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July 24, 2017: An Hour You Do Not Expect

Today’s Bible Reading: 2 Chronicles 30-33, Psalm 149, Luke 12:38-48, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13 Luke 12:38-48: Stay dressed for action and keep your lamp burning. These are the words that ring through this paragraph like a peel of bells awaking us from our sleep and calling us to action. There is hard, cold, truth: you do not know when Jesus will return. Who knows when a thief would break into his house? If you did, you would not need locks. Similarly, no one knows when Jesus will return. There is a most dire warning: The servant who begins to beat his fellow servants, and the master returns at an hour he is not expecting, that servant is not a true servant of Christ and will receive the reward of those who reject Christ (12:46). There is nuance: If someone did not know what they should be doing, and therefore did not do it, there will be a different kind...

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July 23, 2017: Seek First the Kingdom

Today’s Bible Reading: 2 Chronicles 28-29, Psalm 148, Luke 12:22-34, 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5 Luke 12:22-34: This is perhaps some of the most relevant teaching for our anxiety-driven, pressurized, stressed society today. Jesus tells his disciples not to worry, but he does not just instruct them to do something; he also explains to them why and how to do it (12:22-34). In summary, Jesus is asking us to make a covenant with God as our Father to seek first his kingdom and then God himself will take care of us. Take care of the kingdom, and the King will take care of you.   Our worry is proportionately related to our generosity. It is no accident that this teaching comes right after Jesus’ parable of the rich fool. If we are not generous with our possessions, the natural human tendency is to worry about them. (12:13-21) We are more. One of the reasons we worry is we take...

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July 22, 2017: The Dangers of Prosperity

Today’s Bible Reading: 2 Chronicles 25-27, Psalm 147, Luke 12:13-21, 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17 Luke 12:13-21: At the heart of so much human interaction and tension in this world is squabbles about and passionate drive towards attaining money. Few things, then, are more disturbing than when a family becomes split about an inheritance matter. Someone in the crowd following Jesus has this issue and asks Jesus to intervene—on their behalf to tell their brother to do what they want! Jesus is far too savvy to fall for that trap. Note: we are not being unkind when we avoid various traps and barbs and pitfalls put in front of us by people. It is wise to be careful what we commit ourselves to and not rush in where angels fear to tread. So Jesus does not wade into a fight that is not his to have to act as an arbiter between these two brothers. But the occasion does provide...

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July 21, 2017: Hypocrisy

Today’s Bible Reading: 2 Chronicles 22-24, Psalm 146, Luke 12:1-12, 2 Thessalonians 2:6-12 Luke 12:1-12: Having so strongly critiqued the Pharisee, Jesus now exposes the heart of the matter. The real center of the problem for the Pharisee is “hypocrisy” (12:1). This is the “leaven,” the part that seeps through everything else and gives power to everything else. Hypocrisy is the tendency to think of ourselves as who we are in public, to focus on what others think of us, rather than to take a good, long, hard, carefully introspective look at what we are really like behind closed doors. We should not, as it were, believe our own press. People may say wonderful things about us, but we know better. We are only sinners, saved by grace; nothing more. To think that we can cover up this reality is foolish—it will be proclaimed from the housetops. One day, what we are will be revealed...

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July 20, 2017: Woe!

Today’s Bible Reading: 2 Chronicles 20-21, Psalm 145, Luke 11:37-54, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5 Luke 11:37-54: In this section, Jesus pulls no punches in his denouncement of false religion. Characteristically, Jesus reserves his most stringent judgment for those who are fake religious leaders. The “Pharisees” and the “scribes” fell into traps that it is worth all those who are “religious” taking note of and being beware. The conversation begins because Jesus did not wash before dinner. This was a ceremonial washing. This context, and the criticism it provokes, provides the framing for Jesus’ denouncements that follow. Focusing on the external, not the internal (11:39-41). The Pharisee made sure that he performed ritual cleaning. But inside he was impure—full of greed and wickedness. Instead, they must focus on what they are like inside, and let their behavior be transformed from the inside out. False religions—like Islam—and false versions of Christianity, all tend to focus on the external. Looking good...

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July 19, 2017: Making the Most of What We Have Been Given

Today’s Bible Reading: 2 Chronicles 17-19, Psalm 144, Luke 11:29-36, 2 Thessalonians 1 Luke 11:29-36: People are crowding to hear Jesus speak, and as they do so, Jesus realizes that some of them are asking for a “sign.” Jesus has certainly done many miracles and taught in many miraculous ways that point to his identity—so to ask for a “sign” now is tantamount to rejecting Jesus. It’s a psychological way of hiding from yourself the truth that whatever signs Jesus did you wouldn’t want to hear from. People do the same sort of thing today. Some will say that if only God did such-and-such, then they would believe. But God has given us all the evidence we need to believe in him right now. We have the evidence of creation all around us. We have the evidence of conscience constantly with us. We have the evidence of Christ, revealed in the Bible, preached by his...

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July 18, 2017: The Finger of God

Today’s Bible Reading: 2 Chronicles 13-16, Psalm 143, Luke 11:14-28, 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28 Luke 11:14-28: Jesus does an extraordinary miracle and the people marvel. But some come back to this miracle questioning how it is that Jesus accomplished it. “By the prince of demons he cast out demons.” This line of logic has often been used to dismiss the work of God, or to pour scorn on those who do God’s work. If someone does not like the person who is being fruitful or having a dramatic ministry, they will sometimes find an evil or malevolent reason for their effectiveness. There is the demonic. There is something manipulative or psychologically wrong at work. This is the kind of thing that was being said against Jesus. Jesus understands the lack of logic in this attack and brings that lack of logic into the forefront of the conversation. “Every kingdom divided against itself falls.” In other words, to suggest that...

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July 17, 2017: Pray!

Today’s Bible Reading: 2 Chronicles 10-12, Psalm 142, Luke 11:1-13, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 Luke 11:1-13: We come now to the famous “Lord’s Prayer” that Jesus taught his disciples. Note that Jesus was himself praying. It is well to record the number of times that Jesus is mentioned as praying. If he must pray, how much more must we! Note, also, that when the disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray, they refer to the way that John had taught his disciples to pray. Teachers, leaders, pastors, do not neglect this aspect of instruction. We are quick to teach people to study the Bible. We are quick to teach people to evangelize. We are quick to teach people to be holy and pure and generous. But how much do we teach them to pray? If we follow the biblical example, we will teach people to pray. Then comes the prayer itself. - “When you pray, say.”...

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July 16, 2017: One Thing

Today’s Bible Reading: 2 Chronicles 8-9, Psalm 141, Luke 10:38-42, 1 Thessalonians 4:11-18 Luke 10:38-42: We come to the famous story of “Martha and Mary.” It is a story that has been interpreted on many different levels, but, in the words of Jesus, “one thing is necessary,” and there is one controlling aspect of the message which we are to take on board and apply. Certainly, the story encourages us not to be too busy, like Martha. There is a particular personality type that is only happy when it is in perpetual motion. But business is not the same as productivity. Merely to work long hours is not the same as to be fruitful. Again, the story encourages us not be anxious about many things, like Martha. Often what drives the business is a deep-rooted concern for the many things that are going on and a need to be ensuring that those things do not...

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July 15, 2017: The Lawyer and the Good Samaritan

Today’s Bible Reading: 2 Chronicles 6-7, Psalm 140, Luke 10:25-37, 1 Thessalonians 4:1-10 Luke 10:25-37: A religious lawyer comes up to Jesus and asks him a question to test him. These experts in the Mosaic law had by and large not bought into the message of Jesus, nor the preparatory message of John the Baptist (Luke 7:30). Evidently, this lawyer is not being entirely sincere. He is asking Jesus a question “to test him” (10:25). Note there is nothing wrong with asking God questions. The Psalms model openness of communication with God. But there is a difference between asking a question to find out the truth, and asking a question to hide the truth. The lawyer is trying to find a loophole in Jesus’ understanding of the Old Testament law. He is testing him. Jesus, wisely, asks the lawyer a question in return (10:26)! This is the common tactic of Jesus when put to the...

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