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 16

September 16

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 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.

 

September 13

September 13.

Jesus Healing in Jerusalem — Jesus heals at a feast & claims to be God

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: John 5

Reading 2: John 8:56-59

Reading 3: John 10:29-33

It is impossible to be half-hearted about Jesus! He does not leave us that option. His claims about His relationship with God and His authority to do God’s will means that either He is deluded, or He is trying to deceive, or He is telling the truth. As C.S. Lewis wrote: “Jesus is mad, bad, or God”. We cannot realistically hold any other position about Him if we take His words in these passages as true.

A man who heals the sick is hardly evil, and a deluded man would not have such demonstrable power, so the logical conclusion has to be that Jesus is who He says He is. Not a son of God, not a representative of God, but God Himself in human form.

And then we have a challenge – how will we live if we believe this? Clearly it would be folly not to obey the instructions and example of God incarnate.

May you be blessed and encouraged by Jesus’ words today, and live differently knowing that you are a friend of God!

Have a great day!

Mark.

September 12

September 12

Jesus’ Second Miracle — Jesus heals the nobleman’s son & Nazareth rejects Jesus.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: John 4:43-54

Reading 2: Luke 4:14-30

Reading 3: Isaiah 61:1-3

Returning to Galilee, because He does not want to become too popular in Judea and Jerusalem where the religious power rules, Jesus performs a second miracle – healing a government official’s son. Then, in the local synagogue, He is handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah and reads from the portion we now label Chapter 61. He declares that a Messianic prophecy has been fulfilled by His declaring the good news (in other words He tells them he is the Messiah) but they see too clearly with their own understanding. “This is just Joseph’s son” they say, and so they will not believe what he tells them. This contrasts with the government official (likely a Gentile Roman) who believed Jesus’ promise that his son would be healed.

So Jesus tests the people of Nazareth by reminding them that God often works more with outsiders than insiders. This infuriates them and they seek to kill Him, but His power is greater and He walks away.

Whenever Jesus is doing miracles we have a choice – accept or reject these visible evidences of God’s loving power. If we will believe then anything is possible. Unbelief (by contrast) will lead us in unwelcome directions.

Have a great day!

Mark.

September 11

September 11

Jesus’ Ministry Grows — Jesus’ baptisms increase & the Samaritan woman at the well.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: John 3:22-36

Reading 2: John 4:1-42

Reading 3: 2 Kings 17:24-41

Today we have two life lessons in our readings. First: success is a gift from God, and competition is not part of His plan for us. And second: God’s heart is to find and save those who are confused about Him, setting their theology right in the process.

The success test is a hard one for John – it appears that Jesus is more successful than him, yet he knows it is supposed to be this way. The Son of God brings the free gift of eternal life, and so it is inevitable that those who are hungry for God’s life will follow Him rather than an earthly forerunner who has less to offer. It is a question of how much the Holy Spirit can work in a person’s life. Jesus has the Spirit of God without limit. We face this test in our own lives – how will we respond when God seems to bless others more than us? Here’s a hint about the right response: rejoice, and thank God that He is working in the lives of people!

And to show us how God works in the lives of people, Jesus picks the disqualified (by Jewish religious standards) and reveals Himself plainly as the Messiah. We read in 2 Kings 17 why the Samaritans were despised – they came from pagan lands and were resettled in God’s land by the invading king of Babylon. Even when they were taught how to worship God in spirit and in truth, they mixed in their own pagan practices. When God forbids this it is for our own good. You can’t mix gasoline and diesel and expect your car to run. Some mixtures cause terrible damage, and that is why God forbids them. Following the creator’s instructions is freedom, not restriction.

And following those instructions, Jesus goes to a Samaritan woman who is living unmarried with a man who would otherwise be her sixth husband. Clearly she has not followed God’s instructions, yet Jesus reaches out to her. God cares for the most lost. The woman moves from surprised to defensive to believing through the conversation with Jesus, and becomes a powerful evangelist (one who brings good news) to her people. Many of them come to faith in Jesus as the Messiah as a result.

So two challenges for us today: will we renounce competition with our brothers and sisters, rejoicing in their success when God works through them? And who will we reach out to, across cultural divides or societal rejection, and offer living water?

Have a great day!

Mark.

September 9

September 9

Jesus’ Passover at Jerusalem — Cleansing the temple, Nicodemus, & being born again.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: John 2:13-25

Reading 2: John 3:1-21

Reading 3: 1 Peter 1:23

Throughout Jesus’ ministry there are clear signs of the purpose of His life. Although these indications were too unexpected for most to understand while Jesus was alive, we who follow have the benefit of a record which specifies God’s plan as The Story unfolds.

Today, after cleansing the Temple to remove self-interest from worship, Jesus teaches Nicodemus  about the new birth that is possible through the crucifixion and resurrection. Although he is puzzled, Nicodemus is clearly hungry for this eternal life, and later chapters strongly imply that he received it.

And we can do the same as Jesus – whenever we encounter someone who sees the life of God in us, we can offer them what we have: new birth into eternal life.

Have a great day!

Mark.