Scripture reading for January 7th: Matthew 5, Psalm 5, Prov. 5 (Reading through the New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs one chapter a day, five days each week in 2019–please join me in the trek!)
Key Scriptures: Matthew 5:10-13 “”Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on My account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.””
Jesus took His disciples and others who had gathered to hear Him up on a hillside. There He taught them about the kingdom of heaven and the blessedness of those who were included. This blessedness called for joy and rejoicing and anticipation of the great reward that would come in God’s time. It also included persecution and reviling from the world of sinful men on account of righteousness and their relationship with Jesus Christ. Rejoice now in all things and count on great reward in the fullness of the kingdom of heaven!
Faith’s confession: I am blessed with Christ’s righteousness and presence in me. I joyfully endure any hardship or persecution today, knowing Whose I am. (Action: Pray for God’s blessedness to come to anyone who may be mistreating you now for your love of Jesus. Do an act of kindness to show them Christ’s love.)
Proverbs 5:21 “For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the Lord, and He ponders all his paths.”
Scripture reading for December 29th: Revelation 18-22
Key Scriptures: Revelation 22:12-15 “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with Me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of Life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.”
The last words of Jesus Christ recorded by John, the beloved disciple are “I am coming soon!” Jesus promises that His reward is with him. He will justly reward all who are His through the washing of their robes in His blood. Those who overcome will have access to the Tree of Life and freely go in and out of the New Jerusalem. Those who will be shut out are those who have not repented of sins and have garments stained by them!
Rejoicing in our Reward: “See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and His Arm rules for Him. See, His reward is with Him, and His recompense accompanies Him. He tends His flock like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart; He gently leads those that have young.” (Isaiah 40:10-11)
Scripture reading for November 1st: James 1
Key Scriptures for over-comers: James 1:22-25 “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it–he will be blessed in what he does.”
There is a danger in being regularly exposed to God’s word. The danger is that we hear and know about what God asks of His people but we become complacent or defiant about applying God’s word to our own lives. This is likened to a person who looks in the mirror to examine his face for dirt but when he looks away that person forgets what he saw! But those who look intently at God’s word in order to do it will be blessed beyond measure!
Observations for over-comers: Over-comers look intently into God’s word to obey it knowing that God’s smile awaits them! “My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity.” (Proverbs 3:1-2)
Scripture reading for May 3rd: John 20
Key Scriptures for over-comers: John 20:29-31 “Then Jesus told him, “Because you (Thomas) have seen Me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.”
Jesus showed Himself to the disciples the first day He arose and allowed them to touch Him and see the wounds. Thomas was not there the first time and consciously decided that he would not believe unless he also could touch the wounds and see for himself. A week later, Jesus came and went directly to Thomas and offered his wounds to be touched. He encouraged him not to be a doubter but to believe! Jesus then went on to state that those who would believe without seeing would be blessed as well. Jesus gave the rest of those who would follow Him the eye-witness accounts and also the written accounts of the many miraculous signs that Jesus did that they might have ample evidence to believe. Those who believe are blessed and will receive eternal life in His name!
Observations for over-comers: God always honors faith! It is the only way we can please Him! “Blessed are those You choose and bring near to live in Your courts! We are filled with the good things of Your house, of Your holy temple.” (Psalm 65:4)
Scripture reading for January 7th: Matthew 5
Many focus on the Beatitudes as a wonderful statement of kingdom life and blessings. But Jesus spoke at length about many other common beliefs held among the people. He reminded the people with “you have heard it said:” and then countered the common sayings with God’s perspective. These truths ran counter to the current religious teaching of the day. They also challenge us today in that the religious world still holds some of the same perspectives.
“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.” (Matthew 5:21-22a) Jesus took one of the Ten Commandments and showed that under kingdom rules, anger with another also was capable of bringing judgment. Murder starts in the heart with feelings of anger and disparaging comments like “You fool!”! God looks at the heart, not just the actions!
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body that for your whole body to be thrown into hell.” (Matthew 5:27-29) Jesus took another of the commandments and showed that adultery also started in the heart. God doesn’t just look at the acts in the kingdom He rules, he looks at the heart. Breaking this command is serious business! Better to lose an eye than to go to hell! Maybe it’s time to listen to Jesus!
Scripture reading for October 7th: Matthew 5-7
Matthew recorded one of the longest discourses of Jesus in the Bible that is known as the “Sermon on the Mount”. The kingdom of heaven was the subject of this great teaching. God was King over the nation of Israel and they were blessed to be His loyal subjects!
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3) God’s kingdom people know that they can do nothing on their own. They need God! As a result, God blesses them with the kingdom as a gift!
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:4-5) Kingdom people are meek and mourn over sin. They are humble and recognize their need of God’s mercy. God promises them comfort and a great inheritance!
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God.” (Matthew 5:6-8) They hunger and thirst for righteousness and are satisfied by their King, who is their righteousness. They are merciful because they have received mercy. Kingdom kids are pure in heart because they have a new heart given as a gift from their King!
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:9-10) They are peacemakers for they are sons of their Father who gives peace! These kids are blessed when they are persecuted for their righteousness because they have heavenly vision of the glory to come. They have a reward in heaven that no one can steal or destroy. (Matthew 5:7-12) They will see their King’s face one day and bask in His glory!
Kingdom kids are blessed to be the light of the world. They reflect the glory of their King everywhere they go. They are the salt of the earth! (Matthew 5:13-16) They help stop the corruption of sin and bring out God’s saving and preserving message of Gospel hope. They are a people who love God and love their neighbors from their heart! What a blessed life!
Scripture Reading for January 13th: Genesis 32-36
Have you ever felt that God has told you to do something that you knew had the potential for trouble? Our first move away from home to pastor a church in Washington was like that. We were used to being around family and a loving church. We were not sure they would like us. We wrestled about moving our daughter in her senior year of high school. We had told God we would go anywhere, but not necessarily this far!
Jacob faced a similar challenge in his move back from Paddan Aram to his homeland. God commanded him to go back but he was concerned about the brother he had left behind nearly 20 years ago who was plotting to kill him. (Genesis 31:3, 13) Jacob had taken this brother’s birthright and stolen his father’s blessing. He had also just left his father-in-law upset by leaving. Jacob sent his family across the Jabok, a tributary of the Jordan River. He stayed behind to pray.
That night “a man wrestled with him until daybreak”. (Genesis 32:22-31) This “man” touched Jacobs hip socket and put it out of joint. Jacob would not let him go until this “man” blessed him. The man asked Jacob his name–“Jacob” (cheat, supplanter). The man changed Jacob’s name to “Israel” (wrestled with God and men and have overcome.) The nation of Israel was birthed by a man wrestling with God!
Wrestling with God isn’t a bad thing if we are desperate for His blessing! God loves it when we lay hold of Him as our only hope! It’s a sure way to true blessing; but we may walk with a limp! Thankfully, our old ways of cheating, lying and manipulation are left behind. We have a “new Name” written down in Glory and are destined to overcome!
And God said to him, “I am God Almighty, be fruitful and increase in number. A nation and community of nations will come from your body. The land I gave to Abraham and Isaac I also give to you, and I will give this land to your descendants after you.” Genesis 36:11-12
Scripture reading for September 22nd: Ephesians 1:1-23
Paul wrote a wonderful letter to the church at Ephesus that is a legacy to us today. Paul describes who we are in Christ and records some classic prayers that he as a pastor prayed for the church. This book has been an encouragement to Christians of every age and time and speaks to us today from the heart of God! It’s opening address, “To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus”, can be taken personally by those who belong to Christ! A saint is one set apart for God by faith in Jesus Christ.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy ad blameless in His sight. In love, He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will–to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us in all wisdom and understanding.” (Ephesians 1:3-8)
As we read Paul’s opening call to these faithful saints to praise God, we are swept into consideration of what God, our Father, has done for us. The magnitude of our blessings–“every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms”–is more than we can comprehend! We note that God initiates everything that we receive. He chose us to be in Christ before the foundation of the world. (Romans 5:8) He provided His Son, Jesus Christ, for our redemption through the shedding of His blood that we might receive forgiveness of our sins and adoption as sons. God did it all with a lavish display of His love in Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection!
“And you were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the Gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit.” (Ephesians 1:13) It is by faith, through believing in Christ, that we are included in the company of the saints. The Holy Spirit is a gift, marking us as His own! What a revelation of the love of God!
Scripture reading for October 5th: Matthew 5-7
Matthew records one of the longest discourses of Jesus in the Bible. It contains a rich wealth of teaching for those who are followers of the great Rabbi and teacher who is the Son of God. Today we will focus on the blessedness of those who embrace the King and His kingdom!
The kingdom of heaven was the subject of this great teaching. God, the Father, was to be King over the nation of Israel and they were to be His loyal children. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3) Kingdom kids were not to be proud, boastful or self-sufficient. Their sufficiency came from their Father who gave them a rich inheritance.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Matthew 5:6) They would be satisfied by their King with a banquet of bread and wine He supplied. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (Matthew 5:8) They would have a new heart given as a gift! “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9) Father gives peace that the world can’t understand! Even when persecuted for their righteousness, they have the Father’s wisdom and know that the best is yet to come! They have a reward in heaven that no one can steal or destroy. (Matthew 5:7-12) They will see their King’s face one day and bask in His glory!
Kingdom kids are blessed to be the light of the world. They reflect the glory of their King everywhere they go. They are the salt of the earth! They bring out the “God-flavors” of this world according to the Message Bible! (Matthew 5:13-16) They help stop the corruption of sin and bring out God’s saving message of Gospel hope. They are a people who love God and love their neighbors from their hearts, fulfilling God’s law.
God’s kingdom kids do not worry about tomorrow or fret over provisions. They know how to talk to God in prayer and trust Him for everything. He is their provider and protector! They are blessed with all they need. (Matthew 6:33) They have built their houses on a Rock! Storms may come but they are secure and safe in Him! We are so blessed to be “Kingdom Kids” of our amazing Father in Heaven!
Scripture reading for January 16th: Genesis 45-47
Families and churches are sometimes prone to conflict! I know because I live in a family, have attended or pastored churches for many years. I have experienced conflict in family and church settings and sometimes been responsible for it myself! Sometimes conflict comes from misunderstanding and poor communication. Other times it comes from jealousy or envy. Sometimes it comes from sin and wrong-doing. Everybody wants to blame somebody else and arguments ensue about who is at fault!
In our reading today, Joseph revealed himself to his brothers after a series of encounters with them. The brothers still had guilt from what they did and when Joseph revealed himself to them, they were astonished, speechless, and terrified! (Genesis 45:1-7) Joseph had to reassure them that it was truly him. He understood their feelings. He had worked through these same kinds of feelings himself over the years. God gave him understanding of the greater purpose that was being worked out. Joseph shared this with his brothers to encourage them. “It was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.”
As Joseph sent them away to bring Israel and the rest of the family down to Egypt to preserve them during the next 5 years of famine, he warned them not to quarrel on the way! It doesn’t appear that repentance had yet taken place. Feelings of guilt and shame are no longer able to control us when we truly repent. He forgives and forgets our sins. (Psalm 103:11-12) Blaming others never helps either. We can only take responsibility for our own sins and forgive others of theirs. When we do that, quarreling is greatly reduced and peace in the family results. God is working out his purposes in our families and homes even amidst the conflict and sin so prevalent in our lives. Often it’s hard to see the big picture.
Jesus Christ was sent before us to save us! He saw God’s big picture and died for our sins. If we confess our sins and repent of them, he will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all guilt and shame. He came to bring peace in our own hearts and he blessed peacemakers! (Matthew 5:9) May we be able to heed the ancient warning of Joseph and receive the blessing the Prince of Peace. “Don’t quarrel on the way!” (Genesis 45:24)