Scripture reading for October 16th: Mark 4-7
Ministry is hard work. People draw energy from those who minister. After a season of intense ministry, I often have to go away for a while and be alone to re-charge my soul. Jesus also experienced this, as did His disciples. “The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to Him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not have a chance to eat, He said to them, “Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” (Mark 6:30-31)
This simple statement of Jesus brings encouragement to our hearts. Jesus is compassionate and understands the demands of ministry! He took good care of His workers! However, when Jesus and His disciples arrived at what they thought would be a quiet place of rest, a crowd of needy people greeted them! “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So He began teaching them many things.” (Mark 6:34) Even when tired, Jesus still had compassion! He had the heart of a shepherd and always put the needs of the sheep ahead of His own needs! He taught His disciples through this process what kind of a heart must be in those who follow the Lord.
In fact, Jesus taught them all day and then had the disciples prepare a meal to feed that multitude! All they could find was five loaves of bread and two fish in that lonely place, but when given to the Lord of compassion, they fed the multitude with twelve baskets full left over! (Mark 6:37-44) He sent the disciples away to row across the lake and He went up on the mountain to pray. He came to them in the night, walking on the lake and terrifying the disciples. They have not slept for quite a long time! Upon arrival on the other side of the lake, a multitude then gathers and they minister to many sick and afflicted again!
As we reflect on the heart of Jesus for the sick and afflicted, we are amazed by His compassion! Even when tired, He reached out and ministered! We must remember His example and ask for strength in secret prayer! Our energy is from the Spirit, not just our bodies!
Scripture reading for October 14th: Matthew 26-28
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is one of the most important truths of our faith. “He is not here, He has risen, just as He said” is the cry of hope for all mankind! (Matthew 28:6) If the resurrection is not true, then we have no hope of resurrection. The New Testament writings are therefore a lie and not worth reading, except as fiction. The resurrection of Jesus Christ has been well-documented by the eye-witnesses who knew Him best. In spite of all the evidence, each person is left to believe by faith in this pivotal truth.
The first to see Jesus alive after his terrible crucifixion and burial were the women who were closest to Jesus. “After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.” . . Suddenly Jesus met them, “Greetings,” He said. They came to Him and clasped his feet and worshiped Him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see Me.” ” (Matthew 28:1, 9-10) These women talked with an angel who told them Jesus was alive. As they were leaving the tomb, Jesus Himself appeared to them on that morning of the third day after the crucifixion. They touched His feet and worshiped Him.
Jesus also appeared to the eleven remaining disciples, just as He said He would. (Matthew 28:16-20) When these men who knew Him so well saw Him, they worshiped Him as well. It is recorded that some doubted. Seeing Jesus alive would have been a shock after they had witnessed the crucifixion and then had the shame of having denied Him and run away.
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20) These final words of Jesus recorded by Matthew are know as the “Great Commission”. Jesus stated simply that He possessed ALL authority in heaven and on earth. This authority was used to command these followers to go and preach in all the world. Are you obeying?
Scripture reading for October 13th: Matthew 24-25
“As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen and what will be the sign of your coming and the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3) Jesus’ disciples were responding to a statement that Jesus made as they had left the temple. He had stated that every stone would be thrown down in the beautiful temple. The disciples knew that Jesus was coming back again and the present age would end. This question is important for us today, because we are still waiting for Jesus to return. Let’s look again at Jesus’ insight!
The first sign of the end, according to Jesus, was the rise of false teachers and prophets. (Matthew 24:4-5) Deception of people by satanic religious lies would be wide-spread right before the end. These false prophets would claim to be sent by God and to speak for God. Some of them would even claim to be “Christ” and many people would fall for their lie!
There would also be an increase in wars and political unrest among the nations. This would be coupled with natural disasters such as earthquakes and famines around the world. These factors would cause much fear and distress among the inhabitants of the earth just before Jesus would come. These things were likened to “birth pains” that preceded the coming of a baby. When they began to happen, look out! (Matthew 24:6-8)
The next sign was persecution of believers. Followers of Jesus Christ would be hated by all nations and put to death for their faith. Because of the persecution, many would fall away and others’ love for Christ would grow cold. There would be those among the faithful who would betray others and false teaching would cause divisions in the body of Christ. This would call for perseverance and patience on the part of true followers of Christ.
The final sign Jesus gave concerned the mission of His followers. “And this Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14) As believers in the last day, the mission of reaching the nations must not be dropped! Jesus is patiently waiting for His followers to preach His Gospel to all nations. Are you doing your part?
Scripture reading for October 12th: Matthew 20-23
“Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap Him in His words. They sent their disciples to Him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” (Matthew 22:15-17) Religious people were threatened by Jesus and tried to discredit Him. They tried to attack Jesus’ integrity by using a loaded question. They tried to get Jesus to say something that would enable them to arrest Him or charge Him with a crime against the Roman government. The Herodians were Jews who were loyal to Herod for monetary gain. They would have jumped on Jesus if he told people not to pay taxes. The Pharisees were against the taxes to Caesar and were trying to pin unfaithfulness to God on Jesus. They thought they had the perfect trap.
Jesus defused the trap with a simple illustration, asking them for a coin. He asked them whose portrait and inscription was on the coin. They replied that it was Caesar’s! Jesus simply told them to give to Caesar what was his and to give to God what belonged to Him! This simple answer defused their trap and left them amazed at His wisdom.
In our day and age, many people lack integrity. They are not sure what they believe or why. They are looking to find some fault in Jesus Christ or His word and continually offering arguments. They hear the word of Jesus, but aren’t listening to believe and obey, but to criticize and tear apart. Even when they are amazed, they go away to plot another attack or make excuses for rejecting the Savior.
Jesus gave these same Pharisees the answer to their question concerning the greatest commandment. “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” (Matthew 22:37-39) Jesus told them the simple requirements of God were found in loving relationships. All the Law and Prophets were based on these two. Love with integrity describes our God!
Scripture reading for October 11th: Matthew 16-19
When we are offended or hurt by another human being, particularly one who is close to us, one of the most difficult things to do is to forgive that offense. In fact, the Greek word for offense, “scandalon”, has a meaning related to the bait in a trap. If we choose to be offended, we take the bait and are caught in the trap! Many are the people who have been caught in the trap of offense and many are those who will miss heaven because they refuse to forgive others!
Jesus responded to Peter’s question, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” (Matthew 18:21-22) “Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.” (or seventy times seven) Jesus was trying to help Peter and his disciples understand the unlimited need that they would have to forgive others. It was so great that they could not keep track. To illustrate this point, Jesus told them a story.
In this story, a great king had a servant who owed him a sum roughly equivalent to $10,000,000. This servant could not pay back the debt, so the King ordered that he, his wife, his children, and all he had be sold. The servant begged the king for mercy promising to pay back everything; the king had compassion and forgave the debt! (Matthew 18:23-25) This same man then went out and found a man who owed him $20.00. He violently threatened him and had the man thrown in jail when he could not pay him. The poor man’s cries for mercy fell on deaf ears.
In due time, the king heard from others what had happened. He called in the servant on whom he had shown mercy. He reminded him of his mercy and asked why he did not show some mercy as well. The king then became angry and turned the man over to the torturers in jail. He would not get out until he paid all! The bottom line of this story was a picture of how our heavenly Father will treat each of us if we fail to forgive our brother from our heart!
Check your heart today! Have you forgiven those who have wronged you? Have you asked God to forgive you your sins and debt? Today is the best time to act!
Dear Friends of God,
Greetings in the wonderful name of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Savior of the world! We have enjoyed our first week reading the New Testament and the story of Jesus! He is a wonderful Savior and worker of miracles! I pray that you are gathering today with God’s people to worship Him and celebrate your life in Him! In Him we live and move and have our being!
As I look back on this past week’s reading, I find the story of Jesus visiting his hometown of Nazareth and visiting the synagogue to teach there. His relatives and the people of the town were amazed at His teaching and wondered at where Jesus got His miraculous power since he was a simple carpenter’s son. They knew his father and mother and brothers and sisters. As they thought about his earthly family, they took offense at him! How could someone with such a common family have such miraculous power?
“But Jesus said to them, “Only in His hometown and in His own house is a prophet without honor.” And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.” (Matthew 13:57b-58) Sometimes, familiarity is a stumbling block to faith. We have a hard time becoming like a little child and believing. Our perceptions from our senses block the reception of the word of God. Our faith comes by hearing and receiving the word of God. We have to take the word into our hearts and place our trust in God’s ability to perform His word. When we get our eyes on the messenger and begin to reason, we often miss out on the miraculous!
Take a moment today to reflect on your own life. Are you giving honor to Jesus Christ as the Son of God? Do you find yourself critiquing the preacher or messenger and failing to put your faith in God and His word? Is your own unbelief a hindrance to receiving what you need from God? Confess if necessary and choose to believe!
“People brought all their sick to Him and begged Him to let the sick just touch the edge of His cloak, and all who touched Him were healed.” (Matthew 14:35b-36) Crossing the Sea of Galilee, Jesus came to a land where people believed! Miracles came with faith!
In His Love, Pastor John
Scripture reading for October 9th: Matthew 12-15
We are people made from the dirt of the earth. We have very humble beginnings, having originally been made from the clay of earth. God formed and shaped us in His image and likeness. (Genesis 2:7) He breathed into the formed clay, and it became a living being! This living being had a body, soul, and spirit. He was capable of knowing God and conversing with Him. He was given dominion over the earth and all the creatures, to care for them under God’s direction. (Psalm 8: 6-8)
Man was also given a free will. He could choose to follow God or go his own way. We all know what happened in the Garden of Eden. Man chose to follow Satan’s lie and lost his true life, dying spiritually and eventually physically. His heart became hardened and sin brought weeds, the curse, and separation from God. God’s love for man planned a way to bring man back to Him.
Jesus, God’s Son, came to call man back to God and re-introduce him to the Father. Jesus taught in parables as a way to convey truth to those who would be open to learn. He taught the Parable of the Sower as the first of His parables, teaching that it was a key to all parables. (Matthew 13:10-16) Those who hardened their hearts against God’s Truth, would not see or understand the basic truth Jesus was conveying. Those who would hear would be given understanding and be able to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
In this first parable, Jesus told of four kinds of soil and a sower who sowed seed. He taught them that the seed was the word of God and the sower was anyone who would declare God’s word. The soils represented the types of hearts of those who heard the word. Some hearts were hard like stone. Some had shallow soil that only allowed the seed to sprout. Others were weedy and choked out the word, making it unfruitful. Still others had the good soil that would produce a crop!
As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are to sow the word! We are to faithfully declare the word and believe God for a mighty harvest! The only soil we are responsible for is ours! Are you “good ground”? Humbly receive the word today and apply it to your life!
Scripture reading for October 8th: Matthew 8-11
“The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey Him!” (Matthew 8:27) The disciples were in a boat with Jesus crossing the sea of Galilee when a terrible storm rocked their boat. It was so severe that they feared for their lives. Jesus was sleeping and they awoke Him, begging Him to save them! He first rebuked them for their lack of faith, and then rebuked the wind and waves, bringing calm. These disciples began to question who this man might be. They had never seen anything like it! The authority and power that came from Jesus’ words were unlike any other mans.
As we read the Gospels and their eye-witness accounts of Jesus Christ and his miracles, we ourselves wonder. We have not witnessed anything quite like the accounts in our readings today. We first find Jesus healing a leper by touching him. (Matthew 8:1-4) This caused quite a stir, because leprosy made a person unclean. No one was to touch them. Jesus violated the Jewish religious rules and touched the man, bringing healing! Many sick and demon possessed people were brought to Jesus and he drove the evil spirits out and healed the people! (Matthew 8:16-17) He confronted two demon-possessed men who were so violent that no one would come near them. It appears that he went to that place just to deal with them. He cast the evil spirits out of the men into a large herd of swine, which then rushed into the lake and drowned! (Matthew 8:28-34) This resulted in the whole town coming out to meet Jesus and pleading with Him to leave their region! What manner of man was this?
The next miracle in today’s reading is the healing of the paralytic who was brought to Jesus by two men carrying him on a mat. Jesus saw their faith and told the man that his sins were forgiven! This caused the religious folks to go wild! So Jesus told the man to take up his bed and walk and he did! Jesus next went to the home of a ruler whose daughter had died. He took her hand and she got up, very much alive! Jesus provoked wonder and amazement everywhere He went! He is still doing that today!
Scripture reading for October 7th: Matthew 5-7
There is a war going on in the hearts of men everywhere. It is a battle for man’s affection and attention. On one hand, we have “money” and its fatal attraction. Money cries out for men to seek her and when they do, they end up serving her in slavery. Money is visible, has influence, and is out to steal our heart. Money promises happiness, satisfaction, and fulfillment, but rarely can deliver. It can be easily lost or stolen by others. On the other hand, God seeks the hearts of men everywhere. He wants none to be lost, but all to come and love Him. God promises to provide everything we need and more if we will love and serve Him.
“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Matthew 6:24) Jesus taught his disciples about this war for affection. He warned them that it was impossible to serve both masters. It has been said that “money” makes a good servant, but a cruel master! When we love money, it is a one way relationship. The Bible states that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. (1st Timothy 6:10) God is the only true Master and Lord. We can truly love God and receive love from Him. His love always does what is best for us.
Many in America today are trying to do what God said was impossible; they are serving money during the week and then trying to serve God on Sunday’s. In the end, the lover that gets the least time becomes hated! What is God’s advice to those who struggle with this war and worry about getting ahead and meeting daily needs? “So do not worry, saying,’What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness and all these things shall be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:31-33) By putting God and His Kingdom first, all our physical needs will be provided. God is the true Lover and Master! Cast all your cares on Him and give up courting “money”!