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Monday, October 31, 2016

Spiritual Preparedness (Luke 21:34-35)

"Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth."

Jesus uses numerous stories and parables to illustrate spiritual preparedness in the last days. He actually names three deterrents to preparedness or watchfulness: "Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap".

Dissipation - the indulgence of extravagant and intemperate (no self-control) pleasures or the delving into immoral pleasure. Dissipation includes the excessive enjoyment of: food, sexual pleasure, sporting activities (participatory or non-participatory), surfing the Internet, shopping, hobbies, etc. (none of which are bad in and of themselves) and exploration of immoral behavior (pornography, illicit sex, drugs etc.).

Drunkenness - the use of anything (drugs, alcohol, etc.) to stimulate enjoyment or to numb pain. Under the influence of anything that blurs spiritual vision.

Anxieties of life - This includes anything that you should pray about but don't (child rearing, finances, aging, job, politics, elections, etc.) so you live in a state of worry and anxiety.

A "weighed down" heart needs to lose weight. Just as exercise and self-restraint shed unneeded pounds so they prepare us to live life on high alert or in a stated of readiness. Oswald Chambers sums up this need for discipline in his book Not Knowing Where (p. 102-3):

"You must discipline yourself now, if you do not, you will ruin your life for God. . . . People go wrong spiritually because they stubbornly refuse to discipline themselves physically, mentally or in any other way, and after a while they become that most contemptible and objectionable thing, a petted man or woman, and their own greatest cause of suffering."

Self-denial is not popular in America where there is always something new to be had. The lust for things handicaps ones ability to develop watchfulness and prepare for the coming kingdom of heaven.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Mark 13:24-31; Matthew 24:29-35; Luke 21:5-38

  • What is the lesson of the fig tree?
  • How will anyone escape all that will come upon the earth?
Mark 13:32-37; Matthew 24:36-51
  • Why is watchfulness so important?
  • How does one practice watchfulness?
  • What characterizes the lives of those who lived prior to the flood?
  • How does God reward His watchful servants?
  • What are the consequences of not being watchful?
Matthew 25:1-13
  • What characterizes the five foolish virgins? the five wise virgins?
  • What is the consequence of not being prepared?
Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 19:11-27
  • What is the major difference between the three servants?
  • What is the consequence of investing your life well? not investing well at all?
  • How does each servant view the master?
  • Why do the subjects hate the king?
  • What does this tell you about people?
Turning truth into prayer
Ask the Lord to reveal your state of spiritual preparedness.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

God's Desire For His People (Matthew 23:37)

"How often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing."

Many, after reading the Old Testament, conclude that God is distant, aloof, and more than a little scary. He is not. The problem lies not with God but with man.

The Bible often uses word pictures to describe God's love and care for His people. Today's reading begins with such a picture of the longing heart of God for His people. Three truths about God's heart for His people emerge from this analogy:
  • The desire of God for His people is continual - "How often." Beginning in the Garden of Eden, God seeks those who run away and hide from Him; every generation since has a few, a remnant, who respond to His love. Even today His eyes are roving throughout the earth looking for those whose hearts are loyal toward Him (2 Chron. 16:9).
  • The desire of God for His people is deep - "I have longed." Jerusalem herself stands today as mute testimony to God's abiding desire for her residents. God seems almost stubborn in His unwillingness to give up having the intimacy for which He so longs with mankind.
  • The desire of God for His people is redemptive - "To gather you." As a mother hen offers the safety and warmth of her bosom so the Lord's heart expresses itself in the cross of Jesus Christ. God's love can never remain stagnant but moves purposely and redemptively toward mankind.
This astonishing picture-- the king weeping over an errant city longing to restore it to Himself-- perfectly displays the heart of the Father toward His own children. Even today the Lord laments with longing for His children to return to Him willingly.

To know the heart of God in intimacy (not just head knowledge) is to know His heart for people and to run, unafraid and boldly, into His outstretched arms.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading
Mark 12:41-44; Luke 21:1-4
  • Is the poor widow aware of Jesus' evaluation of her gift?
  • Why does Jesus point out the difference of the offerings of the wealthy with the offering of the widow to His disciples?
  • What does this teach them about giving? the wealthy?
Mark 13:1-23; Matthew 24:1-28; Luke 21:5-24
  • What warning do each of these texts give?
  • How will what takes place in the end times affect the family?
  • What are the "birth pains" indicating the last days?
  • How does Jesus describe the elect?
  • How will the elect be treated?
  • What will take place that will deceive so many?
  • What does Jesus promise those who remain faithful?
Turning truth into prayer:
Are you soft and unprepared to go through difficult times? Ask the Lord to place an urgency in your heart to better prepare so that you'll be able to stand fast during the last days. Be prepared to take steps of radical obedience.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Whose Wife is She Anyway? (Mark 12:26)

"Now about the dead rising--have you not read in the book of Moses, in the account of the bush, how God said to him, 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?" (Mark 12:26)

The Sadducees spent their lives debating the doctrine of resurrection; they were sad, you see because physical death was the end of the life line for them. The answer to their question "Whose wife was she who had buried seven husbands who were all brothers?" summarized their unbelief. For them confusion accompanies the belief in the resurrection so they chose to discard the belief altogether. It is natural, therefore, for man to discard what he can't understand or what requires faith.

Is there life after death? Does it really matter? You bet!

Just as the fire that fell from heaven demonstrated God's acceptance of the special offerings of the Old Testament so the resurrection put God's "stamp of approval" on the life ministry and death of Jesus Christ.
  • The resurrection proves that God has accepted Jesus' sacrificial death on my behalf.
  • The resurrection of Jesus is the seal of His work and the assurance that we don't have to fear death.
Because He rose from the dead we know, we who trust in Him, will also experience resurrection, "That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved" (Romans 10:9). Because He rose from the dead we know we shall arise; so, we don't have to be sad, you see.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Mark 12:18-27; Matthew 22:23-33; Luke 20:27-40
  • Read Deuteronomy 25:5-10 describing the "Levirate Marriage Law" to get a context for the Sadducees' controversy.
  • Genesis 38 describes this "Levirate Marriage Law" actually carried out.
  • What does Jesus interpret their question regarding the resurrection?
  • What Scripture does God use to correct their faulty understanding?
Mark 12:28-34; Matthew 22:34-40; Luke 10:25-28
  • What does the teacher's response to Jesus' answer to his question reveal to you about love for God?
  • What attributes of love for God do the Pharisees insist upon?
Luke 10:29-37
  • How does this parable illustrate the love for God?
  • How does the response of the religious leaders differ from that of the Samaritan?
Mark 12:35-37a; Matthew 22:41-46; Luke 20:41-44
  • What question does Jesus use to "stump" the teachers of the law?
  • What is He teaching them about the Messiah?
Matthew 23:1-36; Mark 12:37b-40; Luke 20:45-47
  • How does this narrative fit in with what Jesus has been teaching about those who love God?
  • What drives the religious activity of the Pharisees?
  • How does Jesus describe the Pharisees in the list of the seven condemning "woes" given? 
  • Why does Jesus warn His disciples about the Pharisees?
Turning truth into prayer
Ask the Lord to make you aware of when you play "religious dress-up" so that others will think well of you.

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Use of Flattery (Mark 12:14)

"They came to him and said, "Teacher, we know you are a man of integrity. You aren't swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are, but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth."

Flattery - excessive and insincere praise

The Pharisees use flattery to frame their entrapment. "Teacher, we know you are a man of integrity. You aren't swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance to the truth." Then they proceed with their agenda of asking Jesus a "gotcha" question, which they specialize in. Jesus, in His infinite wisdom, answers their question without the use of flattery by simply asking them a question, "Why are you trying to trap me?"

Solomon warns people about the use of flattery:
  • Immoral women use flattery (Proverbs 6:24; 7:21)
  • "Do not associate with one who flatters with his lips" (Proverbs 20:19)
  • "A flattering mouth works ruin" (Proverbs 26:28)
  • Rebuke succeeds where flattery does not (Proverbs 28:23)
  • Flatterers set word-nets to catch others (Proverbs 29:5)
The Psalmist describes those who flatter with their tongue "For there is no faithfulness in their mouth; their inward part is destruction; their throat is an open tomb; they flatter with their tongue" (Psalm 5:9).

Flattery reveals a heart of manipulation and exploitation. Beware of using flattery to manipulate others AND beware of those who use flattery.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Mark 11:27-33; Matthew 21:23-27; Luke 20:1-8
  • What does Jesus' answer to the question regarding his authority tell you about Jesus?
Matthew 21:28-32
  • What does this parable teach about obedience?
Mark 12:1-12; Matthew 21:33-46; Luke 20:9-19
  • Who do the following people in this parable represent?

Renters/tenants -
Servants -
Landowner -
Son -
  • What does this parable teach the people about what God has been doing all along throughout their history and how the people have consistently responded?
  • How do those who hear this parable respond to Jesus?
  • Who does Jesus promise will actually receive the kingdom of heaven?
Matthew 22:1-14
  • How does the king in this parable respond to his rejection by his own people?
  • What does this tell you about God?
  • Who do the servants represent? those invited represent? those who actually come represent?
  • What does the king's response to the man dressed inappropriately teach you about God? people?
Mark 12:13-17; Matthew 22:15-22; Luke 20:20-26
  • How do the Pharisees and Herodians approach Jesus?
  • What are they seeking to do?
  • How does Jesus respond?
  • What does this reveal to you about Jesus?
Turning truth into prayer
Ask the Lord to sensitize you to where you use flattery in your own speech.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Step Away From the Crowd (Mark 11:9-10)

"Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,
"Hosanna!" "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"
"Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!"
"Hosanna in the highest!"

Aren't crowds great? One minute the crowd shouts out "Hosanna!" and the next week they cry out "Crucify Him!" Crowds are unreliable; one minute they praise you only to curse you the next.

Success thrives on moving the crowd but can the response of the crowd be trusted? Just because they are a large group doesn't mean they are a deep group yet modern Christianity gauges success by the largeness of the crowd. Jesus spoke to large crowds but He concentrated on small groups and individuals as He looked for hearts of faith. Individuals of faith stand out and won't generally belong to the crowd.

Fickle followers hide within large groups where accountability and transparency are absent. They are easily swayed by the group opinion and charismatic leaders and swept away into making decisions they may live to regret.

Truths from the Gospels about crowds:
  • Herod feared to kill John the Baptist right away because of the crowd's respect for John the Baptist (Matthew 14:5)
  • The crowds, with their desperate needs, attracted the compassion of Jesus Christ (Matthew 14:14)
  • Jesus fed large crowds (Matthew 15:32)
  • Large crowds are easily swayed; they were persuaded to exchange Barrabas' death for Jesus'
  • Judas "joined the crowd" (Mark 14:43; Luke 19:39)
  • Pharisees hid in the crowd (Luke 22:47)
  • The multitudes follow those whom they perceive will meet their immediate needs (John 6:2)
Want some perspective? Step away from the crowd.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Luke 19:1-10
  • How does this narrative about Zacchaeus demonstrate Jesus' teaching on rich men and the eye of the needle? And entering the kingdom with the attitude of a child?
  • What does Jesus do that the Pharisees would never do?
Mark 11:1-11; Matthew 21:1-11; Luke 19:28-44; John 12:12-19
What does this narrative teach about the:
  • The Scriptures -
  • The crowds -
  • Jesus -
  • The Pharisees -
  • the disciples -
Mark 11:12-25; Matthew 21:12-22; Luke 19:45-48
  • Why do the chief priests and teachers look for a way to kill Jesus?
  • Why wasn't the temple a house of prayer?
  • How does Jesus demonstrate the power of prayer?
  • What is happening at the temple that infuriates the the chief priests and teachers?
Turning truth into prayer
God may speak to a crowd of people through the proclamation of the Word but He mainly speaks to individuals through prayer and the Word. Be a person of private devotion. Ask the Lord to enrich your time you spend with Him by making it deep and then wide.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Blind Bartimaeus and Caring What Others Think (Mark 10:46-47)

"Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (that is, the Son of Timaeus) was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" (Mark 10:46-47)

Blind Bartimaeus heard plenty of stories about this man from Galilee who healed people and only dreamed of having an encounter with Jesus. So, when he hears the noise of the crowd and the news of Jesus' presence he shouted so loudly that he made a real spectacle of himself. Need has a way of doing that.

Bartimaeus had a lot to overcome as the crowd warned him to "shut up":
  • Pride (willing to make a spectacle of himself to get Jesus' attention by shouting even louder)
  • Passivity (easier just to sit down, shut up and resume a life of begging)
  • Public opinion (ignore the unkind and uncaring crowd of people)
  • Persistence (unwilling to be way-laid in his mission by anyone or anything)
Pride, passivity, public opinion, and persistence keep a lot of people from coming to Jesus and receiving life from Him. Our lives drastically change when we care no longer what others think of us in our pursuit of Christ.

It's a good thing Bartimaeus continued his shouting. Little did he know that there would be no other opportunity. This would be the last time Jesus passed through Jericho. And the crowd? They later shouted, "Crucify Him!" 

Only eternity will show how many others gave up getting to Jesus because they couldn't get through that crowd (or any other crowd of people). Only eternity will reveal how many people today stop short of receiving from God because they allow the crowd to shut them up. Who cares what they say or think! 

Be blind or shout out to Jesus. Shamelessly. 

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
John 11:17-57
  • What truth does Jesus establish about Himself in this narrative and how does He illustrate this truth?
  • What does Martha confess about Jesus? (Peter is the only other person recorded who makes the same confession. She has come a long way since the argument over her sister's lack of household assistance)
  • How do the Pharisees respond to the resurrection of Lazarus? What are they most concerned about?
  • What does Caiaphas understand about Jesus and His death?
Mark 10:32-45; Matthew 20:17-28; Luke 18:31-34
  • What do the disciples think will take place in Jerusalem? What are they most concerned about?
  • Why do they respond to James and John with indignation?
  • What type of leadership does Jesus model, teach, and expect from His followers?
  • What is the source of selfish ambition (James 3:14-16)?
Mark 10:46-52; Matthew 20:29-34; Luke 18:35-43
  • How does Bartimaeus exhibit faith?
  • What does it cost him to act in faith? (See John 5:44)
  • What does he have to get beyond to get to Jesus?
  • How does the crowd view Bartimaeus? What does this tell you about people?
Turning truth into prayer
Ask the Lord to reveal and cleanse your impure motives. Ask Him to show you where you use the kingdom of God to find personal greatness.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Needle Is Too Small (Mark 10:25)

"It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

Controversy exists regarding the phrase "for a camel to go through the eye of a needle". Some say the word translated camel should be rope; regardless of whether Jesus intended rope or camel neither could hardly go through the delicate eye of a needle!

The question asked by the disciples "Who then can be saved?" and Jesus' answer reveals the nature of salvation. Salvation cannot be earned by even the wealthy. It is a gift to be received, otherwise it is not a gift. If salvation can be earned by the rich (and many Pharisees were wealthy) then the poor are disqualified. With wealth comes privilege and with poverty comes exclusion.

Interpretation depends upon the context. Jesus has been teaching about the nature of the kingdom of God against the backdrop of the Pharisees' religious system. The Pharisees think that their law-keeping and relationship to Abraham qualify them as kingdom people and that their wealth proves their citizenship.

According to the other narratives regarding the kingdom its citizens are childlike (small enough to enter the eye of the needle) in their trust and childlike in their dependence upon the King to provide their every need, including admittance into the kingdom. There's nothing childlike in the Pharisee's behavior. Their largeness (in attitude and demeanor, not physical stature and self-confidence) prohibits their entry into the kingdom.

The disciples however, in their childlike trust, are citizens of the kingdom of God. They have nothing to rely upon for admittance into the kingdom, not social status, wealth, religious experience, etc. but simple trust in Jesus Christ and that simple trust proves they are citizens of heaven's kingdom.

"Blessed are the poor in spirit; theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:3).

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:

Mark 10:23-31; Matthew 19:23-30; Luke 18:24-30
  • Why is it so difficult for rich people to enter the kingdom of God?
  • What does Jesus promise to those who exchange the temporal kingdom for the kingdom of God?
Matthew 20:1-16
  • How do the first workers differ from those following them later in the day?
  • What does the landowner promise subsequent workers?
  • Why do those who've worked less time receive the same wages?
  • What expectation do the first workers have?
  • How do their expectations change throughout the day?
  • What does this tell you about your expectations?
  • What attitude do the first workers have toward the landowner? the final workers have toward the landowner?
John 10:22-11:16
  • Read John 20:30-31 and record John's purpose for writing his gospel.
  • Why do so many still not believe who Jesus is despite seeing His many miracles?
  • How do the people living across the Jordan differ from those on the other side?
  • Why do they believe?
Turning truth into prayer
Riches insulate wealthy people from the reality of their spiritual poverty. Pray for our nation as we experience economic uncertainty. Ask the Lord to use this to get people's attention. Also ask the Lord to help you walk in childlike trust.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Money Reveals Heart Issues (Mark 10:21-22)

"Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said, "Go sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come and follow me." At this the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth."

Jesus obviously wasn't a Southern Baptist! Hardly would any church leader turn away a wealthy man--especially in these days of economic instability and spiraling debt due to expensive building programs.

Wealthy people have many friends. Jesus, however, isn't looking for friends, but followers. Wealthy people who trust Him to meet all of their needs, both physically and spiritually, are rare, but they do exist. This rich man doesn't fall into that small category.

Money creates an illusion of omni-competence. For the rich man to give up his riches means that he must be willing to relinquish:

  • Friendships - "Wealth makes many friends" (Prov. 19:4; 14:20)
  • Temporal security - "The rich man's wealth is his strong city" (Prov. 10:15; 18:11)
  • Protection - "The ransom of a man's life is his riches" (Prov. 13:8)
Money reveals heart issues. So, the issue with the rich man is more than just his money. It is what his money represents. To receive eternal life one must come with both hands open to receive Jesus, His care and provision. It's a trust issue. Will I relinquish my confidence in my ability to meet my needs or will I dare to trust Him to meet my needs?

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
John 9:35-10:21
  • How do the Pharisees treat the healed man?
  • What is the Pharisees' greatest concern?
  • What does the shepherd/flock narrative teach about Pharisees?
  • How do the Pharisees reverse Jesus' and Satan's operations?
  • How do Jesus and the Pharisees differ in their treatment of people?
  • How do the Pharisees demonstrate that they care nothing for the sheep?
  • What divides the listening crowd?
Mark 10:2-12; Matthew 19:3-12; Luke 16:18
  • What is the root cause of divorce?
  • How does God view the marriage relationship?
  • It is important to understand that in those days men could divorce their wives for burning the toast. And it is important to understand that Jesus' teaching protects women!
  • What do the disciples understand about marriage from this teaching (And I don't mean that "it is better not to marry")?
Mark 10:13-16; Matthew 19:13-15; Luke 18:15-17
  • Why do the disciples prohibit people from bringing children to Jesus?
  • What kingdom attitude does Jesus affirm?
Mark 10:17-22; Matthew 19:16-22;Luke 18:18-23
  • What heart-nerve does Jesus touch in the rich man?
  • What does this narrative teach you about riches? the heart?
Turning truth into prayer
Money reveals heart issues. Ask the Lord to show you where your trust is placed.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Legalists Play "Gotcha" (John 8:1-11)

"The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery."

Legalists play "gotcha games" at the expense of others. Imagine being the woman caught in adultery by these Pharisees. They "made her stand before the group". They seemed thrilled to have caught her in the very act and probably presented her half-dressed before Jesus and the growing crowd. Wonder what happened to the man with whom she committed adultery?

The Pharisees caught this woman to catch Jesus. Pointing to the woman, the Pharisees asked, "Moses commanded us to stone such a woman. What do you say?"

Jesus' reply astonished them, "If anyone of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." 
They, in their self-righteousness, lived in denial regarding personal sin and were quite willing to stone this woman. Jesus is the ONLY one without sin, yet He didn't throw a stone at her, nor did he condemn her.

Jesus didn't come to stone or condemn people; He came to redeem guilty sinners.
Unforgiven people are condemned already. All are in need of grace and redemption, including the Pharisees who are blind to their need. Legalists typically are unforgiving people who condemn others but are in need of the same grace and redemption offered by Jesus to guilty sinners.

Legalists (women may be Legalists as well), today, delight in stoning women, not literally, but with words and parameters that Jesus Himself doesn't use.

This narrative makes me think of the words from an old Don Francisco song:
He didn't come to terrify,
To judge or condescend
To call us all His servants
But to lift us as His friends
To save us all from Satan's power
To reign at his right hand
In the little town of Bethlehem,
When God became a man.

The fact that John's Gospel includes this narrative tells us something about God's value of women. The woman leaves the scene forgiven, cleansed, and changed while the religious men just leave--ashamed.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
John 7:53-9:34

  • Who leaves the scene first? What does this tell you about the zeal of youth and the wisdom of the aged?
  • When does Jesus speak to the woman? What does this tell you about Jesus' view of women?
  • Why do the Pharisees not believe Jesus' statement about His relationship with the Father?
  • What do the Pharisees cling to for their salvation?
  • Who does Jesus say are slaves and how are slaves freed?
  • How do the Pharisees deal with Jesus' confrontation and what does this tell you about people who refuse to believe the truth?
  • What do the Pharisees not understand about Abraham?
  • What prompts the blind man to wash the mud from his eyes?
  • What do the Pharisees think caused the blindness of this man?
  • What kind of changes will seeing demand of the formerly blind man?
  • Why are the Pharisees attacking the healed man?
  • What do the Pharisees care most about?
Turning truth into prayer
How do you treat fallen women and people whose lives seem hopeless? The Pharisees and Jesus differed in their treatment of others at every level. Ask the Lord to make you more aware of your attitude toward others. Love is a magnet while legalism and its accompanying condemnation repels and condemns.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Remember Lot's Wife (Luke 17:32)

"Remember Lot's wife!"

Instead of playing the game, Trivia Pursuit, many live lives of trivia pursuit. Lot's wife did and she missed the Big Event. Well, she was a memorable part of the Big Event. The photo on the right captures a salt pillar on the Dead Sea's salty coast to remind us of her vain existence. Is this Lot's wife? No one knows really. She definitely made her mark though, and left a legacy.

Why does Jesus use Lot's wife to illustrate the coming of the kingdom? Let's just imagine together what life must have been like for the wife of a city council member by looking at her Day Timer:

6:45 - Relax over a cup favorite coffee, light a candle for mood enhancement
7:00 - Do a few exercises in your "life is good" tee-shirt
7:30 - Get hubby off to work/check e-mail 
8:00 - Make bed and do light house work (if time allows) 
8:15 - Get dressed for a busy morning of pampering
9:00 - Manicure and pedicure (maybe even a facial, if time allows) 
10:00 - DSW (definitely need another pair of trendy new sandals) 
11:30 - Join some friends for a light lunch and a bit of shopping 
3:00 - Stop by Fresh Market and pick up Southwest stuffed chicken breasts, bread, and a salad for dinner (also snacks for Bunko group which meets later in the evening and trick or treat candy for the grand kids) 
4:30 - Change Face book profile to include photos taken at the ballgame the previous weekend 
5:00 - Google information about tummy tuck procedures 
5:30 - Throw dinner together 
6:00 - Eat dinner with hubby
6:45 - Change into new jeans picked up earlier in the day and set out snacks for Bunko party which starts at 7:00 
10:30 - Check Facebook. Do more research on tummy tuck and laser procedures.
11:30 - Lights out

Did we miss anything? 

Time. Everyone has the same amount. You can waste it, like Lot's wife. 

It's not that Lot's wife was a particularly bad woman, but that God, who created her, wasn't a part of her life at all! She was "alienated from the life of God" and walked "according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the sons of disobedience", and "fulfills the lusts of the flesh and of the mind" (Eph 4:18; 2:3,4). Lot's wife did nothing to prepare for the coming day when she would turn into a pillar of salt. The events of her life were so carefully planned that she had no time to consider her Creator and eventual death. 

Lot's wife could be anyone of us. That's why Jesus used her as an example of what not to be. So, as you go about your day, remember Lot's wife.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading: Luke 17:20-18:14

  • What misconception do the Pharisees have regarding the kingdom of God?
  • Why will many miss the coming of the kingdom?
  • What two things does Jesus teach the disciples about prayer through the parable of the persistent woman?
  • What was the woman seeking from the judge?
  • What does this tell you about Jesus and justice?
  • How does the woman's prayer differ from that of the Legalist?
  • How is it similar to the tax collector's prayer?
John 17:1-52
  • Why do so many, including Jesus' brothers, regard Jesus with animosity and refuse to believe in Him?
  • Why are the Pharisees so afraid of Jesus?
  • What does Jesus offer those who place their trust in Him?
Turning truth into prayer
Is your relationship with Christ one of following rules and regulations or one of Spiritual life? Ask the Lord to open your eyes to all that He is for you in Christ Jesus. "Father, would you give me the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Jesus, open and enlighten the eyes of my understanding that I may know what is the hope of Your calling, what are the riches of the glory of Your inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of Your power toward those who believe" (Ephesians 1:17-19).

Friday, October 21, 2016

Attitude of Ingratitude (Luke 17:15-16)

"One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him--and he was a Samaritan."

Ten men with leprosy received healing from Jesus Christ. Only one man, a Samaritan and non-Jew, returned to thank Jesus. Feeling entitled, the other men, all Jewish, never wrote so much as a "thank you" note. Jesus responds by asking, "Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?"

Jesus seems to equate ingratitude to entitlement.

Like one stroke away from a finished painting many people are one "thank you" note shy of a debased mind in their ingratitude. "Because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened" (Romans 1:21). Ingratitude characterizes those who are just one step away from having a debased mind.

Ingratitude speaks loudly of a degenerate heart. Those who recognize grace and mercy show appreciation; those who feel entitled are demanding and unthankful.
When is the last time you wrote a "thank you" note to someone who did something nice for you? Or spent time simply thanking God for the change in the seasons, freedom to vote and clean drinking water?

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Luke 14:25-16:17
  • How does Jesus' method of gospel engagement differ from methods used today?
  • What demands does Jesus place on those desiring to follow Him?
  • What do the 99 sheep, the 9 coins, and the older brother all have in common?
  • Why does the older son become angry at the return of his brother? What is his main concern?
  • Describe the older son's relationship or attitude toward his father? his brother?
  • What role does wealth have in a person's life?
  • What does your relationship with money have to do with your relationship with God?
  • Why do the Pharisees sneer at Jesus?
  • What does death reveal about Abraham? Lazarus?
  • Will the resurrection of Jesus Christ convince the Pharisees of Jesus' deity?
  • What does faith have to do with forgiveness?
Turning truth into prayer
Ask the Lord to make you aware of when you act out a spirit of entitlement and ingratitude toward Him and toward others.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Right Priorities (Luke 12:22-23)

"Do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food and the body more than clothes" (Luke 12:22-23). 

Advertisers would have people believe that real life is to “live to eat” and “dress up to play.” Their message is as ancient as the serpent's in the Garden of Eden. There Satan deceived Eve into choosing “good” over God and personal autonomy over trust in God. Instead of experiencing the life that Satan promised, “You will know good and evil, and be like God,” Adam and Eve experienced the spiritual death that their disobedience ensured. They chose not to believe that God is good and that His word is true--that they were created to walk with God. They believed that eating from the prohibited tree would give them something better than God. 

Since then, all humanity lives to satisfy self instead of deny self, to succumb to fleshly appetites and ignore the spiritual need of being re-united with the Creator. Therefore, Jesus warned his followers not to focus on their physical needs, but to pursue the life that He gives, “Do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father know that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you” (Luke 12:29-31).

To our world of contemporary convenience, these words may seem strange and out of date, but in Jesus‘ day people could not go to the grocery store; wages were few, and most were poor; and, famines, sickness, and want were abundant. Our wealth weighs us down and robs our souls, while their poverty drove them to listen to the words of the One who could provide. With our bodies sated, we ignore spiritual realities and fulfill Paul’s warning, “Those who mind the flesh cannot please God” (Rom. 8:8). 

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading
Luke 12:22-13:17
  • Why do people worry and what do they mostly worry about?
  • What should prohibit a person from worrying?
  • How does worrying about yourself and your provisions affect your being prepared for the coming of Christ?
  • How does spiritual preparedness affect family relationships?
  • How do people explain natural calamities?
  • What does the teaching of the parable of the fruit tree have to do with preparedness and worrying about provisions? (This passage teaches us that the legalist is more concerned about their interpretation of the 4th commandment than the health of a chronically ill woman)
Luke 13:22-14:24
  • Why do so few take seriously the call to follow Jesus?
  • What makes the way so narrow and difficult?
  • Why are the Pharisees trying to urge Jesus to leave their area?
  • Why are the Pharisees more concerned for the welfare of their oxen than the needs of those around them?
  • How does Jesus' parable of the wedding feast and the great banquet explain why the Pharisees reject Christ?
  • What is the Pharisees' main problem?

Turning truth into prayer
"The pagan world runs after such things and your Father knows that you need them." Ask the Lord to let you see where you act just like the pagan in your pursuits and unbelief.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Bigger Barns (Matthew 13:15-21)

"Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."

Studies show that, although family size is shrinking, homes are larger than ever (from around 1200 sq. feet in 1970 to an average of over 2400 in 2005). We have so much stuff that we need larger homes in which to contain all of our growing accumulations. In fact, the small storage unit business is a rapidly growing business, since people need more room to store their excess. It is so easy to get caught up in "storing up things for yourself" instead of investing in the only things that last forever:

  • The souls of men
  • The Word of God
  • Prayer
You are not your car, jewelry, label in your clothing, address, or 401K (I don't think that is much of a problem anymore in today's economy!). The world values those things and it is easy for followers of Jesus Christ to "get caught up" in the accumulation of things, in consumerism. At some point we must stop and ask ourselves, "How much is enough?" We need to evaluate both our expenditures and our investments. Down sizing may be necessary so that we are able to focus on those things that last forever. John warns in his first epistle that "friendship with the world is enmity with God".

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Luke 10:21-24; Matthew 11:25-27

  • Why does the Father hide spiritual truth from the wise and learned and reveal the same to little children?
Matthew 11:28-30
  • How does Jesus describe Himself and what does He desire to do for those who come to Him?
  • Why do people refuse to come to Jesus and to what instead do they typically turn?
Luke 10:38-11:13

  • How do the sisters differ in their choices and what kind of problem does this cause?
  • Why do Jesus' disciples ask Him to teach them to pray?
  • How does Jesus explain or illustrate what should characterize our prayers?
  • What view of God drives bold prayers?
Luke 11:27-12:21
  • What does Jesus look for in people?
  • What causes the Ninevites to repent?
  • How does the story about Solomon and the Queen of Sheba apply to the crowds of people?
  • How does Jesus explain the necessity of spiritual sight?
  • What are Pharisees most concerned about?
  • What is the key of knowledge that Jesus refers to?
  • How are the Pharisees similar to their forefathers and what is it about Jesus that makes the Pharisees so furious?
  • Why does Jesus give such a stern warning about hypocrisy?
  • What drives hypocrisy?
  • Why does Jesus warn the people about greed?
Turning truth into prayer
Ask the Lord to reveal to you areas in your life where you need to downsize in order to focus more fully on the Word of God, the souls of men and prayer.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Go Fishing (Matthew 17:27)

"But so that we may not offend them, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours" (Matthew 17:27).

Peter was probably a fairly successful fisherman before Jesus called him to leave his nets and begin fishing for men. Yet, here Jesus instructed Peter to throw out his line, this time for tax purposes. Taxes were due and demanded by the tax collectors. Jesus used fishing to teach Peter about His sovereignty over nature, His provision for His followers, and faith. So, He sent Peter fishing.

Historians say that one-half a drachma would take care of a three-member family for a day and that, roughly, a skilled laborer made about a drachma for a day's labor while an unskilled laborer made one-half a drachma a day. So, this fish has a lot of dough in its mouth. Talk about a front-loaded investment!

Where did the fish find and swallow a four-drachma coin? Maybe a tax collector with a pocket full of coins fell into the water earlier in the day, who knows? Well, Jesus knew and at some point He commanded the fish to hang on to its catch until He had need of it. It is amazing that the fish had enough room in its coin-filled mouth to actually swallow a hook as well.

Jesus is a real King. All resources belong to Him. Even fish obey Him. Struggling with a financial need? With doubt? You've got a King who knows your name and your needs and He has incredible resources. So, if He tells you to go fishing today you'd better go fishing!

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading
Matthew 17:24-27

  • What does Jesus teach Peter about His kingdom? His followers? His provision?
Mark 9:38-41; Luke 9:49-50

  • What does John's statement reveal about John?
  • What does this scenario teach about Jesus and his view of ministry?
Mark 9:42-50; Matthew 18:6-9
  • What does this passage teach about sin and its consequences?
  • How does Jesus illustrate the seriousness of sin?
Matthew 18:10-35
  • What does this parable teach about the heart of God?
  • What process does Jesus give in confronting another person over sin?
  • What does this parable teach about the forgiveness of sin?
  • According to this parable who is the hardest on others?
Mark 10:1; Matthew 19:1-2; Luke 9:51
  • Describe Jesus' relationship with those who come to Him.
Luke 9:52-56
  • How do the disciples respond to the people's rejection of Jesus?
  • How does Jesus respond?
Luke 9:57-62; Matthew 8:18-22
  • How does Jesus respond to those making excuses?
  • What does Jesus look for in His followers?
Luke 10:1-20; Matthew 11:20-24
  • How does Jesus describe the disciples' mission and how will people respond to their mission?
  • How does Jesus re-direct the disciples' focus?
Turning truth into prayer
Are you struggling with unbelief during these days of economic instability? Thank the Lord for His provision and keep your eyes on Him and not the economic situation. He has His fish even today! He is a mighty King.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Who's the Greatest? (Matthew 18:1)

"At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"

We are a competitive bunch. We compete with others in all kinds of ways, especially in the areas of accomplishments and accumulations. One-up-manship. Often we brag on our children for the simple reason that they make us look good. Why? We are concerned with our image. Seeking personal greatness then, is idolatrous: we are creating an image to be admired and adored. Often we are not even aware that we are doing so.

You can't follow Jesus Christ and pursue personal greatness. And, you can't use following Him to obtain personal greatness. Think about the oddness of the disciple's argument and question "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"

Generally greatness is determined by closeness to esteemed leaders. So, who's the closest is also the greatest. A heated discussion ensues.

What prompts the disciple's question? Jesus is at the height of His popularity among the people. And, three of the disciples have just returned from an incredible mountain top experience with Jesus that also included Moses and Elijah. Associating closely to Jesus then, is "heady stuff." Who then, is the greatest disciple? To ask that question is to confront selfish ambition. Selfishly ambitious people compete with others to obtain personal greatness , often at the expense of others.

Jesus measures greatness by service, humility, and the treatment of children. Great people don't typically take time to speak to children or the down trodden. They, like the Levites in Luke 10:25-37, cross over to the other side of the road to avoid those in need--because they are great men.

Real leaders and true greatness are measured by how people treat those "beneath" them, not by the initials or titles following their names. Great leaders don't establish a "pecking order" kept by a carefully maintained rank and seniority awareness; instead, they spend their lives making others successful.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading
Mark 9:2-13; Matthew 17:1-13; Luke 9:28-36

  • Why does Jesus take the three disciples up on the mountain?
  • How does Peter respond to the transfiguration event? What does this tell you about Peter's understanding of things?
  • What does God do that strikes fear into the disciples' hearts?
  • How does Jesus explain the mountain top event?
Mark 9:14-32; Matthew 17:14-23; Luke 9:37-45
  • How does this demonic manifestation differ from those we've read about in the Oct. 10th and 11th readings?
  • Why were the disciples unable to deliver the boy from demons?
  • What authority had God given His disciples in Mark 6:7?
  • Describe the father's response to Jesus.
  • Why does Jesus seek time alone with His disciples? What do they understand about Jesus' mission?
Mark 9:33-37; Matthew 18:1-5; Luke 9:46-48
  • How does Jesus' definition of greatness differ from that of the world's?
  • How does Jesus confront the disciple's argument over greatness?
Turning truth into prayer
Ask the Lord to alert you to where you seek personal greatness in conversations and actions.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

When Jesus Asks Questions (Mark 8:2)

"But what about you? he asked. "Who do you say that I am?"

The first recorded conversation in the Bible is at God's initiation when God asks Adam the question, "Where are you?" Many other stories follow that one with God asking man a question. God typically asks questions to bring man to an admission of guilt or to provoke a response.

Count the number of questions Jesus asks throughout today's reading.

Since Jesus knows everything why does He ask so many questions? What is His goal in asking questions? What does His asking questions force the disciples and others to do?

Jesus asks questions to prompt humility; He asks blind Bartemaus "What do you want me to do for you? He is not eliciting information but requiring a surrender.

Jesus asks questions to expose the human heart. He asks Peter, "Who do you say that I am?" and He asks the Pharisee, "Why are you tempting me?" One question exposed a heart of faith while the other revealed a heart of unbelief.

Jesus asks questions to provoke a confession of faith. Peter answers, "You are the Christ"

As the Spirit speaks to you through the Word, God's questions likewise expose either a heart of faith or a heart of unbelief. The writer of Hebrews warns believers, "Beware brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the Living God (3:12).

As you ask questions of the text, God's Spirit is asking questions of you. Listen closely.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Mark 8:11-3; Matthew 16:1-4
  • How does Jesus treat the Pharisees' and Sadducees' inquiry?
Mark 8:14-21; Matthew 16:5-12
  • Why were the disciples fretting? What is their main problem?
  • Why does Jesus refer the disciples to the miraculous feeding of the 4,000 and the 5,000?
  • If Jesus isn't talking about bread then what is He talking about?
  • What is the yeast of the Pharisees? (Luke 12:1)
Mark 8:22-26
  • How does this healing of the blind man differ from other healings of the blind people in the Gospels?
Mark 8:27-30; Matthew 16:13-20; Luke 9:18-21; John 6:60-71
  • We know that Jesus knows all things. Why, then, does He ask the disciples what the people are saying about His identity?
  • What does Peter's answer tell you about Jesus' goal in asking this question regarding Jesus' identity?
  • What do the disciples find so difficult to comprehend? You may want to refresh your memory by reviewing the end the October 14th reading.
Mark 8:31-9:1; Mathew 16:21-28; Luke 9:22-27
  • What transition begins to take place in Jesus' ministry?
  • What is behind Peter's assessment of the situation? What does this tell you about the enemy?
  • How does Jesus describe the cost for those who will follow Him from this day forward?
  • What does Jesus promise those listening to the sound of His voice?
Turning truth into prayer
Ask the Lord to show you where you have been minding the things of man rather than the things of God.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Born That Way (Mark 7:21-23)

"He went on: "What comes out of a man is what makes him 'unclean.' For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man 'unclean.'"

Which is worse: sexual sin, murder, or pride? We are quick to grade what God equates. It is amazing how we pridefully sanitize some sin while vilifying others. Each of us enters this world with a capacity and propensity to act selfishly and to pridefully categorize our particular sins as better or worse than those of others.

For instance, no one can make you angry, lust or lie. Circumstances (both good and bad) simply offer opportunities for what's inside to come out. Time, opportunity, and even family, don't make people do certain things; rather they reveal what is there all along. The pride of a Pharisee is just as ugly as sexual immorality or murder. The theft of someone's reputation by slander and gossip is no different than robbing a bank (though consequences certainly differ). That's why "good" people (as Pharisees consider themselves to be) and all others must experience the new birth, the Spiritual birth.

We all enter this world disconnected from God (which shows up in a multitude of ways) and reconnection comes at a price: humility and honesty on our part and forgiveness and redemption on God's part.

Arguing over the DNA of sin doesn't answer the question of what must be done for the sinner from whose heart proceeds "evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly". Further, Jesus says "All these evils come from inside and make the man unclean." That's why the gospel of Jesus Christ is such good news. "For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Mark 7:1-23; Matthew 15:1-20

  • What standard do the Pharisees use to measure one's cleanness or uncleanness?
  • What does Jesus use to "justify" His response? What is the major point in Jesus' response?
  • How does Jesus illustrate the Pharisees' true condition?
Mark 7:24-30; Matthew 15:21-28
  • What does this text teach about demon possession?
  • How does Jesus respond to the Syrophoenician woman's request?
  • What does Jesus look for when people come to him? (Hebrews 11:6)
  • What does this woman recognize about Christ?
Mark 7:31-37; Matthew 15:29-31
  • How does this healing differ from others that we've read about?
  • What do the crowds recognize about Jesus and want from Him?
Mark 8:1-10; Matthew 15:32-39
  • How does Jesus respond to the needs of the crowd? What does Jesus use to meet their needs?
  • What does this story tell you about Jesus? About remote areas? About His resources?
Turning truth into prayer
Ask the Lord to make you aware of when you categorize the sins of others and when you mistreat those whose sins differ from yours.

Friday, October 14, 2016

The Storms of Life (Matthew 14:22-24)

"Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat was already a considerable distance from the land and buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it."

On the heels of feeding a multitude (and His disciples) with five barley loaves and two small fish, Jesus deliberately sent His disciples onto the sea in the path of a storm without His accompanying them. 

He didn't feed them only to see them drown.

Some things about Jesus are unknowable, can't be experienced except during the rising winds of life. Psalm 77:19 prophecies of the One whose "way was in the sea" and whose "path was in the great waters", and whose "footsteps were not known." Jesus sent his disciples ahead of him to Bethsaida via raging winds upon a stormy sea so that they would encounter Him as the One who "rules the raging of the sea when its waves rise" and "stills them" (Psalm 89:9).

Why storms? So that the disciples could identify with the Psalmist's words "Then they cry out to the Lord in their trouble, and He brings them out of their distresses. He calms the storm so that its waves are still" (Psalm 107:28-29). In order to experience the Lord's calming of the sea the disciples had to experience the coming of a storm. Today's disciples are no different in their experience.

For the child of God storms are unavoidable--but profitable, for they reveal the strength or weakness of our faith in God. Jesus put them in the boat to "go ahead of him to Bethsaida" and then roused a storm to test their courage to trust Him to get them to their destination in spite of the storm's interruption. We are just like Jesus' disciples. We panic when we look at the rising waves and listen to the raging wind. Faith, however, sees Jesus walking toward us just as He did with his disciples. Wherever we are is where He is.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Mark 6:45-56; Matthew 14:22-36; John 6:16-24

  • Why do the disciples have such difficulty trusting Jesus?
  • What happens when the disciples operate out of fear rather than from faith?
  • At what point does Peter's fear end and faith begin?
  • What mystifies the crowd when Jesus and His disciples arrive in Bethsaida?
John 6:25-29
  • Read 2 Chron. 16:9 and note what God looks for in a man or a woman.
  • What parallel does Jesus make between Himself and how the LORD fed those living in the wilderness during Moses' day?
  • Read John 20:31 and state John's purpose for writing his gospel.
  • What does Jesus want the disciples to understand about Himself and what does Jesus promise those who simply believe in Him?
  • How does Jesus compare the manna in the wilderness and the Bread of Life?
  • What does the Pharisees think Jesus means by His statement about partaking of Him?
Turning truth into prayer
Thank the Lord Jesus that He has power over the raging wind and stormy seas of life. Thank Him that He has the power to get you to your destination.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Women and Bitterness (Mark 6:19, 21a)

"So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But she was not able to. . . . Finally the opportunity came."

"Bitter, party of one, your table is ready," said my daughter to me in response to a whiny statement I made to her about some injustice done to me. Ouch! Every mother needs a daughter like my Jen. No one likes being around a bitter woman. Bitterness is like drinking poison and hoping it kills the other person. In this case, however, it really does.

John the Baptist confronts Herod for marrying his brother's wife Herodias. She resents his righteous intrusion, "nurses a grudge against John," and waits for an opportunity to punish him. Why is it that Herodias steams while Herod seems to blow off the confrontation with imprisoning John? Do women have a more difficult time than men processing criticism and becoming bitter?

When an opportune moment comes she prostitutes her daughter to dance lewdly before Herod and his men. In return, Herod offers the daughter "anything up to half of the kingdom," but at her mother's instigation she demands and receives the head of John the Baptist. For Herod, imprisonment is enough while Herodias won't settle for anything less than his death.

Driven by pride ("How dare anyone say anything about how I live, etc."), women with bitterness:
  • Smolder over grievances (both real and perceived) and blow them out of proportion
  • Look for an opportunity to take their revenge (sometimes it is only in the form of words)
  • Sacrifice the well-being of loved ones to have revenge
  • Use others to exact their revenge
  • Substitute retaliation for greater wealth
You might be bitter when:
  • You can't handle being criticised
  • Hearing the name of the offender/s stirs up anger
  • You "mental script" revenge instead of interceding on their behalf
  • You "report" their offence to others (especially family members) in order to receive their sympathy and support
  • You avoid them intentionally
  • You feel freshly "hurt" or "wounded" every time you see the person who hurt you or hear their name mentioned
This is the very reason the writer of Hebrews cautions the person who "falls short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled" (12:15). Bitterness consumes the lives of many women in our churches today as they focus on those who have wronged them. They feel that if they release the grievance to the Lord then the guilty party will get away with their wrong.

Bitterness is a deadly poison. Many are sick from its drink. Wellness comes when grievances are released to the Lord. There has to be a one time submission to the Lord in this area and then maintenance-submission and release as fresh offenses occur.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading
Mark 6:14-29; Matthew 14:1-12; Luke 9:7-9
  • How do the people seek to explain Jesus' miraculous powers?
  • Why was Herodias so angry with John the Baptist?
  • Why was Herod unable to refuse his wife's request at his party?
Mark 6:12-13; 6:30-44; Luke 9:6; Matthew 14:13-21; John 6:1-15
  • Why does Jesus seek to withdraw with His disciples?
  • What prohibits the disciple's withdrawal?
  • How does Jesus' response to the crowd differ from that of the Apostles?
  • What does this tell you about Jesus?
  • Why does He command the Apostles to feed the crowd?
  • How does Philip's response differ from Andrew's?
  • How does the crowd respond to the food multiplication?
  • What does this tell you about people?
Turning truth into prayer
Ask the Lord to show you if you are harboring bitterness in your heart toward anyone. Release that person to the Lord. Choose forgiveness or it will eat you up and you will find yourself "be-heading" others.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Two by Two (Mark 6:7)

"Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil spirits."

An Ndebele proverb uses the hands to describes the need for one another, "Hands wash each other." Just try washing your hand without using the other hand! Jesus commissioned His disciples in teams of two.

Solomon records the strength found in pairs: "Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up. Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; but how can one be warm alone? Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him" (Eccl. 4:9-12a). Team ministry provides:
  • Companionship
  • Encouragement
  • Accountability
  • Practical assistance
  • Prayer support
  • Protection
Just as hands don't compete with one another in hand washing so competition with another in ministry is counterproductive. God's goal in teamwork is completion not competition. Just as Jesus initiated and modeled team ministry so we too need to partner up with someone else in ministry either in presence, prayer, or participation (financial). No one can minister effectively alone.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:

John 5:16-47
  • Why do the Pharisees have a problem with Jesus?
  • What explanation does Jesus give for why the Pharisees don't recognize His identity?
  • What is the Pharisees' relationship with the Scriptures?
  • What hinders faith or provokes unbelief? (Romans 10:17)
Mark 6:6b-11; Matthew 9:35-10:42
  • How does Jesus describe the crowds?
  • What response does Jesus tell the disciples they will have as they minister in His name?
  • How will truth impact families?
  • What promise or words of comfort does Jesus offer the disciples as He commissions them?
  • How does Jesus address the disciples' fears?
  • What will it cost those who follow Christ?
Turning truth into prayer

Do you compete with others in ministry or do you see your ministry gifts as competitive with or or complementary to others? Ask the Lord to help you become a team builder to complement the ministry of others. Pray for those with whom you minister by name and seek God's blessing upon their ministry.