God Centered Bible – Daily Devotions

January 20, 2017: Come and Die

January 20, 2017:

Today’s Bible Reading: Genesis 42-43, Psalm 19, Matthew 8:14-22, Acts 11:19-30 Matthew 8:14-22: We see now the beauty and the sacrifice of following Jesus. First, we meet Jesus among a family—Peter’s family. Jesus is not distant from the earthly realities of life, he does not sneer or act superior towards the needs of family, child, nursery, and mother-in-law. He was welcome in families and among family members. Devotion to Christ also does not mean a lack of care for those nearest and dearest to us. Peter cared for his family and his mother-in-law. Followers of Jesus, disciples like Peter, are to have a similar care for their families. Jesus sees the situation and acts upon the need (8:14-15). He touches her. We have seen Jesus healing at a mere word, now we see him healing at a simple touch. The touch of love, the touch of care, and the touch of healing. Often…

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January 19, 2017: Faith

January 19, 2017:

Today’s Bible Reading: Genesis 41, Psalm 18:25-50, Matthew 8:1-13, Acts 11:1-18 Matthew 8:1-13: Having taught so powerfully, Jesus “now comes down from the mountain” (8:1) and puts his teaching into practice—in powerful and amazing ways. First a leper is healed, at a word from Jesus, and “immediately.” No lengthy course of treatment. No weird magical incantation. God incarnate, Jesus the Christ, says it is so, and it is so. Bam. Better. Healed. Who is this? The leper is told not to spread the word about his healing (8:4), because Jesus did not simply want to be known as a miracle worker, and he did not want to become distracted from his core ministry of the gospel and of going to the cross. Because the understandings about the role of the Messiah were so miscued at the time (focusing on a military ruler), the more attention would just become a distraction. But he is…

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January 18, 2017: Build Your House Upon the Rock

January 18, 2017:

Today’s Bible Reading: Genesis 39-40, Psalm 18:1-24, Matthew 7:15-29, Acts 10:24-48 Matthew 7:15-29: Having explained his main teaching throughout this Sermon on the Mount, Jesus now moves towards the closing of the Sermon. And as he does so he strikes a note of warning, or “beware.” Given all that he has said about what makes a real Christian, a real follower of Jesus, someone who is characterized by these qualities, because in the end they are a supernatural work of God and of his Spirit – they have been filled as they hungered and thirsted for righteousness – given all that, what should be the conclusion to this teaching? Well, Jesus tells us that our conclusion should be to ensure that we really are his, that we really are following him, that we really are on the “narrow path” that he has described. Verses 15-23 shockingly tell us that even among so-called “prophets”…

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January 17, 2017: The Narrow Gate

January 17, 2017:

Today’s Bible Reading: Genesis 37-38, Psalm 17, Matthew 7:1-14, Acts 10:1-23 Matthew 7:1-14: Having orientated us towards seeking first God’s kingdom, Jesus now turns his attention to what this means in practice—interspersed with a call to ask God as our heavenly Father for what it is that we need. The sentence “Judge not, that you be not judged” (7:1) is probably the most well known verse in the Bible, and the most misunderstood. Jesus cannot mean “Do not exercise any critical discernment about anything whatsoever, or any person whatsoever.” In a moment (7:6), he will tell us not to cast our pearls before swine, which at the very least means making a discerning (in that sense “judging”) assessment of whether someone is by this standard a “swine” or not. In fact, the whole of the Sermon on the Mount is filled with judgments about what is right, what is not, what kind of…

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January 16, 2017: Do Not Worry

January 16, 2017:

Today’s Bible Reading: Genesis 36, Psalm 16, Matthew 6:25-34, Acts 9:20-43 Matthew 6:25-34: This section is justly famous, wonderfully practical, and precious to Christians down through the ages. It begins with “therefore,” and as always when we see a “therefore,” we should ask “What is it there for?” In other words, what is this instruction building from in the previous section? The answer here is that Jesus, having talked about money and our need not to serve money, now tells us not to be anxious. For one great source of anxiety is material anxiety, anxiety over possessions and provision. But if we are serving God, then we have no cause to worry—which Jesus will now explain. He begins with a series of questions. This is brilliant teaching because the psychological experience of worry is often rooted in asking the wrong questions in our minds and hearts, as one thought races around another thought,…

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January 15, 2017: Serve God

January 15, 2017:

Today’s Bible Reading: Genesis 34-35, Psalm 15, Matthew 6:16-24, Acts 9:1-19 Matthew 6:16-24: Continuing his teaching on “practicing our righteousness,” Jesus now moves on from prayer to its logical and often paired companion: fasting (6:16-18). Christian fasting is distinctive and distinguished by its concern not to show off before others. In fact, when someone fasts, they are to avoid looking gloomy or emphasizing their emaciated feelings from lack of food, but instead of making it obvious by what they wear that they are fasting, they are to anoint their heads and wash their faces—to look and come across as not fasting. The reason for this is so that the fasting will be seen by the Father God and not others, and the Father God will reward us for the fasting. What exactly fasting is, how it is to be performed, when, and with what wise, even medical, counsel, is beyond the confines of…

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January 14, 2017: Practicing Righteousness

January 14, 2017:

Today’s Bible Reading: Genesis 32-33, Psalm 14, Matthew 6:1-15, Acts 8:26-40 Matthew 5:33-46: Having focused on how we are to behave in terms of human relations, Jesus now turns to the matter of “practicing our righteousness” (6:1), which in this context means the practice of “religion” in relationship to God. He tackles two matters head on—both of which are often disputed and have serious consequences if misunderstood—that of money and prayer. In either case, whether of giving or prayer, Jesus’ chief concern is that we not do what the “hypocrites” do (6:2, 5). The hypocrites, literally actors, are not those who simply are going through the motions without meaning what they are doing at all; they are not entirely faking it. The temptation of this “hypocrisy,” so characteristic of the Pharisee, is far more insidious and difficult to avoid, or diagnose. The point is that with both prayer and giving,…

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January 13, 2017: Love Your Enemies

January 13, 2017:

Today’s Bible Reading: Genesis 31, Psalm 13, Matthew 5:33-46, Acts 8:1-25 Matthew 5:33-46: We have already, yesterday, commented on the repeated refrain that structures this middle section of the Sermon on the Mount—“you have heard that it was said…but I say to you.” This claim of Jesus to be the authoritative interpretation of the Scriptures, against the views of the Pharisees of his day, leads him to establish the spirituality of the commands. God is interested in our inner life, in the thinking of our hearts and the feeling of our minds, as much as outward conformity to the externalities of obedience. Now a similar thrust shapes the next section of commands, and they conclude with such an overarching demand that there is no way that the only intention of these commands can be practical obedience. Jesus concludes by telling us that we must be “perfect,” and not just perfect by a human…

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January 12, 2017: Mind and Heart

January 12, 2017:

Today’s Bible Reading: Genesis 29-30, Psalm 12, Matthew 5:21-32, Acts 7:39-60 Matthew 5:21-32: As we enter into this middle section of the Sermon on the Mount, before we come to the particularities of exactly what it is that Jesus is commanding, it is important to notice and reflect upon the basic repeated structure and refrain. Jesus begins by saying in verse 21, “You have heard that it was said.” After their hearing what has been said, he then develops his argument with an authoritative statement: “But I say to you” (5:22). That statement, that structure, that repeated refrain, occurs again in the next section (5:27-28), and in one form or another runs through this middle section of the Sermon on the Mount. Now it is important we grasp clearly what it is that Jesus is saying by this repeated refrain and structure. It is impossible that he is denying or undermining or countermanding…

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January 11, 2017: Salt, Light and the Bible

January 11, 2017:

Today’s Bible Reading: Genesis 27-28, Psalm 11, Matthew 5:13-20, Acts 7:1-38 Matthew 5:13-20: This part of the Sermon on the Mount, in the section we are reading this morning, comprises two distinct sections and aims and goals. In the first, verses 13-16, Jesus is thinking about the witness, the lifestyle, the impact on the world, of this little fledging group of disciples, and he is teaching them about that and what it means to shine their light in the world. In the second section, verses 17-20, Jesus is countermanding a false impression that might be given by his authoritative style of teaching: he is not undermining or denying or undoing anything that has been written so far in the Bible (in what we call the Old Testament, aka the Law and the Prophets), but instead is fulfilling it all. Let’s look very briefly at these two sections separately. In the first, Jesus has…

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