Wednesday, October 31, 2012

October 31, 2012 … Why are the last, first and the first, last?

Chronological Bible Reading Plan - Day 305

Passage of the Day: Reference of Today’s Chronological Bible Study: Matthew, Chapters 20-21 To study these chapters, go to this link

Highlight Passages: Matthew 20: 1-16; 20-28: [NLT] … { Go the link above at the outset of Matt 20 to read the parable of vineyard workers, which tells of those who can/will be granted entrance to God’s heaven. This message about salvation is a hard lesson. Don’t we so often become jealous for what others have been given in life? … Then there is the story of John’s/James’ mother asking for special kingdom favor in verses 20-28, with Jesus relating much the same value that the last will be first. } ... 
15 Is it against the law for me to do what I want with my money? Should you be angry because I am kind?’ 16 “And so it is, that many who are first now will be last then; and those who are last now will be first then.” … 
24 When the ten other disciples heard what James and John had asked [i.e., special favor in heaven], they were indignant. 25 But Jesus called them together and said, “You know that in this world kings are tyrants, and officials lord it over the people beneath them. 26 But among you it should be quite different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must become your slave. 28 For even I, the Son of Man, came here not to be served but to serve others, and to give my life as a ransom for many.” 
Highlight Passages: Mark 21: 28-32 : [NLT] … { Here, as Matthew described Jesus being in Jerusalem during the Passover week of His time of passion, He was challenged by the religious authorities and related a story, which dumbfounded the Pharisees and was a hard saying for all to consume – that all, no matter how bad their lives had been, would enter God’s kingdom if they just believed in Him. } ... 
28 “But what do you think about this? A man with two sons told the older boy, ‘son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 The son answered, ‘No, I won’t go,’ but later he changed his mind and went anyway. 30 Then the father told the other son, ‘You go,’ and he said, ‘Yes, sir, I will.’ But he didn’t go. 31Which of the two was obeying his father?” They replied, “The first, of course.” Then Jesus explained his meaning: “I assure you, corrupt tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the Kingdom of God before you do. 32 For John the Baptist came and showed you the way to life, and you didn’t believe him, while tax collectors and prostitutes did. And even when you saw this happening, you refused to turn from your sins and believe him.”

My Journal for Today: Here, in these two chapters of Matthew, Jesus is heading down the final stretch of His earthly ministry and even coming to Jerusalem for His final Passover celebration, triumphantly entering the Temple on what we now celebrate as “Palm Sunday.” But we know that in His final week on earth things were going to deteriorate; and many of those who were lauding Jesus as “Messiah” as He entered the City of David that week would be crying for His crucifixion just a few days later.

And in Matthew’s account of those days in Chapter 20-21 we read of Jesus coming down the road of His earthly teaching with some very hard lessons, not the least of which is a truth that even devoted believers have trouble internalizing; and that is the truth that the last will be first and the first will be last. And there is one vignette in Matt 20: 20-28 which illustrates this truth.

In this passage the mother of the “Sons of Thunder,” James and John, two of Jesus’ inner core of Disciples, came to Jesus and asked for a special place to be granted by Jesus when they were in heaven with Him. Certainly this request illustrated that this mother truly believed that Jesus was The Messiah; but she still was dealing with her very human default of wanting her boys to have favor over the other followers of Jesus. And Jesus taught them all that God’s gift of grace was for ALL and that the least of all would take the first place with Him in heaven.

Personally, this is one of the real hard lessons for my humanity to internalize. I can see the truth intellectually; but so often my humanity overwhelms my humility; and my pride strikes out and desires reward for me asserting myself to go to the head of the class. All my life, one of my weaknesses has been trying to excel so that I could be seen as one of the “first” … and one of the “best.” And now, I must accept the truth that others who declare themselves to be the least will be the first in God’s kingdom economy. It’s a hard truth, which I accept in my mind … but to which I must continue to aspire in my heart.

My Prayer Today: … Lord, help me to surrender to Your grace and continue to serve You with no expectations of glory in the serving. Amen

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

October 30, 2012 … “Let the little children come to Me”

Chronological Bible Reading Plan - Day 304

Passage of the Day: Reference of Today’s Chronological Bible Study: Matthew, Chapters 19 To study these chapters, go to this link
Passage of the Day: Reference of Today’s Chronological Bible Study: Mark, Chapters 10 To study these chapters, go to this link

Highlight Passages: Matthew 19: 13-15 : [NLT] … { When I think of this passage, I imagine Jesus much like the image in the picture below. } 13 Some children were brought to Jesus so he could lay his hands on them and pray for them. The disciples told them not to bother him. 14 But Jesus said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.” 15 And He put His hands on their heads and blessed them before He left. … 
Highlight Passages: Mark 10: 13-16 : [NLT] … { Note the parents bringing their children to Jesus. It was a tradition and custom of the day for parents to receive a blessing on their children from one they considered a God-anointed Rabbi. } 13 One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could touch them and bless them, but the disciples told them not to bother him. 14 But when Jesus saw what was happening, he was very displeased with his disciples. He said to them, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them!  For the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 I assure you, anyone who doesn’t have their kind of faith will never get into the Kingdom of God.” 16 Then he took the children into his arms and placed his hands on their heads and blessed them.
Reference Passage: Luke 18: 15-17 : [NLT] … { The parallel passage in Luke 18 to the two passages copied above. Three almost identical passages from three separate authors in Scripture, remembering the truth of 2nd Timothy 3: 16-17. } 15 One day some parents brought their little children to Jesus so he could touch them and bless them, but the disciples told them not to bother him. 16 Then Jesus called for the children and said to the disciples, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them!  For the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17 I assure you, anyone who doesn’t have their kind of faith will never get into the Kingdom of God.”

Reference Passage: Psalm 139: 13-16 : [NLT] … Go to this link to meditate on this pro-life passage … 

My Journal for Today: Are you as angry as I am about abortion in our times? In these days where abortion has become protected by the law of the land, as interpreted by our “supreme court,” many Christians, like myself, rail in righteous anger against this hideous and unGodly practice. And now our government is trying to push to make abortion a “tax supported medical procedure.” But how does a pro-life Christian look to God’s word, as the arbiter of all human behavior, to argue the apologetics of the pro-life, anti-abortion position?

Well, most certainly the passage to which I’ve linked any reader here today in Psalm 139, verses 13-16 very strongly declares that God creates life in the womb and that life – any life in the womb – is God created and blessed. However, in the two chronological reading passages for today, along with chapter 18 of Luke’s gospel, which I as assigned to read yesterday, there is a an absolutely parallel passage which was worded EXACTLY the same in all three passages, by three different authors of Scripture who wanted their readers to know that Jesus was God in the flesh. And when I meditate on these parallel passages this morning, my memory took me to a photo which I had stored on my computer, which I’ve copied above, which I think depicts how much Jesus loved little children; and I think He wanted His disciples/followers to have the faith, innocence, and humility of a child in their relationship with Him as their Rabbi, … their Messiah, … and their LORD.

To me, one has to consider a fetus as a pre-born CHILD; and one supporting abortion has see that fetus to be something other that a God-created child, to even consider abortion ethical and legal. Isn’t it interesting that many of the same people, who are “pro-choice” (what a misnomer is that term!) for legalizing abortion, are the same people who say that destroying the egg of a bald eagle should be punishable by prison terms. However, these same “pro-choicers” would say that aborting a pre-born child – or “fetus” to them – should be perfectly okay and legal.

I think you’d agree that this issue has become extremely contentious and divisive in our world, culture, and country; but I don’t think it should be even debatable for anyone who thinks of Jesus like He is pictured above and how much He loved little children and was quoted by three separate authors, saying, “Let the little children come to me; and don’t stop them!”

What’s your position on abortion? And knowing that next week we’ll vote on a President where one candidate clearly supports abortion as legal; and one wants to make abortion illegal, … how will you exercise your righteous anger on the issue of abortion in this vote?

My Prayer Today: … Lord, You know that I’ve already voted for Your position on abortion. Amen

Monday, October 29, 2012

October 29, 2012 … Yes, Pray; … But Pray Humbly!

Chronological Bible Reading Plan - Day 303

Passage of the Day: Reference of Today’s Chronological Bible Study: Luke, Chapters 18 To study these chapters, go to this link

Highlight Passages: Luke 18: 1; 9-14 : [NLT] … { If a Christian had to find the one baseline discipline which Jesus emphasized as important, what would it be? Duh! It is prayer; is it not! And in this chapter, when Jesus was teaching about the attitude which one must carry through life, He used a story about two men praying to illustrate how a believer should approach life with an attitude of humility … IN PRAYER. }  
1 One day Jesus told his disciples a story to illustrate their need for constant prayer and to show them that they must never give up. … 9 Then Jesus told this story to some who had great self-confidence and scorned everyone else: 10 “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a dishonest tax collector. 11 The proud Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else, especially like that tax collector over there! For I never cheat, I don’t sin, I don’t commit adultery, 12 I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’ 13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ 14 I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For the proud will be humbled, but the humble will be honored.”
Reference Passage: 1st Thessalonians 5: 17 : [NLT] … { Pray, pray, and pray some more! }  
17  Keep on praying continually.

My Journal for Today: Chapter 18 of Luke’s Gospel account was my assignment today in my chronological reading plan, now unfolding in the New Testament; and there is a lot of content and some great lessons which Jesus taught in this chapter. For example, there is the parallel lesson in Luke 18: 15-17, which is also taught in Matthew 19 and Mark 10, about how believers must go through life with the faith of a child, not letting our jaded attitude about life get in the way of our faith in God. And in this one lesson Jesus also gives His attitude about any child, which makes them each so precious and which most certainly applies against the scourge of abortion about which so many of us grieve over in our times.

And also in this chapter, in verses 18-29, is another lesson, also taught in Matthew 19 and Mark 10, where Jesus told the parable of the rich young ruler, who sought the formula for salvation but went away in sadness, learning that one must be willing to give up everything in this life for God to grant entrance into Heaven.

And most certainly those are Jesus lessons worthy of blogging this morning; but the lesson at the outset of Chapter 18 of Luke is the one I want to emphasize in my journal entry today and that is Jesus taking the time to point out the power of prayer in life and also the attitude one must carry into prayer which makes it powerful for our living. Right at the outset of this chapter, in verse 1, Jesus launches into a story where our Lord emphasizes a point which is re-emphasized often by God through the Apostle Paul in his NT writings; and that is the POWER OF PERSISTENT PRAYER.

And Jesus uses a parable of a widow praying before a judge in verses 1-8 of Luke 18, so that we might learn how important God felt about a believer’s prayer – and then praying some more … and then praying even more – about issues in life which require God’s attention beyond the abilities of man to handle life’s demands. This lesson of persistent prayer, as I copied one short verse from Paul’s epistle to the church in Thessalonica (i.e., 1st Thes. 5: 17), is also repeated by Paul to the church in Rome (i.e., Romans 12: 12) and to believers in Colossi (i.e., Colossians 4: 2), and it was the same lesson Jesus taught at the outset of Luke 18; and that is for believers to pray, … and pray … and keep on praying, especially when life seemed overwhelming.

But just praying persistently, Jesus taught, was not enough. In another parable, found in verses 10-14 above of Luke 18, the Lord also taught, as recorded by Luke (and Matthew 19 and Mark 10), that we, who believe in Jesus as Lord, must come into prayer with a mindset of HUMILITY, surrendering self to our Savior before our prayer can be met with God’s grace. This is a lesson about the attitude of believers which is heralded in many places in Scripture (see Prov. 3: 34, James 4: 6, and 1st Peter 5: 5-6), all teaching Jesus’ point here in Luke 18 that God cannot pour His grace into prideful prayer. No, … humility is the key which opens God’s floodgates of grace; and humble prayer becomes the vehicle which turns that key to unlock God’s mercy.

So, … this is a lesson I need to be reminded of often; because my flesh so often defaults to pride, thinking that I can do what I need to surrender to God’s grace to accomplish. And oh how Satan wants me to think that I can pridefully handle life without going to God, humblied in prayer … over and over and over again as Jesus teaches in Luke 18.

My Prayer Today: … Lord, thank You for being here daily when I come – prayerfully with humility – to seek Your grace. Amen

Sunday, October 28, 2012

October 28, 2012 … The Back-breaking Miracle!

Chronological Bible Reading Plan - Day 302

Blogger’s Note: Prepare your heart for today’s reading and my journal entry by using this link and seeing/hearing Nicole Nordeman sing her song, What If, the haunting question which so many had to ask after Jesus performed one of His most dramatic miracles, the raising of Lazarus from the dead …  . Once again, listen and be uplifted as we pursue – together – the knowing of God through His word from John 11.

Passage of the Day: Reference of Today’s Chronological Bible Study: John, Chapters 11 To study these chapters, go to this link

Highlight Passages: John 11: 47-50 : [NLT] … { Reading John’s Chapter 11 has many great lessons from the scenario of Jesus raising his friend Lazarus from the death, illustrating to the people and scaring the religious leaders as Jesus showed His power over even death. This miracle was that proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back. But my devotional focus today is on the Sadducee, Caiaphas, the High Priest of the Sanhedrin at this time as Passover approached; and Caiaphas, who didn’t believe in a resurrection and was in league with the Romans simply wanted Jesus gone. He becomes the personification of any/all who simply can’t or won’t believe in Jesus as Messiah, the Son of God.} 47 Then the leading priests and Pharisees called the high council£ together to discuss the situation. “What are we going to do?” they asked each other. “This man certainly performs many miraculous signs. 48 If we leave him alone, the whole nation will follow him, and then the Roman army will come and destroy both our Temple and our nation.” … 49 And one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said, “How can you be so stupid? 50 Why should the whole nation be destroyed? Let this one man die for the people.”… 

My Journal for Today: Okay, … in my chronological reading in the New Testament today, I’m led to John’s Gospel account, Chapter 11, with contains one of the most significant stories about Jesus performing miracles in His earthly ministry; and as it turns out, this miracle, the raising of Jesus’ friend, Lazarus, from the dead was a fulcrum event in Jesus’ ministry; and there are so many teaching points which can be made out of this eye-witness account by John.

There is the curious account of Jesus delaying for several days when He knew that Lazarus was dying. There is the poignant scene of Jesus weeping when He is close to the grave of Lazarus. And there is that powerful scene when Jesus calls out Lazarus from the tomb by name. And there is the marvelous character studies wrapped up in the faith of two whose faith had been in questioned in their past, … Martha and Thomas, … who stepped forward after Lazarus was raised and illustrated complete surrender to Jesus as their Messiah.

But today I focus on one who simply could not take the reality of what others reported as truth in this story of Jesus’ victory over death; and I’m talking about Caiaphas, the High Priest of the Sanhedrin at the time, a Sadducee who would not allow himself to believe that the resurrection was real and that this man, Jesus, could actually be Whom He was claiming to be – The Son of God.

Caiaphas may have been asking the exact question which Nicole Nordeman asks in her song, to which I’ve linked my fellow readers above, … What if? Yes, what if this Jesus is more than just a man? What if He’s really The Messiah? But some, like Caiaphas, simply can’t have that in their mindset and must do all they can to eliminate this man – the Messiah – from our social landscape. He must be gone! And so, the Caiaphas figures set about doing all they can to crucify the image of THIS JESUS from our culture; … and they do whatever it takes to erase the concept of JESUS, the God-man, from the minds of any who might believe that He was/is exactly Whom He claimed to be.

Caiaphas lives today in the hearts of those who may have heard the stories of people, like me, whose lives have been changed forever by believing in this Man, Jesus, as the Son of God. And the Caiaphases of today will do all they can to eradiate “Jesus” and crucify His image in our culture.

If you’re reading this, I doubt that you are one of those in the mold of Caiaphas. If you were, you wouldn’t be reading here because the truth from God’s word is a mirror which you couldn’t take; and you wouldn’t read a chapter like John 11 because it’s too threatening to you, … just as it was when Caiaphas had to answer the “WHAT IF” question for himself.

Yes, ... those like you and me believe that Jesus did raise Lazarus from the dead; and He, Himself, was raised from the dead as well; and we have answered Nicole Nordeman’s “What If” question with a positive “HE IS!” And praise God, because of it … we’ll spend eternity with the One Who raised Lazarus and the One Who will raise you and me forever.

My Prayer Today: … Lord, thank You for being there to let me come out of my grave to be with You forever. Amen

Saturday, October 27, 2012

October 27, 2012 … Living For God Until He Returns

Chronological Bible Reading Plan - Day 301

Blogger’s Note: Perhaps a song to help a follower here today to prepare his/her heart for Jesus’ message in these two chapters of Luke’s gospel might be Steve Green’s version of Find Us Faithful, found on this You Tube link …  . Listen and be uplifted, as I was, this day in my pursuit of knowing God through His word.

Passage of the Day: Reference of Today’s Chronological Bible Study: Luke, Chapters 16-17 To study these chapters, go to this link

Highlight Passages: Luke 16: 9-13 : [NLT] … { Jesus relates two stories to the Pharisees and the people following Jesus around in Galilee; and the stories are summarized in verses 9-13 of Chapter 16 of Luke’s account, which show that how we handle our money reveals our heart. }  
9 “ I tell you, use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. In this way, your generosity stores up a reward for you in heaven. 10 Unless you are faithful in small matters, you won’t be faithful in large ones. If you cheat even a little, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities. 11 And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven? 12 And if you are not faithful with other people’s money, why should you be trusted with money of your own? … 13 “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” … 
Highlight Passages: Luke 17: 20-25 : [NLT] … { In Chapter 17, especially verses 23-36Luke records Jesus teaching about His second coming when the “kingdom of God” would be ushered in forever, which had to be confusing and confounding for Jesus’ disciples and especially for the religious leaders; and this would especially have been confusing with Jesus again reporting that HE, “the Son of Man” would have to suffer first before all this kingdom prophesy took place. And think about it; … two millennia later and theologians are still arguing about when Jesus’ second coming will take place.}  
20 One day the Pharisees asked Jesus, “When will the Kingdom of God come?” … Jesus replied, “The Kingdom of God isn’t ushered in with visible signs. 21 You won’t be able to say, ‘Here it is!’ or ‘It’s over there!’ For the Kingdom of God is among you.” 22 Later He talked again about this with his disciples. The time is coming when you will long to share in the days of the Son of Man, but you won’t be able to,” He said. 23 “Reports will reach you that the Son of Man has returned and that he is in this place or that. Don’t believe such reports or go out to look for him. 24 For when the Son of Man returns, you will know it beyond all doubt. It will be as evident as the lightning that flashes across the sky. 25 But first the Son of Man must suffer terribly and be rejected by this generation.” 

My Journal for Today: Today I’m led to study two more chapters of Luke’s carefully written account of Jesus and His teachings as He carried out His earthly ministry before heading to Calvary’s calling. And as I pointed out above, these people in His time, even though desiring desperately that Jesus be their Messiah, must’ve been confounded and confused, and even more so the Pharisees, by Jesus’ kingdom teachings and prophesies. And when He began to tell the people about His second coming, that really must’ve blown them away, because two millennia later theologians and scholars are still arguing about when Jesus will come again to usher in His forever kingdom.

But one thing is for sure. Jesus taught – in these two chapters of Luke’s gospel – that we must prepare for The Messiah coming again by living God’s way and following His will (which was originally given to God’s people in God’s Law) and by living according to the teachings of Messiah, Who was there in the midst of those people, teaching them about Himself in that day before He would walk to Calvary.

He taught them, today from Chapter 16, about very practical things like how using our money for kingdom purposes – NOW, here in our times – would be a measure of our faith in Him as The Christ. He taught that we will not know when He, The Messiah, comes again; but we – in faith – must live as His Bride until He – The Bridegroom – would come again to claim His Bride.

And yes, … it was very confusing for those people then; and maybe even a bit confusing for us now; but it is none-the-less just as true now as then; and we must do all we can to seek out God’s truth – His kingdom ways through His teachings (from His word) - so that we can live out those kingdom values now as we prepare and wait for Jesus to come again and usher in His Kingdom forever, … which could be tomorrow.

As Steve Green sings in the song I linked you to above, … “May all who come behind us FIND US FAITHFUL!” 

My Prayer Today: … Lord, help me to live as Your Bride, preparing for You to come for me tomorrow. Amen

Friday, October 26, 2012

October 26, 2012 … Be Thou My Vision

Chronological Bible Reading Plan - Day 300

Blogger’s Note: To prepare your heart for my journal entry this AM, hearing and taking in the great old hymn, Be Thou My Vision performed in this You Tube piece by the group, 4 HimUse this link ... 

Passage of the Day: Reference of Today’s Chronological Bible Study: Luke, Chapters 14-15 To study these chapters, go to this link

Highlight Passages: Luke 14: 25-27 : [NLT] … { On several occasions in the Synoptic Gospels, as Jesus traveled the country sides in Galilee, Jesus is recorded by the gospel writers teaching about the cost of being His disciple. Besides this quotation by Luke in his 14th chapter, you can note this particular message twice in Matthew 10:38 & 16:24; and in Mark 8:34; and earlier repeated by Luke in Luke 9:23. And the redundancy of any lesson from God’s word, especially from the mouth of the Living Word, Jesus, signals the importance of that lesson. Hence my journaling about this lesson today.} 25 Great crowds were following Jesus. He turned around and said to them, 26 “If you want to be my follower you must love me more than your own father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, more than your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. 27 And you cannot be my disciple if you do not carry your own cross and follow me."
Highlight Passages: Luke 15 – use the link above : [NLT] … {Luke 15 is loaded with Jesus and his often repeated PARABLES, … stories with a meaning, which the Pharisees and religious leaders found confounding, because of their spiritual blindness, and those seekers after Jesus found compelling because of their open hearts. That’s the essence of how Jesus will be received by the world, … if/when they seek Him, they will find Him; but when the world can only see self, they will never find the Savior. Again, please use the link above to read, study, and meditate on Jesus’ parables in Luke 15. }

My Journal for Today: As Luke records in these two chapters of his gospel accounts, Jesus walked and taught in the countryside of Galilee during His earthly ministry, confounding the religious leaders and Pharisees and calling out to the seekers after His truth with His parables and His miraculous healings and miracles. The religious leaders couldn’t receive Jesus’ messages because they were blinded by their traditions and their unwillingness to see past their own laws and legalistic religious practices. But to those with open and contrite hearts, … those who were really seeking truth, … Jesus’ enigmatic parables were revealing of the truth that Jesus was Whom He said He was … their Messiah and the Son of the Living God.

And if you have an open heart today, reading Luke 14 & 15 and my journal entry here, the song to which I’ve linked you above, with the group 4Him singing, Be Thou My Vision, will be particularly meaningful. We all need to be doing all we can in our walk on this earth to seek out Jesus as our vision, … as our light, … our path in life. And that’s why the lesson on discipleship which Jesus repeated often as He taught the people during His walk on earth is so important.

If you go back to this lesson from my memory verse of Luke 9: 23, which is repeated and quoted above in Luke 14: 26-27, Jesus gives a three-point homily on the cost of being His disciple. I call it Jesus’ discipleship sandwich, because the meat of life (i.e., dealing with the crosses we bear – i.e., the circumstances of life) is sandwiched between the bread of life, which is denying self and following Christ.

 But the question for any of us – and for you, if you’re reading with me today – is … JUST HOW WILLING ARE WE TO DENY SELF AND SEEK THE SAVIOR? Because, like the Pharisees, if we don’t have a seekers heart for the Living Truth, Jesus, we will never be able to deny ourselves, follow our Lord, and deal with the crosses of life.

I’ll leave Jesus’ sermon on discipleship for you to ponder this AM; because I made my decision long ago; and will repeat it here today that I want Jesus to be my vision; and I will choose to do all I can to deny my self and seek out my Savior.

How about you?

My Prayer Today: … Lord, as I so often pray, “Be Thou My Vision!” Amen

Thursday, October 25, 2012

October 25, 2012 … Whom Do We Follow?

Chronological Bible Reading Plan - Day 299

Blogger’s Note: One of my favorite songs which I often play to help me prepare for my morning time with God here in my quiet place each morning is sung by a friend of mine along with two friends of his, … Clay Crosse with Bob Carlisle and Bebe Winans. The song is I Will Follow Christ; and you can see/hear it being sung by going to this link before you follow my devotional journal entry today.  

Passage of the Day: Reference of Today’s Chronological Bible Study: Luke, Chapters 12-13 To study these chapters, go to this link

Highlight Passages: Luke 12: 1-3; 56-57 : [NLT] … { Luke records Jesus giving some of the strongest and most powerful sermons of His earthly ministry; and I would exhort any who are reading along with me today to meditate on these powerful words, which are, of course, the messages of truth from the Living Word Himself, … Jesus, The Christ! }  ... 1 Meanwhile, the crowds grew until thousands were milling about and crushing each other. Jesus turned first to his disciples and warned them, “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees—beware of their hypocrisy. 2The time is coming when everything will be revealed; all that is secret will be made public. 3Whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be shouted from the housetops for all to hear!”  
{And finally at the end of Chapter 12, after teaching of what God’s kingdom values should be in this life in preparation for the next, Jesus warns His followers of a dark time coming which will foreshadow His coming again for His Bride, the Church. And when we see the storm clouds gathering, as I believe we are in these times today, we are warned that we must be those who are following Christ, as is sung in the song I asked you to take in before this devotional time. } 54 Then Jesus turned to the crowd and said, “When you see clouds beginning to form in the west, you say, ‘Here comes a shower.’ And you are right. 55When the south wind blows, you say, ‘today will be a scorcher.’ And it is. 56 You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky, but you can’t interpret these present times. … 57 “Why can’t you decide for yourselves what is right?”
Highlight Passages: Luke 13: 22-27 : [NLT] … {And Jesus, recorded by Luke in Chapter 13, presses on in His trek toward Jerusalem and the Cross with strong messages of truth and warning to those who were following Him, especially His inner 12, whom He was preparing for their future mission on earth. And the lesson in verses 22-27 is one of the toughest … that not all will be saved to enter God’s kingdom with Jesus … only those who follow Christ … once again as the song to which I’ve linked you this AM.} ... 22 Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he went, always pressing on toward Jerusalem. 23 Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few be saved?” … He replied, 24 “The door to heaven is narrow. Work hard to get in, because many will try to enter, 25 but when the head of the house has locked the door, it will be too late. Then you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Lord, open the door for us!’ But he will reply, ‘I do not know you.’ 26 You will say, ‘But we ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ 27 And he will reply, ‘I tell you, I don’t know you. Go away, all you who do evil.’ “ 

Reference Passage: To study God’s word and promise, giving the reality of those who will be saved, go to this link 

My Journal for Today: Luke records, in Chapter 12-13 of His Gospel account, Jesus on His way to Jerusalem and the cross, teaching/preaching and healing; and His message was a hard one for His followers to consume; … that they must lay aside their hypocrisy, as illustrated best in the lives of the Pharisees and religious leaders, and surrender their lives to following Jesus and the values He was preaching.

And my journal appeal today is a simple one. After one, reading along with me today, has taken in the song to which I linked you above as well as the strong words from God, through Luke, in these two chapters, where do we stand? Can we say, as the song declares so forcefully, ”I Will Follow Christ” Or are we to be among the hypocrites who follow Jesus around, admiring His life and teachings, but not fully willing to surrender to His clear teachings about kingdom values, especially in these times which I feel fit so clearly into Jesus’ teachings about the end times in Luke 12.

So, my dear follower here, I take you by link above to the strong words from the Apostle Paul in Romans 10: 9-13 where God, though Paul, gives anyone the clear formula for salvation. And I pray that all who read here can be found in that formula of truth and can sing along with Crosse, Carlisle, and Winans today, ”I will follow Christ!”

My Prayer Today: … LORD, I sing strongly with my brother singers today … I will follow You!!! Amen

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

October 24, 2012 … He Calls, … We go!

Chronological Bible Reading Plan - Day 298

Passage of the Day: Reference of Today’s Chronological Bible Study: Luke, Chapters 10 To study these chapters, go to this link

Highlight Passages: Luke 10: 1-3; 17; 22-24; 25-37; 38-42 : [NLT] … { Luke records Jesus commissioning and charging a group of His disciples, 72 in number, to “GO” and share Jesus’ Good News of what they had seen, being witnesses for Christ. He gives them instructions; but the first instruction was TO PRAY for more workers. How do we see ourselves in this story … especially related to the Great Commission and Jesus’ charge in Acts 1:8 to be His witness in our world. } 1 The Lord now chose seventy-two£ other disciples and sent them on ahead in pairs to all the towns and villages he planned to visit. 2 These were his instructions to them: “The harvest is so great, but the workers are so few. Pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest, and ask him to send out more workers for his fields. 3 Go now, and remember that I am sending you out as lambs among wolves.  
{And the 72 returned, excited by how following Jesus’ commission and witness of His Gospel message touched the lives of others.}17 When the seventy-two disciples returned, they joyfully reported to Him, “Lord, even the demons obey us when we use your name!”  
{And Jesus told His disciples how they could/should get to know God, the Father, by knowing Him. But His disciples, even having the experience of witnessing in Christ’s Name and carrying the power of His Spirit could not fully grasp Who Jesus was. The question is, with the advantage of God’s word and His Spirit, do we? } 22 “My Father has given me authority over everything. No one really knows the Son except the Father, and no one really knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” 23 Then when they were alone, he turned to the disciples and said, “How privileged you are to see what you have seen. 24 I tell you, many prophets and kings have longed to see and hear what you have seen and heard, ... but they could not.”  
{Then Luke relates two powerful stories from the teachings of Jesus, one of Him relating the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10: 25-37 and the story of Jesus visiting His close friends in Capernaum, Lazarus, Martha, and Mary in Luke 10: 38-42. And I charge any reading here with me today to use the links above and study these stories closely and see with whom we identify in these revealing stories. Who are you in the parable? … the Priest? The Levite? The Good Samaritan? Or are we – as I identify with – the broken and beaten man on the road? … And in the story of Jesus visiting His friends, do we identify with Mary or Martha? When we see ourselves in Jesus’ stories, we can see who we are in Jesus’ mirror of truth and whom we need to become as His witnesses.

Reference Passage: Matthew 28: 19-20 To study this passage with our Great Commission, go to this link ...
Reference Passage: Acts 1: 8 To study this passage with our charge to witness, go to this link ... 

My Journal for Today: Only one chapter from Luke today in my chronological reading assignment; and I’m beginning to learn that when the editors of this year-of-reading through the Bible give me only one chapter, it’s for a reason. And that’s the case today.

I’m not going to add much to what I written above - in bold - in my analysis of the various sections of Luke 10. I just charge anyone reading along with me to dig into this chapter from Luke, the later Gentile witness for Christ, traveling with the Apostle Paul and other disciples, and to see where we, as Jesus’ now disciples, fit into His charge to His then disciples?

 Do we see ourselves as being called out, commissioned, and charged to do His work in the world? Well, I do; and I’ve added links to Matthew 28: 19-20 and Acts 1:8, where I see God calling, commissioning, and charging ME “TO GO” and witness in His Name, and using the power He has given me through His Spirit, just as He gave the 72 He called into today’s reading of Luke’s telling.

Do we see ourselves, as we go forth in His Name, having been picked up on the road through Samaria; and given healing and help by the “Good Samaritan,” Whom I see as Jesus, saving me from my brokenness to be His called witness and disciple? I have a story of how Jesus picked me up, broken/beaten, gave me healing, and then restored me to tell my story to others. What’s your story?

Do we see ourselves as Mary, being driven to worship at the feet of Jesus at every opportunity we can, which gives us the renewal of strength and the restoration of purpose we need to go forth and be His witnesses, sharing the Gospel with others in our lives.

Yes, there is a whole lot to take in this one day in Luke 10 to help us become the disciples and witnesses and worshippers we need to be to carry out God’s Great Commission for all of our lives.

My Prayer Today: … Lord, thank You for giving me the writings of Luke, the Physician, to help me know You more and to worship You by receiving and living out Your commission to worship You and witness of You to others … as I pray I’m doing here in this blog. Amen

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

October 23, 2012 … Liar … Lunatic … or … LORD? – We choose!

Chronological Bible Reading Plan - Day 297

Passage of the Day: Reference of Today’s Chronological Bible Study: John, Chapters 9-10 To study these chapters, go to this link

Highlight Passages: John 9: 1-3; 18-22; 35-38 : [NLT] … { Jesus heals a blind man on the Sabbath; and it causes varying reactions … from the blind man, from his family, from the Pharisees, and from the observers at the term. Reading John 9, note the way different people react to Jesus. And that’s the way it is today. When the world is confronted with Jesus, we must choose whom we believe He is … liar, lunatic, or LORD.} 1 As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. 2 “Teacher,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it a result of his own sins or those of his parents?” … 3 “It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. … 
18 The Jewish leaders wouldn’t believe he had been blind, so they called in his parents. 19 They asked them, “Is this your son? Was he born blind? If so, how can he see?” … 20 His parents replied, “We know this is our son and that he was born blind, 21 but we don’t know how he can see or who healed him. He is old enough to speak for himself. Ask him.” 22 They said this because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders, who had announced that anyone saying Jesus was the Messiah would be expelled from the synagogue. …  
{Jesus used the physical healing of the blind man to show the Pharisees and the people about spiritual blindness and how faith opens the spiritual eyes of those who reject Jesus as LORD. Note once again how clearly declares to the man that He is the “Son of God.” Then the man must choose to have faith and believe … or NOT.} 35 When Jesus heard what had happened, he found the man and said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man [some manuscripts/translations call Jesus “Son of God” in this reference]?” … 36 The man answered, “Who is He, sir, because I would like to.” 37“You have seen Him,” Jesus said, “and He is speaking to you!” 38 “Yes, Lord,” the man said, “I believe!” And he worshiped Jesus.  
Highlight Passages: John 10: 8-14; 19-21; : [NLT] … {Jesus teaches about Himself, using the word picture of a “Good Shepherd.” The people hear Truth from Him and then must choose to believe in Him or NOT, just as we must do today when The Gospel truth is laid out before us.} [Jesus teaches … ] 8 “All others who came before me were thieves and robbers. But the true sheep did not listen to them. 9 Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. Wherever they go, they will find green pastures. 10 The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give life in all its fullness.  11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will leave the sheep because they aren’t his and he isn’t their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock. 13 The hired hand runs away because he is merely hired and has no real concern for the sheep. 14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, …”
19 When he said these things, the people were again divided in their opinions about him. 20 Some of them said, “He has a demon, or he’s crazy. Why listen to a man like that?” 21 Others said, “This doesn’t sound like a man possessed by a demon! Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?” …

Reference Passage: Psalm 23 … To study this passage, go to this link 

My Journal for Today: CHOICES! … When we hear someone spouting ideas, opinions, or declarations of what they know or believe to be true, we must then CHOOSE whether we agree with or believe what we hear. Right now we’re going thru a Presidential campaign; and a lot of rhetoric is being bandied about by the candidates; and when we hear what they say or claim, we must then decide whether the candidates are telling the truth; and then we must decide for whom we will vote. That’s a tough enough choice; but what about the choice one must make when he/she hears about Jesus?

 I grew up hearing the gospel message about Jesus; but when I was challenged with a choice of my beliefs in college, I CHOSE to disbelieve, calling myself an “agnostic” (though it would have been more accurate to label myself an “atheist”). For years I heard from those who claimed Jesus as their “LORD and Savior;” and I just set them aside, wanting to live in my own selfish/sinful world. But then, at age 39, my inability to handle life confronted me just like the blind man who was given sight by Jesus in the John 9 reading today; and I was confronted with a choice of faith – OR NOT! And just as the healed blind man chose to believe Jesus and worship Him as LORD, so did I CHOOSE to seek and follow Christ as my LORD.

When we read about Jesus historically in the Bible, we’re confronted with the reality that He claimed to be the “Son of God.” And it is recorded in biblical history, by multiple authors, and also in extra-biblical history by other historians, that Jesus performed actual super-human miracles, … and that He died on a cross and was resurrected from the dead, and that He was seen by over 500 eye-witnesses after His resurrection. And so, being confronted by these historical facts, we have to choose. Is it all a lie? Is Jesus some lunatic, claiming to be God, through some self-imposed delusion? Or is the man, Jesus, actually the LORD?

Well, for years, I was like the blind man in my reading today; but finally my own personal brokenness forced me to seek strength in my life which I did not have; and Jesus showed Himself to me to be real; and through my faith, I came to Jesus – as I CHOSE to believe – and believed in Him as my own personal LORD. I finally was able to see Jesus as the “Good Shepherd” from John 10; and as my LORD, Jesus gave me the grace to follow Him as my Good Shepherd. And now, … I’m in His flock and He leads me just as the Shepherd of Psalm 23 (linked above) to that abundant life He promises in John 10: 10. And by following His voice, as my Good Shepherd, He also protects me from those who would steal life from me [also John 10:10].

 Jesus is as real as the One Who opened the eyes of the blind man; and He’s the Good Shepherd of John 10 or Psalm 23. But only those who confront Him can decide whether they truly believe Him as LORD and are willing to follow Him as their Good Shepherd. If you are reading here with me today, I pray that you’ve decided that Jesus was/is not a lunatic or a liar, … but rather, THE LORD.

My Prayer Today: … You are my Lord and Savior, Jesus … THE LORD! Amen

Monday, October 22, 2012

October 22, 2012 … Killing THE Truth

Chronological Bible Reading Plan - Day 296

Passage of the Day: Reference of Today’s Chronological Bible Study: John, Chapters 7-8 To study these chapters, go to this link

Highlight Passages: John 7: 1-5 : [NLT] … { So much was going on just prior to Jesus’ passion, death, and resurrection. And it was of interested to note that even Jesus’ brothers, including James, who would later become the leader of the Church in Jerusalem, could not see their brother as The Messiah at this time.} 1 After this, Jesus stayed in Galilee, going from village to village. He wanted to stay out of Judea where the Jewish leaders were plotting his death. 2 But soon it was time for the Festival of Shelters, 3 and Jesus’ brothers urged him to go to Judea for the celebration. “Go where your followers can see your miracles!” they scoffed. 4 “You can’t become a public figure if you hide like this! If you can do such wonderful things, prove it to the world!” 5 For even his brothers didn’t believe in him.  
{Here again Jesus speaks to a crowd about His life being the fulfillment of Scripture – this time from Isaiah 58: 11.} 37 On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “If you are thirsty, come to me! 38 If you believe in me, come and drink! For the Scriptures declare that rivers of living water will flow out from within.”  
{Note, after quoting Jesus, John adds his own explanation of how Jesus was revealing Himself to be the fulfillment of scripture as the The Messiah.} 39 (When He said “living water,” He was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in Him. But the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into His glory.)  
Highlight Passages: John 8: 1-11; : [NLT] … {Take some time, using the above links to read all John 8, especially verses 1-11, the story of the prostitute who was brought to Jesus, accused of adultery. Note how the religious leaders accusing the women had ignored God’s Law by not bringing the man involved as well. And then we see how Jesus quietly, with the protective hand of God’s Spirit dispersed the crowd who were there to trap Jesus and arrest or stone Him. Then Jesus becomes even more vulnerable about revealing Himself and His eternal relationship with His Heavenly Father. But God protects His Son, whose time had not yet come to become the Lamb of God.}  
52The people said, “Now we know you are possessed by a demon. Even Abraham and the prophets died, but you say that those who obey your teaching will never die! 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? Are you greater than the prophets, who died? Who do you think you are?” 54 Jesus answered, “If I am merely boasting about myself, it doesn’t count. But it is my Father who says these glorious things about me. You say, ‘He is our God,’ 55 but you do not even know him. I know him. If I said otherwise, I would be as great a liar as you! But it is true—I know him and obey him. 56 Your ancestor Abraham rejoiced as he looked forward to my coming. He saw it and was glad.” 57The people said, “You aren’t even fifty years old. How can you say you have seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus answered, “The truth is, I existed before Abraham was even born!” 59 At that point they picked up stones to kill him. But Jesus hid himself from them and left the Temple.
Special Reference Passage: John 8: 31-32 : [NLT] …{One special section of John 8 reveals the power of believing in Jesus, especially for those who live by His word and follow Him as the living Truth.} 31 Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you keep obeying my teachings. 32 And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 

My Journal for Today: My chronological reading assignment takes me this morning to John’s Gospel account, Chapters 7-8, where John chronicles Jesus in various scrapes with the religious leaders and the people as He went about teaching and preaching the truth to the people, some who believed Him and others, following the Pharisees, who were hostile to Jesus and wanted him killed. And there is one revealing interaction during this time when Jesus encounters the hostile crowd who are trying to trap Jesus.

In these chapters is that familiar passage in John 8: 1-11, where the religious leaders brought a prostitute accused of adultery and sentenced to stoning to Jesus to see what He would say to the woman and to them about her. Of course, they were trying to trap Jesus; and we know how He embarrassed the religious leaders, who had falsely convicted the woman without even bringing out witnesses against her. Some speculate that Jesus even knew that the men accusing this woman of wrong-doing had been involved with her sexually; and that is why they KNEW that she was prostituting herself. But Jesus, once again, as He did so many times, showed mercy and love to the woman, forgiving her of her sins, … yet charging her … “to go and sin no more.” And the question, in reading this story is where we put ourselves in this story and how does it apply to our lives.

And above I singled out one Special Reference Passage, copied above from John 8: 32, where Jesus is addressing those who actually did believe in Him as The Messiah; and he says to them – and to us as Christians – “You are truly my disciples if you keep obeying my teachings. 32 And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

If you’re reading along with me, what is Jesus saying to His disciples here? What is He saying to you and me?

To me He’s saying clearly that His real, true disciples will get to know Him intimately, because HE IS THE TRUTH, the living Truth. Later Jesus declares this to His inner Disciples (in John 14: 6), saying … “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” And so, the passage from John 8: 32 is saying to me that if I truly know Him as my LORD, I will follow what He says and believe Him as the Living Truth; and if I do, I will be set free from my slavery to sin and be able to use the grace He gives me to walk in freedom from my sin choices; and that's a pretty powerful personal application ... for me.    

I’ll let you read through these two chapters and see how they are speaking to you beyond the historical account of Jesus ministering to the people as He marched to the cross. These two chapters certainly spoke to me.

My Prayer Today: … LORD, You are THE TRUTH. You are my life. You are my way. Amen

Sunday, October 21, 2012

October 21, 2012 … Like the Little Ones

Chronological Bible Reading Plan - Day 295

Passage of the Day: Reference of Today’s Chronological Bible Study: Matthew, Chapter 18 To study these chapters, go to this link

Highlight Passages: Matthew 18: 2; 6; 10-11; 12-14: [NLT] … {Chapter 18 of Matthew’s Gospel is loaded with great “how to live” guidance. There is Jesus’ teaching on to deal with temptation, something that we all must confront in life. He also teaches Christians how to handle those who sin against us with forgiveness, even teaching Peter specifically [and all believers] about this with a parable of the unforgiving debtor. We in today’s church have Jesus’ teaching in this chapter on how God’s church, when it was established, would handle believers who persisted in unGodly sin as well as Jesus showing how believers agreeing, especially in prayer, could find the very presence of God (see Matt. 18: 20). And finally, Jesus, likely holding a small child in His arms, says that Heaven celebrates, like a lost sheep being found by his shepherd or lost child being found by his parent, showing how much God loves His children. Note Jesus’ loving attitude toward children in Matt. 18 in verses 6, 10-11, and 12-14. And these passages give us great insight, as well as in parallel passages in Matt. 19, Mark 10, and Luke 18, into what Jesus is teaching believers today about the horrors of abortion.} 2 Jesus called a small child over to him and put the child among them. … 6 “ But if anyone causes one of these little ones who trusts in me to lose faith, it would be better for that person to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around the neck.” … 
10 “Beware that you don’t despise a single one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels are always in the presence of my heavenly Father. [NKJV – verse 11 is omitted in some translations/manuscripts – such as NIV and NLT] 11 “For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.”… 12 “If a shepherd has one hundred sheep, and one wanders away and is lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others and go out into the hills to search for the lost one? 13 And if he finds it, he will surely rejoice over it more than over the ninety-nine that didn’t wander away! 14 In the same way, it is not my heavenly Father’s will that even one of these little ones should perish.”  

Cross Reference Passages: Matthew 19: 13-15 : [NLT] …{Another passage showing just how much Jesus loved children and likened them to those who were lost and needed to be loved into His kingdom.} 13 Some children were brought to Jesus so he could lay his hands on them and pray for them. The disciples told them not to bother him. 14 But Jesus said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.”  15 And he put his hands on their heads and blessed them before he left. … 

Cross Reference Passage: Mark 10: 13-16 : [NLT] …{A parallel passage to Matthew 14: 13-15 above and Luke 18: 15-17 below.} 13 One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could touch them and bless them, but the disciples told them not to bother him. 14 But when Jesus saw what was happening, he was very displeased with his disciples. He said to them, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 I assure you, anyone who doesn’t have their kind of faith will never get into the Kingdom of God.” 16Then he took the children into his arms and placed his hands on their heads and blessed them. 

Cross Reference Passage: Luke 18: 15-17 : [NLT] …{Are we getting the idea just how much Jesus loved little children and taught that we adult believers should come to have childlike faith and humility like them. } 15 One day some parents brought their little children to Jesus so he could touch them and bless them, but the disciples told them not to bother him. 16 Then Jesus called for the children and said to the disciples, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17 I assure you, anyone who doesn’t have their kind of faith will never get into the Kingdom of God.” 

My Journal for Today: Another wisdom packed chapter in Matthew’s gospel, chapter 18, including Jesus’ teaching on how His church, which would be established after His resurrection, should handle those amongst the believers who persisted in sinful behavior. Church discipline is a major area lacking in the church today so it would be easy for me to launch here into journaling about this matter. And it would also be easy to blog about how Jesus was teaching His disciples in this chapter about how they needed to have the faith and humility of a little child rather than trying, as the inner 12 often did, to one-up each other.

And to teach these lessons in humility, Godly forgiveness, and loving kindness in this chapter, Jesus called a little child to himself; and likely cuddling the child gently, He began to teach His disciples the lessons about life contained in this chapter. And yes, the lessons are important; and I could blog about them here, but even more important – I believe – is Jesus’ loving attitude about little children and what it says to us, as His disciples today, about the horrors of abortion.

Today almost 60,000,000 babies have been KILLED … MURDERED … ABORTED in the past 50 years by an attitude about life which is ANTI-CHRIST!   Some say the Bible doesn’t teach about abortion, therefore we can abide it in our culture, especially when we see how much God and Jesus loved and protected womanhood. They say that a woman should have the right of life/death over the fetus because that growing tissue within her does not have rights because it is an invader in her body until it is born. And most certainly books have been, and are being, written about this controversy.

But as far as I’m concerned, beyond the Biblical mandates about life versus death in Deuteronomy 30: 19 and Psalm 139: 13-16, just looking at what Jesus taught about little children in Matthew 18 and 19, as well as the parallel passages in Mark and Luke quoted above, we should see that if we see a baby in the womb as a “child,” abortion becomes murder – no matter what has taken place (yes, even rape or incest) to cause that intrauterine baby to be conceived. Any conceived fetus is a life; and it will become one of those children which Jesus lovingly used to illustrate how God and His kingdom look upon His children – of any age … whether that life is a conceived two-cell embryo or an 85 year old child of His.

I’m going to leave it to you to agree or disagree with me; but if you disagree and somehow support abortion in our times, and if you call yourself a disciple of Christ, I seriously ask you to consider how much Jesus loved little children; and He clearly said that “… the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” And if a newly conceived fetus is a child of God in His making, I ask, how can we possibly stop that life from forming and becoming one of those children whom Jesus said we must never stop them from coming to Him?

My Prayer Today: … Yes, Lord, in Your word today, I see you clearly teaching that we must never stop a child from coming to You … whether that be in the womb or with how we treat our children once born. Amen

Saturday, October 20, 2012

October 20, 2012 … WHAT IF?

Chronological Bible Reading Plan - Day 294

Blogger’s Note: As you may have noted by now, Christian music plays a big part in my devotional life; and today as I meditated on the great NT story of the mount of transfiguration in Matthew and Mark’s gospel accounts, one song, performed by Nichole Nordeman, What If, came to my mind; and I found the link to it on You Tube. Here it is, linked for your viewing/hearing …  . Watching this video will give you a lot of thoughts out of today’s time as to what the disciples must’ve been going through in their confusion about Jesus and why He would reveal - to at least three of the leaders of these twelve - what He did on that mountain in these two accounts.

Passage of the Day: Reference of Today’s Chronological Bible Study: Matthew, Chapter 17 To study these chapters, go to this link
Passage of the Day: Reference of Today’s Chronological Bible Study: Mark, Chapter 9 To study these chapters, go to this link

Highlight Passages: Matthew 17: 1-13 : [NLT] … { This is the passage where Matthew describes three of the twelve, Peter and the brothers, James and John, being taken up a high mountain and being given a vision of heaven which involved seeing Jesus with Moses and Elijah. It had to have been in incredible vision for these three, yet confusing as well. And that’s likely why Jesus, when they were descending from the mountain, instructed them not to tell what they saw to anyone – AT THAT TIME. Obviously they did later reveal this story, probably sometime after the resurrection, because here Matthew is writing about it, as John Mark did as well (see Mark 9). Use the link above to read/study from Matthew, Chapter 17. }
Highlight Passages: Mark 9: 1-13 : [NLT] … {Here we have John Mark’s version of the incredible Mount of Transfiguration story. Note that Mark was not one of the inner disciples; and he likely may have heard this story directly from one of the three or from Matthew after the resurrection. But the story becomes important as one of Jesus’ way of revealing Whom He really was to at least some of His disciples. As above you can use the links to go to the story in Mark’s gospel account to read this parallel account of the transfiguration story. }

Cross Reference Passages: Malachi 4: 5 : [NLT] …{This prophesy was the one questioned by the Disciples about Elijah coming before the Day of the LORD would come. We now know that John the Baptist fulfilled this prophesy in history. But these men had trouble seeing that reality in their time with Jesus claiming to be The Messiah. } 5 “Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the LORD arrives. … 

My Journal for Today: Two very close Gospel accounts from Matthew, one of the inner twelve Disciples, and Mark, a later, post-resurrection disciple, both of whom were writing to help people of their day see that Jesus was really the Son of God and really THE Messiah for all mankind. And the story of Jesus revealing heaven to three of the twelve Disciples up on that mountain shows how Jesus was carefully trying to allow His inner disciples to get a glimpse that He was Whom He was claiming to be.

And the dilemma of Jesus’ identity, faced by the disciples in their day, is still the most important question anyone will answer for themselves during their life time today. And it’s the question that is posed in the song to which I’ve linked you above in this devotional journal entry. ”WHAT IF” Jesus is truly Whom He claimed to be? Because if He IS Whom He showed Himself to be to Peter, James, and John up on that mountain; and He IS Whom was prophesied in the Old Testament and revealed in the New Testament, then He IS our Messiah; and faith in Him, for Whom He is and in what He did for us on the cross, is life-changing … FOREVER (see John 3: 16 and Romans 10: 9-13).

So, rather than take long time to journal on speculations about what is written in Matthew 17 and Mark 9 about the Mount of Transfiguration and other ideas of the gospel writings of Matthew and Mark, I’m just going to stop here, praying that anyone reading this has answered that question of WHAT IF, clearly for themselves, … knowing that JESUS IS THE MESSIAH; and knowing that our belief in Him as The Messiah will have us spending eternity together... with Him.

My Prayer Today: … LORD, You are Whom You claimed to be; and YOU ARE my Messiah. Amen

Friday, October 19, 2012

October 19, 2012 … He Speaks, … But Do We BELIEVE?

Chronological Bible Reading Plan - Day 293

Blogger’s Note: Please take a few minutes and go to this link to hear my friend, Clay Crosse, singing powerfully with Bob Carlisle and BeBe Winans, the song, I Will Follow ChristSee this video on You Tube [linked here], which will prepare your heart, as it did mine, to read the passages from my chronological reading assignment for today.

Passage of the Day: Reference of Today’s Chronological Bible Study: Matthew, Chapter 16 To study these chapters, go to this link
Passage of the Day: Reference of Today’s Chronological Bible Study: Mark, Chapter 8 To study these chapters, go to this link

Highlight Passages: Matthew 16: 1-12; 13-20 : [NLT] … {The Pharisees and Sadducees were like political parties who believed in different religious doctrines; but in Jesus they found a common enemy; and they went on the attack TOGETHER early in Jesus’ ministry, ultimately pushing the Sanhedrin – the Jewish judicial council, for Jesus’ death. Use the link above … read/study Matthew 16: 1-12 where Jesus tells the Pharisees and Sadducees about using the sign of Jonah as the only miracle to tell them Who He was, which was Jesus’ prediction of being dead for three days and then raising from the dead. But the religious leaders didn’t have clue what He was saying. Then Jesus warned His disciples about the false teachings from the religious leaders, reminding them of when He fed the masses from just a few loaves and fishes. … Then in Matthew 13-20 read how Jesus interacts with Simon Peter, the impetuous, but faithful, disciple who reveals he is willing to follow Jesus anywhere and everywhere, believing Him to be The Messiah.}
Highlight Passages: Mark 8: 11-21; 27-31 : [NLT] … {Using the links above, you will see that Mark 8: 11-21 parallels the Matt. 16: 1-12 section very closely. … Then, in Mark 8: 27-31 there is a passage which mirrors Matt. 16: 13-20. I hope you take the time to read both parallel passages. }

Cross Reference Passages: John 3: 16 and Romans 10: 13 : [NKJV] …{You very likely know John 3: 16 by heart, don’t you? But today I focus on the “believes” in this familiar passage. It is the Greek term “pisteuo.” } “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who BELIEVES in him will not perish but have eternal life. …”  
{And that term, “pisteuo” for our translated English term, “believe,” is also found in Paul’s writing about what it takes to be saved in Romans 10: 9.}For if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and BELIEVE in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. … 

My Journal for Today: Well in reading through the parallel and synoptic passages from the Books of Matthew and Mark today, as you can see from the You Tube link above, I was reminded of a great song sung by three powerful Christian voices in modern Christian music today, singing what I read about today; and that is following Christ as Peter was described as doing in today’s passages. … And, …Peter’s faith was just as Jesus wanted all His disciples to be able to “BELIEVE” in Whom He (Jesus) claimed to be. Yes, Jesus wanted His disciples to be able to cast aside the beliefs and teachings of the Pharisees or Saducees, who were letting their man-made doctrines and religious traditions get in the way of their being able to see Jesus for Whom He really was.  

“BELIEVE” is the operant word here; and for many years of my life, I refused to follow Christ – or even look at Him in any way – because I wanted to see life and the world my own way – or the way the world wanted to be seen by me. Instead of my beliefs leading me, as Peter’s belief in Jesus led Him, to pursue Jesus and follow Him in faith, I let Satan, the world, and my flesh shape my beliefs – or lack thereof – in Christ. And instead of pursuing Christ, as is sung in the song to which I’ve linked you above, my life until I as 40 years old was more like Frank Sinatra singing his classic, My Way.

The Greek concept of “belief, believe, or believes” is the term “pisteuo”; and I’ve copied two familiar NT passages above where this concept can be found, especially relating to what it takes for one to be a pursuer of Jesus and to be saved for eternity by Him. But when we say “believe” in English, I’m afraid it doesn’t have the emotional impact that the Greek term, “pisteuo” has. The Greek term doesn’t just mean “believe” in the sense “agrees with intellectually,” as does the English term. No, … “pisteuo” carries the connotation of desperately clinging to some idea or following someone, risking all, including potentially life itself.

That was the type of belief that Peter exhibited in Matthew 16 and Mark 8 when Jesus asked Peter, “Who do they say I am?” Peter then impulsively and emotionally, and from his own personal point of view, blurted out, from his deeply-felt beliefs, “You are The Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” Now, that’s “pisteuo!” And it was just the opposite of the lack of belief exhibited by the Pharisees and other Jews, following them, as Jesus confronted the world of His day. And even though Jesus did things that only God could do, the Pharisees could not - or rather, WOULD NOT - BELIEVE in Jesus as Peter did.

Years ago, in brokenness, I was given the opportunity to BELIEVE in Christ; and I came to have the “pisteuo” kind of trust, faith, and belief that it takes to be saved by Him; and now it is my “pisteuo” in Christ that is leading me to yield to His Spirit and be transformed into His image. Oh, like Peter, I can be weak at times; but also like Peter, I have allowed Jesus to restore me to be able to believe and follow Him.

And I pray that you have found the “pisteuo” kind of faith that declares, as the song says this morning, with a trusting heart, I Will Follow Christ!

My Prayer Today: … As Peter declared, which has been tested in my life, as it was Peter's, through disbelief, but was restored by You forever, Lord,…I declare, ...  “I will follow Christ!”  Amen

Thursday, October 18, 2012

October 18, 2012 … Tradition!

Chronological Bible Reading Plan - Day 292

Blogger’s Note: As I was studying through Matthew 15 and Mark 7 today, I couldn’t help but think of the great song from the Broadway Musical Tradition … from Fiddler on the Roof, linked here for you to hear as I reviewed it for my devotional time this morning -  . Please take a few minutes and hear this famous segment taken from the movie.

Passage of the Day: Reference of Today’s Chronological Bible Study: Matthew, Chapter 15 To study these chapters, go to this link
Passage of the Day: Reference of Today’s Chronological Bible Study: Mark, Chapter 7 To study these chapters, go to this link

Highlight Passage: Matthew 15: 10-20; : [NLT] … {The Pharisees had come from Jerusalem to check Jesus out; and they observed the Lord and His disciples eating in ways that defied their religious traditions. When they confronted Jesus about this He taught them a new “tradition,” which the Pharisees simply could not stomach. } 10 [After being challenged by the Pharisees about religious practices of eating] Then Jesus called to the crowds and said, “Listen to what I say and try to understand. 11 You are not defiled by what you eat; you are defiled by what you say and do.”  12 Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you realize you offended the Pharisees by what you just said?” 13 Jesus replied, “Every plant not planted by my heavenly Father will be rooted up, 14 so ignore them. They are blind guides leading the blind, and if one blind person guides another, they will both fall into a ditch.” 15 Then Peter asked Jesus, “Explain what you meant when you said people aren’t defiled by what they eat.” 16 “Don’t you understand?” Jesus asked him. 17 “Anything you eat passes through the stomach and then goes out of the body. 18 But evil words come from an evil heart and defile the person who says them. 19 For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all other sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. 20 These are what defile you. Eating with unwashed hands could never defile you and make you unacceptable to God!”
Highlight Passage: Mark 7: 8; 14-23 : [NLT] … {Jesus stood His ground against those religious leaders who had created and added many of their own human traditions to what God had given them in the Law, given through Moses.} 8 [Jesus speaking to the Pharisees] “For you ignore God’s specific laws and substitute your own traditions.” 
{Jesus, confronting the Pharisees and teaching the people teaches that it’s the heart that matters rather than what goes into the stomach.} 14 Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. “All of you listen,” he said, “and try to understand. 15You are not defiled by what you eat; you are defiled by what you say and do!” 17 Then Jesus went into a house to get away from the crowds, and his disciples asked him what he meant by the statement he had made. 18 “Don’t you understand either?” He asked. “Can’t you see that what you eat won’t defile you? 19 Food doesn’t come in contact with your heart, but only passes through the stomach and then comes out again.” (By saying this, he showed that every kind of food is acceptable.) 20 And then He added, “It is the thought-life that defiles you. 21 For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, eagerness for lustful pleasure, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. 23 All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you and make you unacceptable to God.” 

Cross Reference Passage: Proverbs 23: 7 : [NKJV] …{Our thought life is revealed by our choices and actions.} As a man thinks in his heart, so is he. 
Cross Reference Passage: Philippians 4: 8 : [NLT] …{Paul reinforces the teachings of Jesus concerning our thought-life leading to our behavioral choices.} 8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, let me say one more thing as I close this letter. Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. 

My Journal for Today: In today’s chronological read, Jesus, recorded by Matthew and John Mark in their synoptic gospel accounts, had to confront the Pharisees, who had come from Jerusalem to check out this itinerant Rabbi, who was said to be causing a stir near Capernaum, performing miracles which only God could perform and teaching things which seemingly ignored the Jewish traditions which had been established by hundreds of years of Rabbinical laws. These TRADITIONS established by the Jewish religious teachers were written into laws to give, in their estimation, order to life. And as I read through these passages today, I couldn’t help by think of that great segment from the musical, Fiddler on the Roof, where the lead character sings the song “Tradition!,” to which I’ve link you in a You Tube segment for your review.

And I also thought of two other biblical passages from the Old and New Testaments [see the cross-reference listings above] which are applicable to Jesus’ teaching in today’s reading which confronted the Pharisaical “laws” of the day. I’ll let you read through the passages above, revealing how Jesus taught that it was what was in one’s heart that was the core issue, not necessarily the TRADITIONS of eating or other religious practices, which were emphasized as essential by the Pharisees in order to guide how the people lived.

In Proverbs 23: 7 (NKJV) and Phil. 4: 8 God’s word teaches us, clearly, that our actions are guided and activated by our thought life; and Jesus was saying to the Pharisees and His disciples, that it’s a heart of Godly purity that should guide our lives, not necessarily any law or practice that man has established to keep God’s people in conformity or control.

Oh, I could write volumes here about how mankind loves to establish rules and formulas and laws to control others. TRADITIONS! They can be wonderful and helpful in life, helping us to be able to predict what life is all about. Look at what happens in countries where driving traditions have people ignoring the traffic laws. It creates utter chaos and can be life-threatening! But then there are established man-made legal and moral traditions which have little or nothing to do with what God teaches but are established by people to control people. Think of the “traditions” which led to the Reformation, where Popes had established religious practices – the selling of indulgences – where man-made items were sold under the pretense to give people favor with God in order to gain money for “the church.” This, of courses, led Martin Luther, to rebel against the Roman Catholic church, leading to “The Reformation.”

Today we see many “religious” practices which are legalistically established by “the church” to keep people from doing things which are considered sinful, such as religious TRADITIONS against playing cards, dancing, or wearing certain garments. Jesus came against such MAN-made traditions, confronting the Pharisees with their own behaviors and practices which went against the Book of the Law passed down from Moses to God’s peoples.

Capping off this journaling today, I’ll just say that when we make choices or do certain things … or don’t do certain things, … we must evaluate our hearts, because … again, as it says in Proverbs 23: 7 (NKJV) … “As a man thinks IN HIS HEART, so is he.” That’s why Paul’s admonition in Philippians 4: 8 is so important. We will do what we think; won’t we? So, it’s so very important to choose to think as God would have us think, not necessarily how others – even religious leaders – would have us think. And in this humble Christian’s estimation, the only way for us to control our thought lives is let God’s word guide us in our thinking. Yes, our cultural norms and laws are important, and to some degree necessary. But MAN-made traditions are not, as Jesus taught in these passages today, God’s primary way of protecting His people. Only God’s Word (which is the Christian doctrine of “sole scriptura”) can give us the way to live out of a God-led heart so that we can make Spirit-led choices.

I’ll leave it to you to decide how you can establish your own TRADITIONS, which are based on God’s word, leading us to follow God’s will, and living in His ways.

My Prayer Today: … Lord, may my pursuit of Your truth from Your word lead me to Your will and Your ways. Amen

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

October 17, 2012 … The Bread of Life

Chronological Bible Reading Plan - Day 291

Passage of the Day: Reference of Today’s Chronological Bible Study: John, Chapter 6 To study these chapters, go to this link

Highlight Passage: John 6: 24-40 : [NLT] … {If you had just witnessed Jesus feeding almost 10,000 people with 5 fishes and 2 loaves of bread, would you finally believe that He was Who He said He was – The Son of God? Well, this chapter reveals that many who saw these miracles still had trouble believing in Jesus as The Messiah; but Jesus clearly declared that only those who truly believed in Him, as the Bread of Life, would be with Him in Heaven.}
  24 When the crowd saw that Jesus wasn’t there, nor his disciples, they got into the boats and went across to Capernaum to look for him. 25 When they arrived and found him, they asked, “Teacher, how did you get here?” 26 Jesus replied, “The truth is, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you saw the miraculous sign. 27 But you shouldn’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that I, the Son of Man, can give you. For God the Father has sent me for that very purpose.” 28 They replied, “What does God want us to do?” 29 Jesus told them, “This is what God wants you to do: Believe in the one he has sent.” 30 They replied, “You must show us a miraculous sign if you want us to believe in you. What will you do for us? 31 After all, our ancestors ate manna while they journeyed through the wilderness! As the Scriptures say, ‘Moses gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32 Jesus said, “I assure you, Moses didn’t give them bread from heaven. My Father did. And now he offers you the true bread from heaven. 33 The true bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 “Sir,” they said, “give us that bread every day of our lives.” 35 Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. No one who comes to me will ever be hungry again. Those who believe in me will never thirst. 36 But you haven’t believed in me even though you have seen me. 37 However, those the Father has given me will come to me, and I will never reject them. 38 For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do what I want. 39 And this is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those he has given me, but that I should raise them to eternal life at the last day. 40 For it is my Father’s will that all who see his Son and believe in him should have eternal life—that I should raise them at the last day.” 

My Journal for Today: Once again only one chapter in my chronological read, … today from John 6. And as I do daily, I read, study, and to journal from its contents. and this one is loaded with the Apostle John writing about how he and his fellow inner disciples witnessed two sensational miracles, the feeding of the masses of followers with just a few fishes/loaves and then Jesus walking on water and coming to them in the storm to dispel their fears. But even with these miracles, the people – and even the twelve – had trouble grasping the reality of Whom Jesus really was. And in John 6, we read of Jesus referring to Himself as “The Bread of Life,” whom His followers must feed upon and believe that He truly was/is the Son of God.

Also in this chapter is Jesus’ promise that NO ONE who believes in Him (i.e., really believes, with the trusting, clinging, and desperation belief that is the Greek term “pisteuo” in these passages, which is the same term for “believes” in John 3: 16) will ever be left out of heaven. But even the ones who saw Jesus perform wondrous signs, like those described in John 6, had trouble believing as Jesus said they must.

There is a wonderful story in a book entitled, Sleeping With Bread, where the authors describe a true story of children in an orphanage after WW2. They were children who had been made homeless by the bombings on the streets of London; and they without anything to eat. Well, once the children were placed in an orphanage, the workers discovered that the only way to get the children to sleep at night was to give them a piece of bread so that they would know/feel (i.e., “believe”) that they wouldn’t be without food in the morning; and when they truly “believed” that they would have something to eat in the morning, the children could sleep soundly.

That’s the kind of belief, in Jesus, as the “Bread of Life,” that we must have in receiving Jesus as our Messiah – our Savior.

I’ve had people ask me why I’m so compulsive about being into God’s word every day, taking sometimes several hours every morning to delve into God’s truth and to embed His “bread of life” into my heart (i.e., my very being as a Christian). Well, the reason for my obsessive/compulsive discipline in God’s word is much the same as the fear that required the orphans in London to need bread in their hands to sleep at night. I’ve even given a pseudo-Greek term to my daily pursuit of God’s word. I call my “condition” … ALOGOSPHOBIA, which if you break down the Greek origin of my self-defined obsessiveness, it means “fear of being without God’s word.”

 I know – without a doubt in my mind (i.e., with the level of BELIEF described in the Greek term “pisteuo”) that it was my driving God’s word deeply into my mind/heart which God used to transform me from my former atheist, flesh-pursuing self into a man who is on a quest to be like Jesus. And I have a fear – a “phobia,” if you will – that if I don’t keep pursuing my God through His word, that I might revert back to my former self. And like the children who feared being without the bread, I need to keep digging deeply into God’s word everyday to allow God to reshape me into the LOGOS, the living Word, … i.e., the image of Jesus.

So, I charge you today to study and meditate on John 6 and see where you are described in this chapter; because I believe (yes, in the sense of the “pisteuo” type of belief) that all of us are described in this chapter. We are either those feeding on the “Bread of Life,” in our faith in the Son of God, The Christ, … our Messiah,… or there are those who feed off of self and miss out on being with Jesus in Glory.

Where do you find yourself described in John, Chapter 6?

My Prayer Today: … Lord, I feed from Your Bread of Life even this morning, knowing that my feeding from Your truth will sustain me today and unto eternity. Amen

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

October 16, 2012 … Following Jesus Is Tough Business

Chronological Bible Reading Plan - Day 290

Passage of the Day: Reference of Today’s Chronological Bible Study: Matthew 14 To study these chapters, go to this link
Passage of the Day: Reference of Today’s Chronological Bible Study: Mark 6 To study these chapters, go to this link
Passage of the Day: Reference of Today’s Chronological Bible Study: Luke 9 To study these chapters, go to this link

Highlight Passage: Matthew 14 : [NLT] … {In Matthew 14, the Tax Collector Disciple relates the stories of the death of John the Baptist, Jesus feeding thousands near Capernaum with just a few fishes and loaves of bread, and one of my favorites, … Jesus walking on water in the midst of a raging storm.}
Highlight Passage: Mark 6 : [NLT] … {In Mark 6, we read Mark’s parallel version of the same three episodes in Jesus’ life as in Matthew 14; but also Mark documents Jesus being rejected in His own home town of Nazareth and the Lord sending out the 12 Disciples into the country side near Capernaum to minister to the people.}
Highlight Passage: Luke 9: 21-27 : [NLT] … {In Luke 9, the stories of Jesus sending out the 12 and of Him feeding the five-thousand can also be found, along with accounts of Jesus taking three of the inner Disciples up to the Mount of Transfiguration. And then the passage I want to focus on today was related by Luke, … that being Luke’s account of Jesus predicting His own death and teaching the followers about the cost of being His disciple.}  
21 Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about this. [i.e., Jesus warning His inner 12 not to tell others that He was The Messiah, knowing that they could/would be persecuted for saying this before He went to the cross. Jesus knew they weren’t ready for such persecution.] 22 “For I, the Son of Man, must suffer many terrible things,” he said. “I will be rejected by the leaders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. I will be killed, but three days later I will be raised from the dead.” 23 Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross daily, and follow me. 24 If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for me, you will find true life. 25 And how do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose or forfeit your own soul in the process? 26 If a person is ashamed of me and my message, I, the Son of Man, will be ashamed of that person when I return in my glory and in the glory of the Father and the holy angels. 27 And I assure you that some of you standing here right now will not die before you see the Kingdom of God.”

Cross Reference Passage: Matthew 16: 24-25 : [NLT] …{This is the parallel passage from Matthew of Jesus telling His followers of the cost of discipleship in Christ.} 24 Then Jesus said to the disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross, and follow me. 25 If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for me, you will find true life
Cross Reference Passage: Mark 8: 34-35 : [NLT] …{Same song ... from John Mark's Gospel} 34 Then he called his disciples and the crowds to come over and listen. “If any of you wants to be my follower,” he told them, “you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross, and follow me. 35 If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will find true life. 

My Journal for Today: Once again, there’s a lot in these three chapters of the Synoptic Gospels (i.e., Matthew 14, :Mark 6, and Luke 9) which a blogger like me could discuss, … fascinating passages like Jesus feeding the five thousand, or Him walking on water in a storm, or the curious account of Jesus taking three disciples up to the “Mount of Transfiguration.” But anytime I read one verse in these chapters, which I memorized years ago, Luke 9:23, I’m touched with a certain degree of reality and conviction.

 In this passage Luke quotes Jesus telling a large group of His followers, a wider group than His inner 12, about what it takes to be His disciple. Essentially the same passage can be found in Matthew 16: 24 and Mark 8: 34 (which I’ve copied above). And to this humble follower of Jesus this may be one of the briefest, but most important three-point sermons ever preached by our Lord as He was ministering to and teaching the people about God’s kingdom values on His way to the cross.

One can/will notice in Luke 9: 21 how Jesus had warned His disciples not to be blatantly and openly telling others at this point in time that He was The Messiah; … because Jesus knew, as I wrote above, that His followers, especially the inner 12, were not ready to incur the persecution that could come if they were out proclaiming that they had found THE Messiah. Yet, Jesus wanted them to know – ultimately – what it was going to take for them to be HIS disciple. So, The LORD lays out the three things that anyone – including you and me – will need to do if they are going to be a surrendered follower of Jesus, The Christ.

Such a follower must [1] deny him or her self. They must [2] take up their cross daily; and [3] such a disciple must do all he or she can to follow Jesus. Now there’s a three-point sermon that will stop almost any Christian in their tracks with conviction. Well, maybe it doesn’t convict you as much as it does me; but very personally. I find it excruciatingly difficult to [1] deny myself when I’m confronted with many choices in life which cause me to choose between self or Savior.

Have you ever been in the line at a smorgasbord or buffet; and you’re looking ahead at the foods you can choose; and there are choices which you know are healthy … and then there are other foods which you’d love to eat – BIGTIME! – but you know they are not good for you? Maybe you’re coming up on the dessert items; and you just know that you shouldn’t take that piece of pie, … also knowing that the sugar-free Jello would be better for you. Denying self in that instance and living to protect God’s temple of the body (see 1st Cor. 6: 19) is what Jesus was saying in Luke 9: 23 when He said that we must “deny self” to be His disciple.

Then there is the business [#2] of being able to pick up and carry our daily crosses, which means dealing with the stresses, challenges, and circumstances of life. Jesus, most certainly, was going to have His own cross to bear; but in Luke 9: 23, He was teaching that, as His disciple, we were going to have our own crosses to bear as well; and in order for us to handle the circumstances of life, many times almost too heavy to bear, we’re going to have to do the other two things which Luke 9: 23 teaches … i.e., to [#1] deny self and [#3] to follow Jesus. So, Jesus openly and revealingly states that our being able handle life is going to depend on the degree to which we can surrender ourselves to Him.

Finally, there is point #3, … i.e., following Jesus. And to illustrate this, I often use a powerful word picture. It’s a simple question. If you were charged with the task of crossing a mine-field, laden with deadly mines, would you rather forge ahead on your own or would you prefer to follow someone who knew exactly where ALL the mines are and was willing to lead you through the mindfield? … DUH!!! … The answer is a no brainer, right? … Well, Jesus is very simply saying, that He wants us to go through life, avoiding the tendency to forge ahead on our own (i.e., selfishly) and rather, to take on the minefield of life [i.e., our daily crosses] by following Him. And I don’t’ think it takes a rocket-scientist to see that this means living like He lives, and following what He says.

And how do we do that? Well, maybe since God, through the authors of the New Testament, has given us in great detail and accuracy, vast insight into Jesus’ words and described His life and teachings, maybe it might behoove us, as His disciples, to get to know HIM through HIS word, seeking out HIS will and living HIS way.

 So, coming across Luke 9: 23 today brought me – AGAIN – into a self evaluation as a disciple of Christ; and I’ll leave that self-inventory up to you today if you’re reading along with me.

My Prayer Today: … Oh, Lord, when I’m weak, I need to follow You more closely. When I’m selfish, I need to follow You more closely. When I’m overwhelmed in the minefields of life, I need to follow You more closely. Help me, LORD! Amen