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August 19, 2017: Seek and Save the Lost

Today’s Bible Reading: Nehemiah 13, Proverbs 14:19-35, Luke 19:1-10, Titus 1:10-16 Luke 19:1-10: The famous story of Zacchaeus, a rich man, but also a “chief tax collector” (19:2). The story is not simply about a rich man who is saved and becomes generous. It is a story about a rich man who is a collaborator with the occupying Roman officials who is saved and becomes generous. Jesus’ astonishing grace towards him is not only the grace of God towards a rich person, it is the grace of God towards someone who has betrayed his people and extortioned them. This is why Zacchaeus offers to restore “fourfold” that which he has defrauded from people (19:8). Note: the grace of God is available even to those who cheat and betray. Note also: when the grace of God falls on a rich person, the inevitable response is generosity. When Zacchaeus responds with generosity in verse 8, Jesus then declares “salvation...

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August 18, 2017: Blind Man Sees

Today’s Bible Reading: Nehemiah 12, Proverbs 14:1-18, Luke 18:31-43, Titus 1:1-9 Luke 18:31-43: (18:31-34) Jesus again predicts his death and resurrection. This is the very center of what he came to do, the highpoint, and focus of all. He wants those around him to understand the significance of the event, that it is planned and deliberate, and that it is the culmination of his mission. But it is hard for them to grasp. For the Messiah, the King, to die was hard enough to believe; for him to deliberately plan to die to save the world seemed to them bizarre. They were expecting a king to ride in militarily and dominate and rule in worldly power. They had no concept of a suffering King, a suffering Messiah. So Jesus repeats his prediction, but they still cannot get it. In fact, it is “hidden” from them. These things are spiritually discerned, and as yet it has not...

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August 17, 2017: Many Times More

Today’s Bible Reading: Nehemiah 11, Proverbs 13:13-25, Luke 18:18-30, 2 Timothy 4:9-22 Luke 18:18-30: Someone of privilege, high status, probably wealth, and standing, approaches Jesus. The question is to the point, with little time to waste, and appropriately polite as if the “ruler” knew how to address people with deference and politeness. “Good Teacher,” he says, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (18:18). The question is the question of the ages: how do I get to heaven, what must I do to ensure that I get to heaven? Jesus’ response appears at first to be a diversion, but is actually the very nub of the issue. “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone” (18:19). The point that Jesus is making is that the ruler spoke more truly than he realized. Jesus was indeed “good,” and he was indeed “God” as well. Jesus’ recitation of the Ten Commandments (18:20) is...

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August 16, 2017: The One Who Humbles Himself

Today’s Bible Reading: Nehemiah 10, Proverbs 13:1-12, Luke 18:9-17, 2 Timothy 4:1-8 Luke 18:9-17: (18:9-14) Jesus tells a parable for those who trust in themselves and treat others with contempt. How common is this disease! Note the necessary result of trusting in yourself: treating others with contempt. If you are confident in your own righteousness, then it necessarily leads to thinking less of others and their situation and righteousness. Note also the diagnostic: if I am tending to treat others with contempt, it is likely that the source of that is that I am trusting in myself and confident in my own righteousness. And the solution to both diseases? The gospel. For the gospel humbles us by declaring that we are sinners, and then lifts us by announcing that through faith we are righteous. We are thereby not trusting in ourselves or our own righteousness and therefore do not treat others with contempt. Jesus’ parable illustrates this...

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August 15, 2017: Always Pray and Do Not Give Up

Today’s Bible Reading: Nehemiah 9, Proverbs 12:15-28, Luke 18:1-8, 2 Timothy 3:10-17 Luke 18:1-8: There are motivations for prayer, but here in this parable Jesus pulls upon two less commonly considered motivations. The aim of Jesus teaching in these eight verses is, as Luke says, to teach us to “always pray and not give up.” Both those lessons need to be learned: we need to learn to always pray, and we need to learn not to give up. Of course, we cannot always be in a “prayer meeting,” but we can have a pattern of life whereby regular prayer is consistently, always, an aspect of our lives. We can regularly and consistently resort to God in prayer throughout the day too, and not just in our quiet times at the beginning of the day. But we also need to learn “not to give up.” It is easy to become discouraged by prayer, to think that...

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August 14, 2017: Where the Vultures Gather

Today’s Bible Reading: Nehemiah 8, Proverbs 12:1-14, Luke 17:20-37, 2 Timothy 3:1-9 Luke 17:20-37: The Pharisees ask the question that many people still ask: “When will the kingdom of God come?” Or, to put it another way, if everything you are saying is true, Jesus, when will we see this “kingdom of God” that you spend so much time talking about? Jesus’ first answer is in verses 20 and 21. The kingdom of God is something spiritual. You cannot observe it. Because the kingdom of God is where the king rules, each real Christian is an outpost of the kingdom for they are ruled by the king. Therefore, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you, or within you. Plus, of course, the kingdom of God was right in front of them, for the King was right in front of them! Jesus’ next answer runs from verses 22 to 37. Here he essentially says that...

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August 13, 2017: Giving Thanks

Today’s Bible Reading: Nehemiah 7, Proverbs 11:16-31, Luke 17:11-19, 2 Timothy 2:14-26 Luke 17:11-19: Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem. As he enters a village, he is met by ten lepers. Leprosy, a skin disease, led not only to physical pain, sickness, and mortality—it also meant the sufferers were social outcasts. They are in a desperate situation. So they cry out to Jesus for mercy. “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” Jesus gives them simple instruction. They are to go and show themselves to the priest. This was the appropriate action when someone was better to prove that they had really been released from their disease. They go, and they are cleansed. Jesus has performed an extraordinary miracle at the mere command of his word. Now, surely they would come back and at least thank him. How could you be healed and not even return to thank the one who has healed you? But in...

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August 12, 2017: Mustard Seed Faith

Today’s Bible Reading: Nehemiah 6, Proverbs 11:1-15, Luke 17:1-10, 2 Timothy 2:1-13 Luke 17:1-10: (17:1-4) Jesus’ series of very practical instruction begins with a warning that while temptations to sin are bound to come, it would be by all means better if such temptations did not come through you. When we cause someone else to stumble or sin, we are putting ourselves not just in a position of being criticized for that action, but also of actually encouraging their sin. The judgment for that would be severe (17:2). But it appears that Jesus has in mind a particularly difficult kind of sin, that is sin against someone else, perhaps a personal offense (17:3). When someone sins against you, if that person “repents,” says sorry and means it, then you are to forgive them—even if he sins against you seven times in the same day! (17:4) (17:5) Understandably, the disciples are daunted by this instruction. Forgiving someone...

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August 11, 2017: Lazarus

Today’s Bible Reading: Nehemiah 4-5, Proverbs 10:17-32, Luke 16:19-31, 2 Timothy 1 Luke 16:19-31: Perhaps one of the scariest, and most brilliant, stories ever told. In it we are introduced to a rich man who has everything this world can possibly give him. And then to a poor man who has nothing but pain and suffering. Such is the way of the world—but this world is not all that there is. And in the next life, their fortunes are turned. The poor man is at peace with God, while the rich man was in hell “in torment.” The rich man begs Abraham to intercede for him, but there is no way to cross from hell to heaven once the curtain of death has fallen. Then the rich man begs Abraham to send the poor man to warn his family of their danger. Abraham says that they have the prophets, the Bible, already. But the rich man...

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August 10, 2017: True Riches

Today’s Bible Reading: Nehemiah 3, Proverbs 10:1-16, Luke 16:10-18, 1 Timothy 6:11-21 Luke 16:10-18: Following Jesus takes effort and commitment. Jesus explains that in three subsections of this passage. (16:10-13) Continuing Jesus’ thought about money, he now addresses the way to gain true riches—eternal riches of relationship with Jesus now and forever. Our attitude towards money, whether we faithfully invest in heaven, evidences our heart. If you are not faithful with this world’s resources, why would anyone thing you would be faithful with “true riches.” Then comes the famous aphorism: no one can serve two masters. Because of this truth, it is logically impossible to serve both God and money. (16:14-17) This uncomfortable truth causes the Pharisees to respond with ridicule. Note when people cannot stand against the truth by defeating it with argument, they will often resort to name calling and ridicule. Do not be discouraged, for so they treated Jesus too. His reply is brilliant: their...

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