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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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June 15, 2017: Fishers of Men

Today’s Bible Reading: 2 Kings 4-5, Psalm 119:113-120, Luke 5:1-11, Philippians 1:12-20 Luke 5:1-11: As Jesus calls the first disciples, several points are worth underlining for us today. First of all, note how the crowd is pressing in on Jesus to hear the Word of God. Let us be like that! Let us press in, seek, work towards, seek out, the Word of God. There was no empty row or two of seats at the front of that sanctuary! The front row seats went first, in the same way they do at a professional sports game or at a rock concert. They wanted to be close and pressed in to be close, to hear God’s Word. Then note how Jesus sat down to teach the people from the boat. Without an ecclesiastical pulpit on hand, Jesus used a fishing boat and the backdrop of the sea to be an effective place from which to preach....

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June 14, 2017: Preaching the Good News

Today’s Bible Reading: 2 Kings 1-3, Psalm 119:105-112, Luke 4:38-44, Philippians 1:1-11 Luke 4:38-44: We see Jesus healing again—note the distinction between a healing (4:38-39) and demon possession (4:40-41)—and this time he is in the home of Simon and heals his mother-in-law. They appealed to him, and at a word of command she is healed. “Immediately.” When God says the word, it is as good as done; at the time he wants it done, it is so. God said, “Let there be light,” and it was light. Jesus said that the fever must leave, and it left. Note: the mother-in-law’s response: “Immediately she rose and began to serve them.” When someone is saved by Jesus, their inevitable, and indeed immediate, response is to want to serve Jesus and his people. Who his love cannot tell, who the wonders of his grace cannot proclaim, once we have tasted of that honey, we want to share the...

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June 13, 2017: The Authority of Jesus’ Word

Today’s Bible Reading: 1 Kings 21-22, Psalm 119:97-104, Luke 4:31-37, Ephesians 6:10-24 Luke 4:31-37: Jesus’ teaching is marked by a characteristic note throughout all the Gospels, and here in this passage it is emphasized. He teaches with “authority.” That word “authority” is interesting: it suggests, in English, the key to the issue. He teaches with authority because he is the Author. The authority here implies power, resources, impact. In particular, on display is the power of Jesus’ Word over the demonic (4:36). Jesus commands the demon to be silent (4:35) (because what it was saying was attesting to Jesus’ identity as “the Holy One of God” (4:34). The source of the witness, the demonic, was the last kind of support that Jesus would need; if Hitler says you are a good guy, most will believe that you are not—and if the demonic attest Jesus as God, it does not encourage popular support to that notion....

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June 12, 2017: The Power of the Spirit

Today’s Bible Reading: 1 Kings 21-22, Psalm 119:89-96, Luke 4:31-37, Ephesians 4:13-30 Luke 4:31-37: The devil’s temptation has finished—for the moment. Note: when we pass one set of temptations, we are not to think that thereby such temptations will not return. While we are in this world, temptations will come. We are, as William Gurnall, the great Puritan commentator on the “Armor of God,” would say, to “sleep in our armor.” This side of glory, we are always in a battle. That should not intimidate us nor depress us, for if we resist the devil, he will flee from us. But it does prevent us from naively surrendering to defeat after a glorious victory, or snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Tomorrow the temptation may well come again. Fight on, fight on, Pilgrim. Jesus returns “in the power of the Spirit.” Nothing of great gospel good can be done in this world without it being...

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June 11, 2017: It Is Written

Today’s Bible Reading: 1 Kings 17-18, Psalm 119:81-88, Luke 4:1-12, Ephesians 5:22-33 Luke 4:1-12: Jesus now, fulfilling the calling of being the perfect Son, the son that Israel failed to be, goes into the desert, as Israel did for forty years, and fasts as Moses did for forty days, and yet was entirely and completely without sin—so that in his life, as in his death, he might be the perfect righteousness for us who believe in him. Jesus was “full of the Holy Spirit” (4:1). We also need to be filled with the Holy Spirit. As Spurgeon once remarked when asked why we need to ask for God’s filling of the Holy Spirit more than once: because I leak. Keep on asking God to fill you with his Spirit that you might be more and more like him and, as Jesus did here, have the power to withstand temptation. Jesus fasted, and it is appropriate...

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