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August 23, 2017: Questions and Answers

Today’s Bible Reading: Esther 5-6, Proverbs 16:17-33, Luke 20:1-8, Titus 3:9-15 Luke 20:1-8: When people do not like what someone is saying or doing, they rarely actually change the words or the deeds themselves. It is easier, and often more effective, to instead challenge the right that the person has to do those things. If you can caricature that person as usurping what is not rightly theirs, or as claiming an authority to which they do not have a true claim, then your work is done—people will not only ignore what they are currently saying, but also ignore what they have to say thereafter. This issue of “who is in the right” and from where comes the “authority” is a common human technique to give precedence. Here, the religious leaders employ this tactic against Jesus. He was saying and doing things with which they did not agree. But rather than examine whether what Jesus was saying and...

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August 22, 2017: A House of Prayer

Today’s Bible Reading: Esther 3-4, Proverbs 16:1-16, Luke 19:39-48, Titus 3:1-8 Luke 19:39-48: (19:39-40) The Pharisees long for the people to stop praising Jesus. So it ever was thus: false religions and false religious leaders will strongly advocate against the praising of the name of Jesus. The word “God” or “providence” they may have less objection to. But the name of Jesus—who himself reveals who God truly is—they would wish was never heard again, and certainly never praised again. But their attempts to prevent the work of Jesus and the honoring of Jesus are bound to fail: if the people were quiet, the very stones would cry out. Everything that has breath, let it praise the Lord; but also everything that is formed by the Word, now in flesh, praises Jesus too. Those who oppose Jesus still have the conscience that Jesus made within them. You cannot stop honor being given to Jesus. (19:41-44) As Jesus drew...

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August 21, 2017: Blessed Is the King

Today’s Bible Reading: Esther 2, Proverbs 15:18-33, Luke 19:28-38, Titus 2:11-15 Luke 19:28-38: The triumphal entry—famous for its celebration and praise—has a different flavor for those of us who know the opposition that is in wait for Jesus. Even in verses 39 and 40, when the Pharisees object to the praise that Jesus is receiving, we sense the growing opposition and antipathy. But for now all is celebration. “The Lord has need of it”; the simple reason for the use of the colt. Sufficient in and of itself. When the Lord has need of something, then that thing is to be provided for him. Are we willing to be used by God as he has need of using us? Let us commit again this morning to be ready to go where he sends us, come as he calls us, serve as he wills us. Note the praise of the whole multitude of the disciples. They rejoice and praise...

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August 20, 2017: Make the Most of Your Talents

Today’s Bible Reading: Esther 1, Proverbs 15:1-17, Luke 19:11-27, Titus 2:1-10 Luke 19:11-27: Jesus tells this parable for those who suppose that the kingdom of God is to appear immediately. How we need this reminder often today. Too many times, well-meaning Christian people are confused by claims that the end times are about to come to an end, and Christ will reappear on a set date. We know neither the day nor the hour. Even with Jesus physically present then, the kingdom of God still has further to advance before Jesus’ return. The story tells of a city that hated its ruler and opposed him. The ruler gives ten of his servants various amounts of money or “minas” (a “mina” was about three months’ wages). When the ruler or “nobleman” returns, he calls the servants to account. The servant who was only given one mina has done nothing with that mina. And his mina is taken...

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August 19, 2017: Seek and Save the Lost

Today’s Bible Reading: Nehemiah 13, Proverbs 14:19-35, Luke 19:1-10, Titus 1:10-16 Luke 19:1-10: The famous story of Zacchaeus, a rich man, but also a “chief tax collector” (19:2). The story is not simply about a rich man who is saved and becomes generous. It is a story about a rich man who is a collaborator with the occupying Roman officials who is saved and becomes generous. Jesus’ astonishing grace towards him is not only the grace of God towards a rich person, it is the grace of God towards someone who has betrayed his people and extortioned them. This is why Zacchaeus offers to restore “fourfold” that which he has defrauded from people (19:8). Note: the grace of God is available even to those who cheat and betray. Note also: when the grace of God falls on a rich person, the inevitable response is generosity. When Zacchaeus responds with generosity in verse 8, Jesus then declares “salvation...

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August 18, 2017: Blind Man Sees

Today’s Bible Reading: Nehemiah 12, Proverbs 14:1-18, Luke 18:31-43, Titus 1:1-9 Luke 18:31-43: (18:31-34) Jesus again predicts his death and resurrection. This is the very center of what he came to do, the highpoint, and focus of all. He wants those around him to understand the significance of the event, that it is planned and deliberate, and that it is the culmination of his mission. But it is hard for them to grasp. For the Messiah, the King, to die was hard enough to believe; for him to deliberately plan to die to save the world seemed to them bizarre. They were expecting a king to ride in militarily and dominate and rule in worldly power. They had no concept of a suffering King, a suffering Messiah. So Jesus repeats his prediction, but they still cannot get it. In fact, it is “hidden” from them. These things are spiritually discerned, and as yet it has not...

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August 17, 2017: Many Times More

Today’s Bible Reading: Nehemiah 11, Proverbs 13:13-25, Luke 18:18-30, 2 Timothy 4:9-22 Luke 18:18-30: Someone of privilege, high status, probably wealth, and standing, approaches Jesus. The question is to the point, with little time to waste, and appropriately polite as if the “ruler” knew how to address people with deference and politeness. “Good Teacher,” he says, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (18:18). The question is the question of the ages: how do I get to heaven, what must I do to ensure that I get to heaven? Jesus’ response appears at first to be a diversion, but is actually the very nub of the issue. “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone” (18:19). The point that Jesus is making is that the ruler spoke more truly than he realized. Jesus was indeed “good,” and he was indeed “God” as well. Jesus’ recitation of the Ten Commandments (18:20) is...

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August 16, 2017: The One Who Humbles Himself

Today’s Bible Reading: Nehemiah 10, Proverbs 13:1-12, Luke 18:9-17, 2 Timothy 4:1-8 Luke 18:9-17: (18:9-14) Jesus tells a parable for those who trust in themselves and treat others with contempt. How common is this disease! Note the necessary result of trusting in yourself: treating others with contempt. If you are confident in your own righteousness, then it necessarily leads to thinking less of others and their situation and righteousness. Note also the diagnostic: if I am tending to treat others with contempt, it is likely that the source of that is that I am trusting in myself and confident in my own righteousness. And the solution to both diseases? The gospel. For the gospel humbles us by declaring that we are sinners, and then lifts us by announcing that through faith we are righteous. We are thereby not trusting in ourselves or our own righteousness and therefore do not treat others with contempt. Jesus’ parable illustrates this...

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August 15, 2017: Always Pray and Do Not Give Up

Today’s Bible Reading: Nehemiah 9, Proverbs 12:15-28, Luke 18:1-8, 2 Timothy 3:10-17 Luke 18:1-8: There are motivations for prayer, but here in this parable Jesus pulls upon two less commonly considered motivations. The aim of Jesus teaching in these eight verses is, as Luke says, to teach us to “always pray and not give up.” Both those lessons need to be learned: we need to learn to always pray, and we need to learn not to give up. Of course, we cannot always be in a “prayer meeting,” but we can have a pattern of life whereby regular prayer is consistently, always, an aspect of our lives. We can regularly and consistently resort to God in prayer throughout the day too, and not just in our quiet times at the beginning of the day. But we also need to learn “not to give up.” It is easy to become discouraged by prayer, to think that...

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August 14, 2017: Where the Vultures Gather

Today’s Bible Reading: Nehemiah 8, Proverbs 12:1-14, Luke 17:20-37, 2 Timothy 3:1-9 Luke 17:20-37: The Pharisees ask the question that many people still ask: “When will the kingdom of God come?” Or, to put it another way, if everything you are saying is true, Jesus, when will we see this “kingdom of God” that you spend so much time talking about? Jesus’ first answer is in verses 20 and 21. The kingdom of God is something spiritual. You cannot observe it. Because the kingdom of God is where the king rules, each real Christian is an outpost of the kingdom for they are ruled by the king. Therefore, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you, or within you. Plus, of course, the kingdom of God was right in front of them, for the King was right in front of them! Jesus’ next answer runs from verses 22 to 37. Here he essentially says that...

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