, showing the change that salvation brings, and being faithful with what God (our master) has entrusted to us.

The lesson is the same in all cases: if you have truly met and known this generous God, it will show in your life. Zacchaeus’ salvation is not really about money – it is about recognizing the harm his sin has done to others. In Zacchaeus’ case, that involved paying back what he had stolen. This is a lesson about making it right; showing that salvation has truly turned my life around.

And the servants entrusted with money (which is not their own) have to give account for it. Their treatment of what they are given shows their view of the giver. This is a revealing test!

Even Bartimaeus approaches life with the same philosophy: he needs what Jesus has, and he doesn’t deserve it, so he cries out for mercy to the one who can heal him. And of course, as soon as he is specific about what he wants (the ability to live a productive life rather than be dependent on others) Jesus gives him what he needs.

What has God given you, and will the change in your life show how much God has turned it around?

Have a great day!

Mark.

October 25

October 25

Jesus’ Final Trip to Jerusalem — The Parable of the Laborers & the right hand of Jesus.

Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Matthew 20:1-28
Reading 2: Mark 10:31-45
Reading 3: Luke 18:31-34

“Among you it will be different.” Jesus consistently teaches His followers not to expect their lives to resemble the lives of those around them. This is because following Jesus makes us different from those who do not. Our lives belong to Him, our motivation is obedience to God, our power source is His love and grace, and our home is outside this world.

To illustrate this, Jesus tells a story designed to evoke a response of “that’s not fair” from the hearers. This is a refrain any parent is familiar with! But the catch is that truthfully we don’t want fair for ourselves – only for others! If you and I got what we deserved we wouldn’t be here any more!

Then James and John get their mom to ask for the best seats for her boys in the presumed kingdom Jesus will usher in. But that request is short sighted and provokes the ire of the other disciples. That is when Jesus utters those powerful words: “Among you it will be different.”

We are called to lay down our lives for the sake of others. In marriage (which we discussed yesterday) that is the primary characteristic of a godly spouse. In the Church, it is what unites us and what makes us attractive to unbelievers. In the world it is what sets us apart – our willingness to sacrifice ourselves (as Jesus did) for the sake of others.

Have a great day!

Mark.

October 24

October 24

Jesus’ Ministry across the Jordan — Marriage, the rich young ruler, & sacrifices for God.

Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Matthew 19
Reading 2: Mark 10:1-30
Reading 3: Luke 18:15-30

Marriage is a gift from God, a picture of the relationship between Jesus and the Church. It is a holy thing that can only be embraced with the grace of God. The combining of two different creatures (a man and a woman) into one relationship reflects the union of redeemed believers and a sacrificial Savior King. This is the true definition of marriage according to God. The religious leaders were wrong to see it as a contract of convenience, and those who redefine marriage today are also mistaken (albeit with sometimes compassionate motives). Jesus is very clear that God’s standard is far above man’s wisdom. That standard can only be reached by God’s grace.

Likewise children are not to be belittled or sidelined; they have much to teach us about how to come to God and how to receive the grace we need for daily life (including marriage if applicable).

And if anything (even your salary and retirement plan) get in the way of your relationship with God, you have a hard choice to make. Choosing God is never a loss, whatever else you lose in the process!

Have a great day!

Mark.

October 23

October 23

Jesus’ Raising of Lazarus — Jesus raises Lazarus & the Pharisees plot Jesus’ death.

Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: John 11
Reading 2: John 12:9-11
Reading 3: Romans 8:9-11

As the ministry of Jesus approaches its climax, we see the final miraculous “straw” that pushes the religious leaders into murdering Jesus. When Jesus raises Lazarus to life, it shows not only His power, but His love for people, as well as His firm adherence to God’s agenda. And all this in full view of multitudes of people.

All those factors combine to unite the religious leaders in deadly opposition to Jesus. It becomes dangerous for any follower of Jesus to be in Jerusalem, yet many come to faith as a result of the raising of Lazarus. Faith grows where faith is opposed. The Spirit of God gives us life that can never be taken away by murder – we are those who no longer fear death!

Have a great day!

Mark.

October 21

October 21

Jesus’ Teachings on Forgiveness — Jesus teaches on forgiveness & heals 10 lepers.

Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Luke 17
Reading 2: Proverbs 24:16
Reading 3: Psalm 50:22-23

Jesus teaches on forgiveness, setting a higher standard than any human can reach without God’s help. Clearly the intention is to show us we NEED God’s help!
That is why Jesus goes on to teach about faith, and the signs of the coming of the Kingdom. We need God to come to us if we are to live as He commands. Only in Him can we fulfill our calling.
Have a great day!
Mark.

October 20

October 20

Jesus’ Stories about Riches & Wisdom — The unjust steward, the rich man, & Lazarus.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Luke 16

Reading 2: 1 Corinthians 4:1-5

Reading 3: Deuteronomy 15:7-11

Jesus has a surprising amount to say about money, for a man who likely never had any income and certainly had no savings.

But unlike an impoverished person today, Jesus is not obsessed with money. It’s as though He understands that money is an idol for so many of us, obstructing our view of God and our path to salvation.

Jews had known from the earliest decades of their nation that God was on the side of the poor (and that they should join Him in caring for those who had less). But by the time of Jesus the powerful were the rich, and they had all kinds of schemes to hold on to their money rather than share it with those in need. Does that sound like today? Then maybe what Jesus says in that setting applies to you and me too?!

Don’t allow money (or the lack of it) to takes your eyes away from Jesus. Focus wholeheartedly on Him, and all other needs will step into their rightful places.

Have a great day!

Mark.