October 7

October 7

Jesus’ Sending of More Disciples: Sending 70+ more, the Good Samaritan, & Mary/Martha.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Luke 10

Reading 2: Matthew 9:35-38

Reading 3: Matthew 6:25-34

 

 

Have you ever felt out of your depth spiritually? God has challenged you to step out and you know you are beyond your own capacity? That must have been how the 72 felt. They would have been following Jesus for a while, and even seeing the 12 apostles doing the ministry alongside Jesus (with varying degrees of success). They probably said “Amen” when Jesus told His followers to ask the Lord of the abundant harvest to send out workers into the harvest (Matthew 9). But now, they find themselves commissioned and sent to be the answer to their own prayers!

This is an insight into God’s preferred method of working: get us into situations where we are out of our depth, so that the results depend on God, and we are stretched to rely on His power, not our own. Reflect for a moment on this truth: because you are a follower of Jesus, you are called to re-present Him in your daily life, guided by the Holy Spirit.

And to keep us humble when God does great things through us, Jesus encourages us to remember that we will be part of heaven’s multitude one day, where ALL the glory will go to God, and we will be part of the eternal party celebrating His power and victory.

Now if you are wondering who to go to, as you bring God’s good news to those around you, the next story is for you. The short version of the Good Samaritan is that helping someone is the highest form of neighborly love, even if that person is the complete opposite of you. If Christ followers would embrace this principle, we could heal the scars of racism and injustice rapidly, and be seen to be so radical in our love, that radical hate would have nowhere to hide.

And speaking of hiding, that may have been what Martha was doing when she tried to create a fine feast for Jesus and the disciples: hiding behind her cooking skills. Mary by contrast was willing to be seen as “lazy” and “uncaring” by listening to Jesus in preference to being busy. Mary was commended for her brave choice.

So don’t hide behind efforts to impress; instead step out and show the world that Jesus is Lord, by doing all that God tells you to do (even if it is impossible)!

Have a great day!

Mark.

October 6

October 6

Jesus Answers The Disciples’ Questions: Jesus on children, offenses & forgiveness.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Matthew 18

Reading 2: Psalm 131

Reading 3: Deuteronomy 19:15

 

After yesterday’s focus on Peter’s lack of understanding of God’s ways, today we take a wider view and see how all the disciples misunderstood God’s priorities. But along with correction (such as showing them a kindergartner as a model of the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven) Jesus brings some encouraging truths. God the Father will not stop until lost ones are found. We have authority to forbid and permit events on earth, and heaven will agree.

And then He moves on to answer a question arising from another of Peter’s mistaken understandings! Peter probably thought he was doing well suggesting he could forgive someone seven times. Most of us would stop after three or four attempts! But Jesus raises the bar out of reach: seventy-seven or seventy times seven! (Some scholars even say seven to the seventieth power). His point is not that forgiveness is impossible, but that forgiveness can only be a gift from God, just as we could never earn millions of dollars to repay a huge debt, so we depend on God’s kindness to forgive us our sin.

And having been forgiven, let’s not make the same mistake as the servant in Jesus’ story and fail to forgive a much lesser debt owed to us by another. Unforgiveness leads to bondage and torment. Forgiveness is simply passing on to those who have wronged us a little of the fortune we have been freely given.

Why not take a moment to reflect on the magnitude of God’s forgiveness in your life, then give some of that treasure away in the form of forgiveness to another?

Have a great day!

Mark.

October 5

October 5

Jesus’ Transfiguration: Peter’s experience on the mountain and his comments on scripture.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Matthew 17

Reading 2: Luke 9:27-45

Reading 3: 2 Peter 1:16-21

 

Yesterday we saw Peter going from commended and commissioned “On this foundation I will build…” to corrected and contradicted “get behind me satan…”

Today we see another dramatic interaction between God and Peter, which again results in Peter being firmly put in his place!

It is so encouraging to see that the apostles were human and prone to wild swings of belief – full of faith one moment and directly opposing God’s purposes the next! And through it all, Jesus loves His followers and teaches them patiently about the Father, the Kingdom, and the future.

Peter has so many “pendulum swing” experiences that he is an inspiration to those of us who are deeply aware of our own failings in following Jesus! At the end of today’s main chapter, he even catches a fish with his tax money in its mouth. That’s a humorous way for God to provide for an impetuous former fisherman whose insecurity shines through at every opportunity!

Many times it seems that Peter, along with his fellow disciples, was clueless about what Jesus was teaching them. Yet all these experiences wrote deeply on Peter’s heart, changing him over time. When he came to write his second letter, he described the same prophecies that he had not understood earlier as: “lights shining in the darkness, until the day dawns and Christ shines in your hearts”

Clearly, the reversals and the corrections bore fruit – Peter knew the light of Jesus shining in his heart. How about you and I today? What correction will we receive? Where will we discover we have misunderstood God? How will the light of Jesus shine brightly in our lives?

Have a great day!

Mark.

October 4

October 4

Jesus’ ministry at Caesarea Philippi: Peter’s confession and the promise of the Church.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Matthew 16:13-28

Reading 2: 1 John 4:14-16

Reading 3: Philippians 2:5-11

 

So far, Jesus has only told one person that He IS the Messiah (the Samaritan woman at the well). He has been giving enough indications that anyone who has a heart to figure out who he is, will be prompted to do so by God the Father.

And that is exactly what happens when the apostles get their first “pop quiz” – “Who do you say that I am?” Peter has the heart for God, and the bluntness, to say what the others are thinking: “You are the Messiah.”

So it is the work of God in a person’s heart that causes them to recognize and accept Jesus as the Messiah. Trying to convince someone by argument alone is unfruitful. Trusting God to reveal Himself unilaterally can sometimes work, but ultimately the combination of consistent witness to God’s love, demonstration of God’s power, and God’s work in a person’s heart, combine to bring a person to faith. Keep that model in mind as you pray for friends and relatives who have not yet found a living relationship with Jesus: it is most effective to pray for God’s working (and trust Him to do that while you humbly live as a believer, serving them as described in Philippians 2). Often our persuasion and challenge can be a hindrance to a loved-one encountering God!

Now a word about Peter’s confession, and Jesus’ response: church tradition has taught that Peter is the first leader of the Church, and that the authority to choose who enters the Kingdom of heaven belongs to him, but that is a misunderstanding of what Jesus said. Contradicting this position is another mistaken interpretation: that Jesus used the Greek word petros (little rock) for Peter, and the Greek word petra (big rock) for the foundation of the Church. This interpretation then uses logic to say Peter cannot have been the first Pope, and guardian of heaven’s gateway, because the two words are different.

Neither of these interpretations do justice to the text: Jesus says clearly that Peter will be the foundation of the Church, because he has a revelation from God that Jesus is the Messiah. In Acts 2:38 Peter fulfills this promise when he answers the question “what shall we do to be saved?” He literally begins the Church by giving instruction based on his revelation from God and his experience of the teaching of Jesus.

And the promise that Peter will also be the keeper of the keys of the kingdom/church is also fulfilled when he tells his hearers in Acts 2 to “repent and be baptized” – he is showing them the doorway to relationship with God.

So the promises to Peter are based on his receiving the revelation that Jesus is the Christ (Messiah), and the revelation is the foundation for his role in the Church. So you and I likewise can follow in Peter’s footsteps, by faith and revelation; accept Jesus ourselves, and point others to repentance and faith.

Have a great day!

Mark.

October 3

October 3

Jesus’ Warning to Apostles — Feeding the 4000, false doctrine & a two-phase healing.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Mark 8:1-26

Reading 2: Matthew 16:1-12

Reading 3: 1 Timothy 4:13-16

The more Jesus does signs, the more people want to see the signs He does. This is hardly surprising in a subsistence economy where Jesus can make food feed everyone! The word of a free lunch spreads quickly.

This also threatens the religious leaders, who can see how easily a teacher with power will draw followers away from their finely-tuned religion of self-effort and rule-keeping.

So Jesus warns His followers not to be taken in by the yeast (gas-producing, almost invisible, yet powerful influence) of the Pharisees. Every observant Jew was familiar with the concept of removing yeast because this was a key component of preparations for the Passover – an analogy for sin. Removal of yeast symbolizes purification and holiness, and an exodus from bondage.

Now it is God’s Word that purifies us, starting with the verbal instruction of Jesus to avoid the yeast infection of self-effort, and continuing into all the scriptures, as Paul instructs Timothy to teach God’s Word to his people, so that they will join him in staying true to the message (and freedom) of Jesus.

How is God’s Word setting you free today?

Have a great day!

Mark.

October 1

October 1

Jesus’ Confrontation with the Pharisees — The Pharisees, a Greek woman, & a deaf-mute.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Mark 7

Reading 2: Matthew 15:1-31

Reading 3: Isaiah 29:13-14

It seems astonishing from our perspective that the Pharisees and other religious leaders could be so hard-hearted and blind! But in their day they set the rules and enforced them – a recipe for self-blinding rule making.

We think we would never be like that, when in fact it is all too easy to make the same mistakes. By contrast the Greek woman wanted God’s supernatural intervention and was prepared to even argue with Jesus to get it. Her faith dismantled rules rather than slavishly following them as the Pharisees did.

So for us – do we let what we “know” blind us to what God is doing? Or do we diligently seek Him for all we need?

Have a great day!

Mark.