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July 4, 2017: Good Soil

Today’s Bible Reading: 1 Chronicles 7-9, Psalm 127, Luke 8:1-15, Colossians 2:8-15 Luke 8:1-15: Jesus continues to preach and evangelize the kingdom of God. The twelve disciples are with him as are Mary, Joanna and Susanna. Mary had had “seven demons” cast out of her—a surely dramatic conversion. Joanna was from a more reputable background, indeed of high influence, the wife of Herod’s household manager—her conversion was nonetheless radical if less dramatic. And then Susanna, who is neither elite nor charlatan in background—but whose conversion, if more standard by the world’s standards, is also radical and real. Note: it is possible for us to judge people by where they came from, but what matters is not what our background is but what our response to the gospel is. Your conversion story may be dramatic, or not; your background may be elite, or not; you may come from a so-called “normal” background, or not. All that...

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July 3, 2017: Love Much

Today’s Bible Reading: 1 Chronicles 5-6, Psalm 126, Luke 7:36-50, Colossians 2:1-7 Luke 7:36-50: In many ways one of the most important stories in the Bible for clarifying the nature of the gospel today is in front of us this morning. A “woman of the city” who is a “sinner”—almost certainly together intended as euphemisms for a prostitute—comes to Jesus while he is reclining at table at a Pharisees house. She does not merely greet Jesus (itself would have appeared suspicious enough) but touches him: she wets his feet with her tears, wipes his feet with her hair, kisses his feet and anoints them with oil. Perhaps understandably the Pharisees are somewhat askance, and remark to each other that surely Jesus could not be a prophet for he would know what kind of woman it was who was treating him in this way. However, Jesus knew full well who she was, and it was done to be...

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July 2, 2017: Wisdom Is Justified by Her Children

Today’s Bible Reading: 1 Chronicles 3-4, Psalm 125, Luke 7:18-35, Colossians 1:15-29 Luke 7:18-35: John asks his disciples to ask Jesus the question of the hour: are you “the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” Whether John at this moment is facing some extra doubt, or whether instead he is looking for this issue to be clarified publicly in the eyes of the disciples, either way it leads to a fascinating piece of teaching from Jesus comparing and contrasting himself and John the Baptist. First of all, Jesus does more miracles right there and then, and tells those who came to ask him the question to report back to John what they have seen and heard. The prophecy with which Jesus began his ministry is being fulfilled (Luke 4:18-19). Blessed, therefore, is the one who is not offended by Jesus—that is, who does not stumble at Jesus but instead puts...

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July 1, 2017: Fear Seized Them All

Today’s Bible Reading: 1 Chronicles 1-2, Psalm 123-124, Luke 7:11-17, Colossians 1:1-14 Luke 7:11-17: Jesus’ astonishing miracles continue, this time raising a young man from the dead. Here in human flesh is the Lord of all glory, who is the resurrection and the life. Note that the “Lord saw” the widow (7:13). Jesus is not ignorant of our difficulties, does not turn a blind eye to our problems, does not hide his face from his people. He hears our cries. He sees our distress. Let us then confidently bring to God in prayer the earnest needs and hopes of our hearts. He loves to hear his people pray. He notices us. He sees us. Note also that if Jesus is like this, so also are his people to be. It is too easy for us to turn a blind eye to the distress of a Christian brother or sister and pretend that we do not...

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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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