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June 25, 2017: Great Faith

Today’s Bible Reading: 2 Kings 24-25, Psalm 122, Luke 7:1-10, Philippians 4:14-23 Luke 7:1-10: This well-known story of the centurion’s faith is remarkable for several noteworthy reasons that those wishing to center their lives upon Christ may pay careful attention to. First of all, the centurion, a powerful military man, with the power of life and death at his command, and a part of the occupying force, reached out to Christ to ask for help. Note well, child of God, and learn: when you need help, do not be embarrassed to ask God for it. He loves to hear his children pray. Second, note the object of the centurion’s concern. It is not for himself or even for a member of his family or a friend; he is concerned about a “servant.” We are to be those who take care of and are concerned for, not only those close to us by physical relation, but also all...

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June 24, 2017: A Firm Foundation

Today’s Bible Reading: 2 Kings 22-23, Psalm 121, Luke 6:43-49, Philippians 4:8-13 Luke 6:43-49: As Jesus comes to the end of his famous sermon, he uses two illustrations to make two practical and profound concluding exhortations. First, he explains how it is that we are to obey Jesus without obedience itself being the defining characteristic, in a legalistic sense, of what it means to follow God. The answer is that in our essence, as a new creation, we become the kind of tree that bears good fruit. We now want to obey Jesus because we have been changed into the kind of people who do want to follow Jesus. Additionally, this means that we can discern who truly is a follower of Jesus by this same token. It does not mean that our “fruit” has to be perfect; Jesus does not say that a good tree bears perfect fruit. Even the fruit of godly people...

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June 23, 2017: Speck and a Log

Today’s Bible Reading: 2 Kings 20-21, Psalm 120, Luke 6:37-42, Philippians 4:1-7Luke 6:37-42:Jesus now comes to address the thorny question of human relationships—our tendency, in particular, to judge one another, to feel superior to each other, and to cast aspersions about each other’s moral performance and spirituality. In some ways, verse 37 these days is the most famous verse in the Bible: “Judge not, and you will not be judged.” Does this, though, mean that we are not to exercise any sort of critical faculty? Are we to be gullible?Clearly, Jesus cannot be in favor of leaving our brain on the coatrack along with our coat when we go into church, or not using our minds. In order not to judge, we must be able to discern when we are judging and avoid it! No, Jesus is not saying avoid any attempt to use our minds. What is he saying is explained by the...

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June 22, 2017: Love Your Enemies

Today’s Bible Reading: 2 Kings 18-19, Psalm 119:169-176, Luke 6:27-36, Philippians 3:15-21 Luke 6:27-36: This famous teaching is as controversial now as it was then. Should it be taken literally? Are we truly intended to “love our enemies”? If someone takes our cloak, are we meant to also give them our tunic? Are we meant to give to everyone who begs from us? Various teachers have attempted to explain this teaching correctly in realistic and practical ways. Others have attempted simply to assert that the teaching is to be taken in its maximum possible interpretation. A famous approach along these lines is that championed first by the Russian novelist Tolstoy, whose teaching was then picked up and put within a different theological framework by Mahatma Gandhi, and who in turn influenced Dr. Martin Luther King. King called it nonviolent resistance, and in that way to enact civil disobedience for the purpose of bringing...

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June 21, 2017: Blessings and Woes

Today’s Bible Reading: 2 Kings 16-17, Psalm 119:161-168, Luke 6:17-26, Philippians 3:10-14 Luke 6:17-26: The so-called “sermon on the plain” or “on a level place” is in all likelihood an abridgment of the same “Sermon on the Mount” that Matthew’s Gospel records (which itself is likely to be an abridgment of the original discourse). In this sermon, as people come from far and wide to hear Jesus and be healed by Jesus, there is much encouragement for his disciples facing potential, and actual, suffering for the sake of following Christ. While it can be the case that following Jesus means that we are poor now, hungry now, weep now, yet at the same time we have much reason to rejoice. For we have the kingdom of God now, and what greater kingdom could there be! We are satisfied now, and what greater thing could there be than to experience true satisfaction! We have...

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June 20, 2017: Sabbath and Prayer

Today’s Bible Reading: 2 Kings 14-15, Psalm 119:153-160, Luke 6:1-16, Philippians 3:1-9 Luke 6:1-16: The action in this section first of all centers around the “Sabbath.” The Sabbath day, of course, was a primary distinctive of the Old Testament religion. Because God made the world, as Genesis chapter 1 describes it, and rested on the seventh day, so God commanded that his people would rest (Exodus 20:11). They are also to rest because he rescued them from Egypt (Deuteronomy 5:15). The Sabbath, then, was intended as a visible and physical break in the working week in order to indicate that they were created and redeemed people. When people work without ceasing, they seldom pray without ceasing. Working without ceasing is a statement of arrogance: it assumes that we are not created people. It also assumes that we are not redeemed people. It arrogates to ourselves a power—to work ceaselessly—that we do not possess. It also...

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June 19, 2017: New Wine and New Wineskins

Today’s Bible Reading: 2 Kings 12-13, Psalm 119:145-152, Luke 5:33-39, Philippians 2:19-30 Luke 5:33-39: On the surface, this is a fairly prosaic question about fasting. Jesus is in the middle of a feast (5:27-31) with tax collectors and “sinners,” and the disparity between that behavior and the more ascetically minded John the Baptist, and even that of the Pharisees, is quite stark. Why do Jesus’ disciples go to parties instead of fasting? Jesus’ answer is clear. They do not fast now because he is still with them (the “bridegroom”). But there will come a time when they do fast, when “he is taken away from them.” But the context of this questions also allows Jesus to tell a parable, a story which illustrates a spiritual truth, of great importance and significance. Clearly, Jesus is bringing something “new” into the world, and into their lives—if they will accept it. This “new” thing is strange and unfamiliar...

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June 18, 2017: I Have Not Come to Call the Righteous

Today’s Bible Reading: 2 Kings 10-11, Psalm 119:137-144, Luke 5:27-32, Philippians 2:12-18 Luke 5:27-32: A beautiful story—but in its essence is quite a challenge to the religiosity of our (and any) age. Jesus calls Levi to follow him. So far, so familiar—except for the rapidity of Levi’s response (and that, with him leaving everything to follow Jesus); little about this initially surprises us. We have seen Jesus call disciples before. But this disciple is a “tax collector.” The task of collecting taxes has been an unpopular one ever since political civil society decided that in order for us to experience the benefits of being governed we would need to pay for it. Roads cost money to build; wars cost money to fight. Citizens of a country are therefore—since time immemorial—expected to pay for such privileges by means of a “tax.” That is, a portion of what they earn is collected by the government officials and goes...

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June 17, 2017: Extraordinary Things Today

Today’s Bible Reading: 2 Kings 8-9, Psalm 119:129-136, Luke 5:17-26, Philippians 2:1-11 Luke 5:17-26: One of the most well-known stories about Jesus, and also one of the most important—though not always for the reasons most commonly thought. Jesus is teaching. And “the power of the Lord was with him to heal.” What does this mean? We will discover in a moment when Jesus notices the “faith” of those who brought the paralytic to him to be healed. God’s power, his grace, is received through faith. When we trust God, repent of our sins and put our trust in him, his Word, and his gracious power, then the power of the Lord is poured into the empty hands of our weak faith. If we wish to have the power of the Lord present with us, then would we today come to Jesus in “faith”—like the friends of the paralyzed man? They are persistent. There was no way...

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June 16, 2017: To Pray

Today’s Bible Reading: 2 Kings 6-7, Psalm 119:121-128, Luke 5:12-16, Philippians 1:21-30 Luke 5:12-16: “But he would withdraw to desolate places to pray.” In the midst of all the hurly burly of ministry, of a life that was supremely busy beyond our comprehension, of intense demands upon him, and pressure, infinite pressure, of being nothing less than the Savior of the World—with all this going on, and having just performed another miraculous healing, and people clamoring for more, yet more, of him and his time, Jesus does something quite extraordinary. He sets a pattern for his life that is counterintuitive, uncommon, and the secret of so much effective life and ministry in service of God. “He would withdraw.” He was not always at the forefront, pushing. He stepped back. He could see the big picture. He could notice the patterns and direction of events, not just being someone caught up in events. “To desolate places.”...

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