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September 10, 2017: Sweating Blood

Today’s Bible Reading: Isaiah 27-28, Proverbs 23:1-18, Luke 22:39-46, Hebrews 6:13-20 Luke 22:39-46: Jesus withdraws, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives. The disciples follow him. Now comes a scene famous, notorious, powerful, sad—and yet wonderful. That such a One as this should give his life for a worm such as I! His suffering leads to our healing, his successful struggle through the very worst possible temptation that he might help us in our temptations, his death that we might have life. Jesus tells his disciples to pray that they might not fall into temptation (22:40). A very ready and present help when facing temptation is to pray for help. Do not neglect this when facing a temptation that seems to us beyond our ability to resist. Turn to God for help; ask him; pray to him. God is an ever present help in time of need, and prayer is the means for us...

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September 9, 2017: Spiritual and Practical

Today’s Bible Reading: Isaiah 24-26, Proverbs 22:17-29, Luke 22:31-38, Hebrews 6:1-12 Luke 22:31-38: (22:31-34) In Western culture, even in the church, we often gloss over the reality of the supernatural, but texts such as this remind us that Satanic adversary is real and active. We are in a spiritual battle. Oftentimes tensions at home, at church, in ministries, or in our own inner lives are more signs of the spiritual war in which we are engaged than more prosaic interpretations might suggest. We should not default to seeing the devil under every malady, nor excuse our poor behavior on “the devil made me do it,” but neither should we act as if our lives were only interpreted by human frameworks. There is a spiritual world. We are in a spiritual battle. What then should we do? Paul teaches us about the armor of God, including the sword of the Spirit being the Word of God, and...

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September 8, 2017: Leadership

Today’s Bible Reading: Isaiah 21-23, Proverbs 22:1-16, Luke 22:24-30, Hebrews 5 Luke 22:24-30: So many books have been written about leadership, and yet so few of them grasp this principle that Jesus here teaches—a principle that is at the heart of who is and what the gospel is. First the contrast. The Gentiles have a certain style of leadership. Often we look at this description of leadership in verse 25 and assume it means something uniformly negative or dictatorial. But in some respects, the principles of verse 25 are described in many management and leadership text books. To lead you must have people who follow, they say. A leader without followers is like going for a walk on your own. To have followers, they say, you must establish appropriate control procedures. This is all equivalent to the principle of exercising “lordship.” And then to retain such precedence, you must be careful to reward your followers with patronage,...

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September 7, 2017: The Lord’s Supper

Today’s Bible Reading: Isaiah 17-20, Proverbs 21:17-31, Luke 22:14-23, Hebrews 4:12-16 Luke 22:14-23: This meal is now laden with gospel significance, each and every part. First, it points to Jesus’ coming suffering (22:15). The Lord’s Supper, when we eat it now on the other side of the cross, points back to Jesus’ death for us. Second, it points to the kingdom of God (22:16-18). The King of the kingdom, King Jesus, reigns when he sovereignly dies for the sins of the world. The kingdom is established, propagated, promoted, and centers on the cross of Christ. (Note: some have mistakenly thought that Jesus’ establishment of communion here in Luke is different from elsewhere because here he begins with the cup in verse 17. But this cup that he passes is part of the meal. The strictly symbolic elements occur in verses 19 and 20, and there the same order is retained: first the bread, then the cup). ...

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September 6, 2017: Satanic Betrayal

Today’s Bible Reading: Isaiah 14-16, Proverbs 12:1-16, Luke 22:1-13, Hebrews 4:1-11 Luke 22:1-13: (22:1) It is almost Passover and Jesus is making preparations, not just to eat the Passover with his disciples, but also to be the fulfillment of that Passover in his own death for the sin of the world. Note: all of these Old Testament types and figures find their landing place in none other than Christ and him crucified. Note also how planned and prepared Jesus is for each of the events that will unfold. He is the master of ceremonies even at his own death, which he entered into willingly for the sake of us whom he loves. (22:2) The chief priests and the scribes are trying to put Jesus to death—which in God’s sovereignty will be the means he uses to be put to death to save sinners. But why are they so opposed to Jesus? “They feared the people.” They cannot...

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September 5, 2017: Watch and Pray

Today’s Bible Reading: Isaiah 11-13, Proverbs 20:16-30, Luke 21:29-38, Hebrews 3 Luke 21:29-38: (21:29-33) As so often when Jesus is teaching, he uses a parable to explain his meaning. Such similitudes aid the understanding in the same way that windows in a house allow the light to come in. We need the solidity of the structure of understanding, but if there are no windows, that light will not come in and understanding will be unlikely. Jesus, the master teacher, used stories and parables and illustrations—not so as to take over the teaching and be memorable for their own sake, but so as to illuminate the teaching in the mind’s eye of the listener. This parable is of a fig tree. In those days, people would have been familiar with the cycle of a fig tree to be able to tell by the coming of the leaf of that tree that summer was around the corner. When we...

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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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