cccdailybiblereading

A daily encouragement to read the Bible with others from Christ Community Church, Conway.

Month: April, 2013

Bible Reading Day 120

Day 120 – Luke 22:1-30

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Good morning!
The careful account that Luke writes for us to be certain of what we believe reaches the core of the story in the next few days. Today the Passover feast is approaching; the day when atonement was made for the sins of Israel. On this Passover, a greater atonement would be made: Jesus would be the sacrificial lamb, crucified for the whole world. 
 
After Judas agrees to betray Jesus, Luke records the details of the Last Supper. Jesus gives specific instructions to Peter and John, who find everything as Jesus said. Luke does not tell us if this is a miracle, or if Jesus had made arrangements in advance, but Jesus tells the disciples how eager he has been to eat this meal with them. After the meal, He institutes the Lord’s Supper (communion) by adapting and re-interpreting elements of the passover meal. Interestingly, Jesus then tells them that one of them is a traitor (after offering the communion to them all) and the disciples question which of them would do such a thing. Yet then they go on to argue about who is the greatest! I am always amazed at Jesus’ patience with His followers; He corrects and teaches, but never condemns. 
 
You and I are also recipients of that patience, because He is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, and has given His body and blood as a sacrifice confirming a new covenant between us and God.
 
Have a great day!

Mark.
 
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Bible Reading Day 119

Day 119 – Luke 21:20-38

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Good morning!
This morning we read the second half of Jesus’ prophecy about the fall of Jerusalem and the end of the age. With overlapping focus He describes accurately what tookplace in AD 70 when the Romans conquered Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple, together with events that are still to be fulfilled when Jesus returns and the Kingdom of God becomes the only Kingdom.
 
Two sentences stand out to me from these verses:
So when all these things begin to happen, stand and look up, for your salvation is near! (v28)
In the same way, when you see all these things taking place, you can know that the Kingdom of God is near. (v31)
 
Both refer to our outlook and our focus when trouble surrounds us and it seems that the places God has been seen before are being destroyed. That is how life is these days, and Jesus commands us to look up, stand, and know that the Kingdom of God (our salvation) is near.
 
Stand in Him today!
 
Have a great day!

Mark.
 
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Bible Reading Day 118

Day 118 – Luke 21:1-19

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Good morning!
Today we draw nearer to the climax of Jesus’ final week. In His last hours teaching He tells what will come; and as with much of prophecy there is an immediate and a future fulfillment.

First Jesus points out a poor widow whose offering seems insignificant: in His eyes it is the biggest offering of all, because it is all she has. By contrast the rich and powerful give a small portion of their excess, which costs them nothing. This in itself is a prophetic observation, because it foreshadows Jesus giving everything on the cross; that seems like a small offering in comparison to the enormity of humanity’s sin, but to God it is the most significant offering of all.

Then Jesus goes on to prophesy the end of the Temple (which was fulfilled in 70AD), together with the signs of the end of the age (when Jesus returns). Notably He tells us that people will claim to be messiahs, but they are false, and that the end will come after the false signs. He also warns the disciples of a great persecution (which is recorded in the Book of Acts) but He reassures them that not a hair of their heads will perish (even though He tells them some of them will be killed!).

The Kingdom of God is so much greater than the kingdoms of this world. Even if powerful people persecute us, or kill us, they cannot take away the eternal life we have with Jesus. This life is a rehearsal – eternity is our stage!
 
Have a great day!

Mark.
 
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Bible Reading Day 117

Day 117 – Luke 20:27-47

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Good morning!
We continue with the account of the last days of Jesus teaching in the temple. Yesterday we saw encounters with the Pharisees, today the challenge comes from the Sadducees.

The Sadducees, elitists who would only accept the written Word of God and not oral teaching, refused to believe in the resurrection because it is not mentioned in the Torah. They make up a challenge to catch Jesus, where a woman is married to seven brothers one after another, following the law of levirate marriage set out in Deuteronomy 25:5-6. Asking whose wife she will be in the resurrection, they believe the answer to be “there is no resurrection so there is no problem.” Interestingly, Jesus doesn’t just correct them, He uses the scripture to prove them wrong. He takes the only authority they accept, and uses it to demolish their human reasoning. When Moses (the father of the written law) writes that God describes Himself at the burning bush as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Joseph, he is proving that those men, long dead, are alive to God – there is a resurrection because God is the God of the living, not the dead!

Then Jesus adds another strike against the Sadducees by asking a question Himself: how can the Messiah be the son of David when David calls the Messiah “my Lord?”

The Sadducees have no answer to that, not can they answer the accusation that follows: in their elitism and pride, they have created a religious system by which they elevate themselves, yet that same system abuses the people and takes advantage of them.  Jesus ends His accusation by saying that their pretension will be severely punished.

What a contrast for us in this passage: the elite religious people facing severe punishment for their proud self-serving, while the Son of God who only does good to others will shortly be falsely accused and brutally murdered. Thank God there IS a resurrection, and we will be part of it!

Have a great day!

Mark.

More about Pharisees and Sadducees online.

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Bible Reading Day 116

Day 116 – Luke 20:1-26

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Good morning!
Today, Luke records several aspects of Jesus’ final days teaching in the Temple.
 
First the religious leaders try to threaten Him: “Who gve you the right to teach?” Their assumption is that they control the right to teach in the Temple, and so they have the right to shut down Jesus” teaching. Jesus is not threatened by control; he responds by asking them who gave John the right to baptize. This caught them out in their hypocrisy, because they did not accept John’s authority either, but (like Jesus) he was accepted by the people. When they say they don’t know where John’s authority came from, Jesus tells them He won’t tell them where His authority comes from either.
 
Next Jesus tells another parable about a landowner who goes away before returning to deal with the consequences of trusting others with his business. This time the tenants murder the son of the landowner, thinking they will gain control of the farm, but the owner reclaims his property and the evil tenants are killed.  Of course the religious leaders are the evil tenants in the story – given responsibility for God’s people, but wanting all the power and authority for themselves. They are furious and want to kill Jesus but they are unable to do anything because they are afraid of the people. How ironic that seeking power for ourselves often results in us becoming powerless, because we turn our backs on the true source of power – God Himself.
 
Finally, the religious leaders try to trap Jesus once more, sending spies to ask Him whether it is lawful to pay taxes to Caesar. If the answer is yes, they will accuse Jesus of complicity with the Romans, and if it is no, they will have a charge to bring against Him with the Romans. Instead Jesus separates the two issues, asking whose head is on the coin and telling them all “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar (the money with Caesar’s likeness on it), and give to God what belongs to God (the life of each human being with God’s likeness on it).”
 
Have you ever reflected on the fact that you are more valuable than any coin, because you are minted in God’s likeness, and you belong to Him?
 
Have a great day!

Mark.
 
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Bible Reading Day 115

Day 115 – Luke 19:29-48

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Good morning!
Today we begin the culmination of Jesus’ ministry on the earth. The final week of His life begins with the triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Sending the disciples ahead to collect a donkey, Jesus fulfils the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9 and also indicates that His kingship is not military (kings usually rode a horse), but humble and bibilical.

It is almost time for the Passover, and Jesus knows He is to be the ultimate Passover Lamb, dying to atone for the sins of the whole world. When the crowd uses words from Psalm 118 to praise Jesus, it is confirming His Messianic role. If you have time, read the Psalm with the understanding that it refers to Jesus dying for us. It is truly wonderful that God would capture these words in the scriptures to affirm for us what Jesus is about to do.

The Pharisees are indignant – as Bible scholars they too understand the significance of the words from the Psalm. They tell Jesus to silence His followers, but Jesus is moving purposefuly toward fulfilling His mission on earth, and He tells the Pharisees that silencing the followers would be a waste of time, because the stones would cry out!

As Jerusalem comes into view, Jesus is moved as a priest and a prophet. Burdened for the widening gap between the people and God, He weeps and longs for them to know the way to find peace. Moved to prophesy, He declares what will happen instead – Jerusalem (the place God chose to dwell on earth) will be besieged and destroyed. What a poignant critique of their stubbornness: “You did not accept your opportunity for salvation.”

This first day in Jerusalem ends with Jesus clearing out the merchandising at the Temple, where opportunists had turned the freedom of worshipping God into the oppression of materialism and the robbery of dishonest transactions. Jesus is fully committed to each person being able to come to God with no obstructions and no hindrances. How does that speak to you today?
Have a great day!

Mark.
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Bible Reading Day 114

Day 114 – Luke 19:1-28

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Good morning!
Jesus is moving inexorably closer to Jerusalem and the final week of His life. Today He enters the town of Jericho and meets Zacchaeus. Remember the camel and the eye of the needle yesterday? Well here’s a “camel” who is going to thread the needle!
 
First, Jesus  reaches over the barrier that keeps Zacchaeus away – the rejection he experiences as a tax collector (and a short person!). Then Jesus lets Zacchaeus minister to Him. And then, as others grumbled and judged, Zacchaeus gets saved (at least by the definitions Jesus has given us earlier in the gospel). His salvation is evidenced by his actions; restitution for his sins and prioritizing the poor. Jesus affirms his salvation, and says “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Who is lost in your network of relationships? Can you see Jesus seeking them? How can you cooperate with His agenda to seek them and save them?

The second half of our reading challenges several assumptions. It is the parable of the ten servants (similar to other parables Jesus told, recorded in the other gospels, such as the parable of the talents). Firstly this parable challenges the assumption that the Kingdom of God would come when Jesus reached Jerusalem. That was an attractive thought to Jews who had been under pagan oppression for many years. The possibility that Jesus would ride into Jerusalem and overthrow the Romans, restoring a Jewish Kingdom again, was like water in the desert to them. To challenge this assumption Jesus makes clear that the nobleman goes away for a significant time before returning.

Secondly the parable challenges the assumption that God deals with us all equally. He loves us all unconditionally (and therefore equally) but He does not give us all the same level of responsibility in this life. There is a quote from Rick Warren being shared widely on Facebook at the moment which echoes this parable: “It’s no sin to have a small church, it’s a sin to have a small vision.”
 
How would you characterize the level of responsibility God has given you? How are you stewarding that for the growth of the Kingdom?

Have a great day!

Mark.
 
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Bible Reading Day 113

Day 113 – Luke 18:18-43

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Good morning!
Today we have three examples of Jesus getting to the heart of the matter (as He always does!).
 
First a religious leader asks Jesus how to inherit eternal life. Interestingly, Jesus starts out by challenging the man on his greeting: “why do you call me good? Only God is truly good.” In other words, are you admitting that I am God? Then, after covering the basic requirements, Jesus gets to the heart of the man: he’s a religious leader so he is rich, and that competes with his desire for eternal life. You can’t serve two masters – money that belongs to this life, and God who is preparing us for eternity. The man was sad because he was rich, and Jesus tells his followers that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God. At first glance that means it is impossible for any rich person to be saved, but that can’t be the case because Jesus does tell rich people they will be saved (most notably Zacchaeus in the next chapter). Some have invented a really small gate, known as “the eye of the needle” in the walls of Jerusalem which a camel can only traverse without baggage and down on its knees. That is a memorable illustration but it has a problem – it is not true! There is no evidence of such a gate. In fact the saying of Jesus is simply hyperbole – overstating something for the sake of making a point and driving it home. What Jesus is saying is that salvation, especially for the rich, is impossible without God’s intervention. More on this section can be found online here.
 
The second example of Jesus getting to the heart is when He takes His disciples aside and tells them specifically what will happen when they get to Jerusalem. Luke records how the disciples completely miss what Jesus is saying to them. This is another example of the veracity of Luke’s account – that he would include something that puts the disciples in a poor light, and that they would have the honesty to report it to him!
 
The third example of getting to the heart comes near Jericho, when Jesus hears the blind beggar crying out “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” The crowd around him tried to silence him but he just cried out all the more. Clearly he had had enough of his isolation and enforced dependence on others. Have you noticed how Jesus treats every person as a unique individual, especially when it comes to salvation or healing? Here Jesus gets to the heart of what the man wants: “What do you want me to do for you?” It seems like an obvious question, given that the man is blind, but Jesus wants to hear from his own lips what he really wants: maybe he will ask for charity, or affirmation before his benefactors? Getting to the heart reveals what the man really wants – he wants his sight; he’s ready to take his place in society, to work rather than beg, to interact with others and end his enforced isolation. He wants to be who he was made to be. And Jesus gives him what he wants!
 
What do you want today? To take another step into the fullness of who you were made to be? To leave behind something that restricts you or makes you dependent on others rather than God? To receive salvation without any hindrance, as a gift of God’s grace? Jesus has the same answer for you as for the blind man: “YES!”
 
Have a great day!

Mark.
 
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Bible Reading Day 112

Day 112 – Luke 18:1-17

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Good morning!
Today we have two parables and a blessing. 

First Jesus tells his disciples a story to teach them not to give up; to keep praying. Perhaps the disciples were discouraged or feeling inadequate in their relationship with God. The story has a judge who gives a widow justice simply because she keeps pestering him. In contrast, Jesus says God will give his people justice because they cry out to Him day and night. Then He asks a rhetorical question “When the Son of Man returns, how many will he find on the earth who have faith? Like the parable, the question is designed to provoke a response – “I will have faith!”

Next Jesus tells a story to those who are the opposite of the disciples – trusting in their own righteousness and looking down on everyone else. This story compares a Pharisee and a tax collector. the Pharisee is sure he’s right with God, and brags about it in his prayer, while the tax collector recognizes his sin and simply asks for mercy. Jesus says the tax collector was the one who was justified, and the reason He gives is interesting: those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. So God’s favor on the tax collector has less to do with leveling the playing field of prayer, and more to do with God being drawn to bless the humble. That was bad news indeed for the religious leaders!

Finally, as if to underscore the message of humility, Jesus corrects the disciples when they turn away parents bringing their children to be blessed by Jesus. He tells them that the Kingdom of God belongs to the childlike, and receiving the Kingdom like a child is the only way in. So let’s take a long look in the mirror today and let God make us more childlike!
 
Have a great day!

Mark.
 
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Bible Reading Day 111

Day 111 – Luke 17:20-37

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Good morning!
Waiting for the Kingdom.
 
Today Jesus follows His teaching on faith by answering a question from the Pharisees about the Kingdom of God. The Pharisees, with their focus on keeping the commandments, and their belief in the resurrection, had a great interest in the Kingdom of God, which they saw as a future state where mankind would keep God’s Law. Unfortunately, in their effort to keep the Law themselves, they distanced themselves from God by their self-righteousness.
 
Jesus confounds their self-focused outlook by telling them that the Kingdom is not visible,  but nonetheless already present (in Jesus, the King of the Kingdom). They must have been so confused! Incidentally – the way to minimize confusion about God’s Kingdom is to look at everything through the lens of Jesus. Any other viewpoint (whether tradition, or human wisdom) is misleading.
 
Then Jesus talks to His disciples about the future, and the Kingdom. He tells them they will soon long for the Kingdom to come, but it won’t (a reference to the suffering that awaits them as a result of the crucifxion, and after the resurrection). He shows them from history that the Kingdom of God (and the return of Jesus) will be a surprise to almost everyone, just as the Flood and the destruction of Sodom were surprises for almost everyone.
 
In response to this sudden, unexpected future event, our lives are to be lived with open hands and hearts. “If you cling to your life, you will lose it, and if you let your life go, you will save it.”
 
The only safe place to let go of your life, is into the hands of Jesus. Let’s all let go and allow Him to hold us.
 
Have a great day!

Mark.
 
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