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September 4, 2017: Your Redemption Is Drawing Near

Today’s Bible Reading: Isaiah 9-10, Proverbs 20:1-15, Luke 21:20-28, Hebrews 2:10-18 Luke 21:20-28: Jesus now once again predicts the future as a concertina—first the near horizon and then the far horizon as the prediction expands. Verses 20-24 concern the fall of Jerusalem. Jesus’ counsel to “flee” when “you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies” was heeded by many Christian disciples who did indeed run to the mountains and escape the horrors of the sack of Jerusalem. It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God, and God’s wrath against sinful individuals, even his sinning, rebellious city of Jerusalem, can only be quenched by the sacrifice of the Lamb. Let us turn to him this morning and ask him for forgiveness, and to have mercy on ourselves, our city, our country, and our world. Verses 25-28 concern the return of Jesus. “Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud...

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September 3, 2017: Witness

Today’s Bible Reading: Isaiah 6-8, Proverbs 19:15-29, Luke 21:1-19, Hebrews 2:1-9 Luke 21:1-19: (21:1-4) Jesus is observing a characteristic activity of the temple: the wealthy putting their gifts in the offering. Are they doing so ostentatiously? At any rate, their giving is observable. By contrast he then observes a poor widow who only puts in a very small amount of money. About 2/128 of a day’s wages. But this is the one who has put in more! Why? Because what counts is not how much you give, but how much you have left! Her generosity is extraordinary and commendable. How do we measure our generosity? By the amount we give, or by the amount we have left behind to enjoy for ourselves? (21:5-9) While there in the temple, some observe how beautiful is its edifice, the stones and the offerings. Jesus then predicts what soon came to pass: not one stone left upon another. In AD...

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September 2, 2017: Transformed Grace

Today’s Bible Reading: Isaiah 3-5, Proverbs 19:1-14, Luke 20:41-47, Hebrews 1:10-41 Luke 20:41-47: Having roundly defeated his adversaries so that (in verse 40) “they no longer dared ask him any questions,” Jesus now takes his turn to ask a question himself (20:41-47). This question is designed to expose the illogical argument that his opponents were employing when they rejected the notion that the Messiah could be anything other than human. Going back to Scripture, he asks “How can they say that the Christ is David’s son?” Jesus believes that the Christ is in the line of David, of course, but also that the Christ is far more than merely David’s son. He then cites David himself from Psalm 110—the most quoted psalm in the New Testament—showing that David, prophetically, spoke better than he knew when he spoke of his “son” being also his “Lord.” Note: Sometimes the best solution to an intractable questioner is to ask a...

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September 1, 2017: The Scriptures and the Power of God

Today’s Bible Reading: Isaiah 1-2, Proverbs 18, Luke 20:27-40, Hebrews 1:1-9 Luke 20:27-40: The Sadducees were a group of religious devotees who, according to the Jewish historian Josephus, were particularly identified with the upper elite, a sort of royal aristocratic religious party. They were distinct from the Pharisees in holding that there was no resurrection of the dead—and also in only accepting the historicity and inspiration of the first five books of the Bible, the Pentateuch. When they come to Jesus with their question, they show a penchant for the ridiculous with their story of the seven brothers who each in turn die and marry the same wife one after the other. At the resurrection whose wife will she be? Their question is not actually to find an answer to the literal surface question about who she should be married to at the resurrection, but to expose the ridiculousness of the resurrection belief held by the...

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August 25, 2017: Render unto Caesar

Today’s Bible Reading: Esther 9-10, Proverbs 17:15-28, Luke 20:20-26, Philemon 12-25 Luke 20:20-26,: Once more trying to trap Jesus, they send spies (20:20), pretending to be sincere, and ask him a cunning question. First of all, they start with flattery. Flattery is normally a trap (Proverbs 29:5), but here their flattery has a particular aim. They are encouraging him to be straightforward, frank, “sincere,” without guile. Note: it is one thing to always be honest, but it is another thing to speak without wisdom when surrounded by your opponents. Frankness is not deserved of every man, while truth must be spoken to all. It is the path of wisdom to find a way to speak the truth even when presented with a trapping question, such as this one. Their specific question, about whether to pay taxes to Caesar or not, is particularly tricky. If Jesus says they are not to pay taxes to Caesar, then he is...

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August 24, 2017: A Vineyard

Today’s Bible Reading: Esther 7-8, Proverbs 17:1-14, Luke 20:9-19, Philemon 1-11 Luke 20:9-19,: In response to the religious leaders’ unwillingness to be authentic in their response to Jesus and accept him as the Son of God, Jesus tells the people a parable. Note: when someone refuses the gospel, it is right to offer a warning, even if it is couched in a wise form like this parable. The parable is about a vineyard. The vineyard was a symbol of the nation of Israel (see Isaiah 5). This was a bit like telling a story about the national flag of Israel. Everyone would have understood its significance. There are tenants. The owner has let the vineyard out to be cared for by tenants. At the appropriate time for the owner to receive rent for letting out the vineyard, he sends a servant to receive the rent due. One after another of the servants are sent and they are all...

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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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