September 26

September 26.

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 24

September 24

Jesus’ Ministry at Sea of Galilee — Jesus heals a daughter & a hemorrhaging woman.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Luke 8:41-56

Reading 2: Mark 5:21-43

Reading 3: Matthew 9:14-38

After the worst leadership retreat in history (yesterday’s trip across the lake in a storm to meet a demoniac) Jesus brings His disciples back to the other side of the lake.

Here they learn a lesson about God at work in interruptions. A woman with a hemorrhage stops Jesus on His way to the synagogue leader’s home where his daughter is dying. During the interaction with the woman, the little girl dies, but the woman is miraculously healed.

After the delay Jesus has a different viewpoint on the girl’s need than that of the crowd. They know she is dead (and are wailing in mourning in response). He says she is merely asleep, and removes the faithless from the gathering before restoring her to life. News of this miracle sweeps the Galilean region, and as a result two blind men receive their sight and another demoniac is set free, restoring his ability to speak.

All these signs of God’s power lead Jesus to say “the harvest is great, but the workers are few”.

How can you answer God’s call to work in His great harvest by bringing His freedom to others?

Have a great day!

Mark.

 

September 23

September 23

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 22

September 22

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 21

September 21

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 20

September 20

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 19

September 19

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.

Have a great day!

Mark.

September 17

September 17

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 16

September 16

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 15

September 15

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.