September 14

September 14

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 13

September 13

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 12

September 12.

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 put it – 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 10

September 10

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 9

September 9

Jesus’ Ministry Grows — Jesus’ baptisms grow & 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 8

September 8

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.

September 7

September 7

Jesus’ First Miracle — A wedding runs out of wine (i.e. joy) & Jesus turns water to wine

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: John 2:1-12

Reading 2: Isaiah 24:11

Reading 3: John 13:1

Jesus constantly reveals the Father, and His actions were in obedience to Father’s voice. Thus today’s readings show us our own condition as well as God’s heart for us. The wedding runs out of wine (which was not only a great shame on the family for failing to provide for their guests, but also a disappointment to all present).

Just as the bride and groom’s joy was temporarily halted by the embarrassment of running out of wine, so we often experience a gap between our aspirations and our achievements. Whether in a simple task, or in the whole of life, it is common to find that what we hope for is beyond the reach of what is.

Well Jesus is willing to step in to these situations, even though it may not be His time to shine. What does He do? He transforms the mundane into the delightful. In this case large water pots prepared for ritual washing become gallons of fine wine.

Never let anyone convince you Jesus is a kill-joy. Even the professional bartender was impressed by the quality of Jesus’ wine! And so the joy was not only restored, but exceeded. What will Jesus do with the ordinary disappointments of your life or mine? Let’s tell Him about them and then follow Mary’s advice to the servants: “Do whatever He tells you.”

Have a great day!

Mark.

September 6

September 6

Jesus’ First Disciples — John the Baptist points people to Jesus the Lamb of God.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: John 1:15-51

Reading 2: Deuteronomy 18:15-19

Reading 3: 1 Peter 1:18-19

There is power in testimony. Today we see the power of John the Baptist’s testimony about Jesus: it points people to the Messiah, and challenges the religious system. Then Jesus’ first disciples tell their testimony of encountering the Messiah, and their friends are drawn to Him too.

Moses promised a voice like John’s, centuries before. The reason was that the people did not want to hear directly from God, in the same way as the religious leaders at the time of Jesus.

Today, we have the privilege of a relationship with Jesus, the Lamb of God; how does that impact our testimony to those around us?

Have a great day!

Mark.

September 5

September 5

Jesus’ Temptation — A 40-day fast, the Bible, & three types of temptation (flesh/eyes/pride).

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Matthew 4:1-11

Reading 2: Deuteronomy 8:1-3

Reading 3: 1 John 2:15-16

There are three types of temptation to which humanity is susceptible. These are described by the Apostle John as physical appetites (or pleasures), lust for what we see (which is an inability to be satisfied with God whom we cannot see), and pride in our own achievements and possessions.

Jesus faced all these temptations and overcame them by trusting God and His Word. This is a strategy you and I can use in our own battles with temptation.

Notice also that the 40 days Jesus went without food reflect the 40 years Israel wandered in the wilderness while God sought to cleanse them of their sin and teach them to overcome temptation. By winning the battle in 40 days, Jesus fulfills God’s purpose in the 40 years. And He will complete the good work He has begun in us.

Have a great day!

Mark.

September 3

September 3

Jesus’ Baptism — John the Baptist’s ministry & honor of baptizing Jesus.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Matthew 3

Reading 2: Luke 3:1-23

Reading 3: Isaiah 40:3-5

Each day we read of more prophetic fulfillments from centuries before, but today we also read of the current prophecies of John the Baptist.

Jesus’ cousin was called by God to prepare the way for the Messiah. His ministry was powerful and life-changing, yet he had no illusions of grandeur. John knew his place, and willingly kept to it, making his words and deeds all the more powerful.

He knows who Jesus is, and would have known  the promises surrounding the Messiah throughout the history of the Jewish people. Now promises come to fulfillment, and John has the privilege of being a vital part of what God is doing: baptizing Jesus and prophesying that He will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. Notice too that the Father joins in with His own affirmation of Jesus; words that you and I can personalize since we are in Christ.

You and I have our own part to play in God’s Story – a part only we can fulfill. Let’s be as faithful as John to boldly take our place in the picture, secure in Father God’s affirmation, whilst ensuring that Jesus gets all the glory.

Have a great day!

Mark.