Week 49 – As I am reading thru the Bible, I am astonished how GOOD God is!

Holy Spirit is our true source of spiritual life and power to live here. It’s time to WELCOME Him!

DAY ONE – Matthew 12:22-50, Mark 3:22-35, Luke 8:19-21, 11:14-54

Our story a couple of readings ago included the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus’ wonderful textbook lesson on how to live in our world. Today we are treated to open, hostile confrontation between the religious leaders/teachers, and Jesus. It started with a miracle–Jesus healing the man blind and mute. In the process he cast out a demon, which was met with a caustic rebuke from a Pharisee. Jesus immediately responded to all who were listening that some sins are forgivable, including criticism of Messiah. But He made clear that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be met with the utmost calamity. Who was present when God created the world? The Holy Spirit. Who imbued and emboldened men of God through the centuries who did exploits, wrote the scriptures and gave God’s messages to Israel? The Holy Spirit. And who filled John the Baptist for His work of announcing Messiah? The Holy Spirit. Finally, under and through whose power was Jesus Himself teaching, healing, casting out demons and preaching the Kingdom of God? The Holy Spirit. Jesus recognized this confrontation as the same old Satan-inspired vitriol that has been rearing its ugly head in human behavior since the beginning of human conflict. Here it was, alive and active in the religious leaders! No wonder our Lord took such great pains to identify the source and make a big deal about it. It is a big deal! As humans, we are responsible for the atmosphere of earth in which we live our lives and go about our business. Humility and repentance properly relate us to our Creator, who sent Jesus to live with us and show us not only the Kingdom of Heaven, but the road to access the kingdom. The Holy Spirit responds to our repentance and our efforts to find God in our world. He helps us, leads us and connects us to the Lord. He then resides in us to further God’s works of grace until we are ready to live in heaven with our Savior. How we should welcome the Holy Spirit into our lives, for John the Baptist early on exclaimed about Jesus, “He is the One who baptizes with the Holy Spirit!” Jesus is not just some good man who lived in history and left us a great example. He is God the Son and Son of God; we must deal with Him. We will eventually see Him in His glory and realize how much He loves us and did for us. He is looking for an open heart to fill. Is yours open today?

DAY TWO – Matthew 13:1-53, Mark 4:1-34, Luke 8:1-18

What could be more natural than planting seeds in a garden? In fact, in our story today Jesus talked of a farmer who, instead of planting seeds, scattered them over his prepared ground, corner to corner throughout his plot. In rocky soil some of the seed had absolutely no chance of producing a harvest. So Jesus simply described what might happen to the scattered seed, all the while knowing the erstwhile farmer needed and wanted his crop to thrive if his family was to have food. Explaining later to his disciples the elements of the story, He cleared up any mystery. It’s all about HOW WE HEAR when God speaks. When and how does the Lord speak to us? Hebrews 1:1-3 (NLT) Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. 2 And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe. 3 The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. Jesus is the Living Word of God speaking down through the ages to every soul who will listen. It’s not about church, or religion, or culture. It’s about the Holy Spirit scattering Good News seeds throughout the world through every individual who is following Jesus and is His listening disciple. Jesus’ followers, in essence, all carry a bag of seed, from which are scattered kind thoughts, smiles, good works, patient suffering, and evidences of heaven on earth. They believe in God’s creative power to release the life that is in the seed, to see to its mysterious ability to grow, and to produce the crop at the end of the cycle. They go about their business faithfully and persistently, realizing that the results are in the hands of our Creator. But they continue to HEAR HIS WORDS in their heart, and they continue to display the goodness of God.

So those who LISTEN WELL are world-changers. Those who LISTEN WELL are reproducers. And those who LISTEN WELL are accumulating an eternal harvest of blessing which they continue to share with their world. It’s not rocket science; it’s faith at work, love from the heart, and humble dependence on the Savior whose voice is still speaking.

DAY THREE – Matthew 8:18-34, Matthew 9:18-38, Mark 4:35-5:43, Luke 8:22-56, 9:57-62

Whole books have been written about Jesus’ miracles. I have wondered and marveled my whole life, along with other amazed believers, at the power, the compassion and the love of Jesus. Simply, THERE IS NO ONE LIKE HIM! Disease, demons, sickness, weather–everything IS subject to His authority; I avoided saying WAS, for Jesus IS THE SAME now as then. When the astonished disciples looked on in amazement, asking what kind of man Jesus was, after He calmed a raging sea, Jesus asked them simply, “Where is your faith?” He was serious. Evidently His disciples should have that kind of faith? And then I realized how much damage sin did to the human race. Instead of being able to handle, as Jesus did, the problems of death and dying, we work and struggle to overcome, often in the face of mounting odds. Jesus knew no sin; therefore He did not have to live with the debilitating effects of sin in His person. As He saw in the multitudes the suffering, the wasting, the confusion, it filled Him with compassion, and He wanted to raise an ARMY of people like Him to go throughout the world to bring healing and peace. Praying to His Father in heaven, Jesus pled for more disciples to do this great work. He asked us to do the same. “Your kingdom come, your will be done, in earth as it is in heaven.” But let’s ponder the question, “Where is your faith?” Indeed. We know that faith is more than wishful thinking, more than hopeful prayers. As we will read later, “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, proof of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1, NLT). But that’s not what He asked. He said, “Where is your faith?” Where is it? Where did you put it? Every day I must ask myself, “Ray, where is your faith today?” And every day, the answer will be the same, “My faith is IN a person; it is IN Jesus.” Jesus asked His disciples to put their faith in Him; but then they had to discover who He was. So He showed them, over and over, who He was and what He did through the power of the Holy Spirit. And He taught them, again and again, that He and His Father in heaven were of one spirit and mind, committed to overcoming sin’s power and even death, to bring healing and peace to the world until heaven could finish its great work. And He asked us to get involved in His good work, promising His followers all that we need to SERVE OTHERS AS HE DID. Who is Jesus? God the Son and Son of God. He showed us how to live and move and grow our faith as we live IN and THROUGH Him by Holy Spirit’s power and grace. Take your greatest challenge to Him today; let your faith IN Him create your plans to overcome.

DAY FOUR – Matthew 10, 14, Mark 6:7-56, Luke 9:1-17, John 6

The Gospel books, Matthew through John, certainly do record the deeds of Jesus and reveal who He is. But that’s not all–they also contain Jesus’ highly intentional revelations about the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, with instructions to His disciples to begin their kingdom work. In order to accomplish this, Jesus did several things..

  1. He gave them authority in His name and sent them out to heal the sick while preaching the Good News.
  2. He further demonstrated the ebbs and flows of life after John the Baptist was killed.
  3. He walked on the water, miraculously fed five thousand, and traveled to several venues, growing their faith in Him.
  4. He in more than one instance revealed the cost of being His disciple, shattering their misconceptions.
  5. He watched some disciples walk away and didn’t try to detain them, instead asking the twelve what they wanted to do.
  6. He exposed the selfish and self-centered motives of the crowds, refusing to be taken as their king.
  7. He discerned between life in the ‘flesh’ and ‘spirit,’ revealing the true way to walk with Him.

We are at a critical point in our investigation into the life of Jesus. We must decide WHAT TO DO with Him. “Do you also want to go away?” He asked the twelve. Realizing that only He had the words to eternal life, they wanted to stay and press on with Him. Granting their wish, He also pointed out that one of them was a devil–the one who would eventually betray Him. So we do have to decide–do we stay with Jesus? Do we commit to the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, leading us to the eternal Kingdom? Do we pay the price of being His disciple, or try to find an easier way? Do we put our complete faith and trust in Him as we grow in Him? Remember, He made it clear that to believe in and follow Him might put us at odds with members of our own loved family. What to do? Are we worthy of Jesus? We are if we have decided that to love and serve Him is to BE VALUED ABOVE ALL other interests. Find those friends who are true disciples and work together for HEAVEN ON EARTH! It’s really a win-win.

DAY FIVE – Matthew 15, Mark 7:1-8:10

The Pharisees question Jesus:  “Why do your disciples disregard the tradition of the elders? For they don’t wash their hands when they eat.” Jesus questions the Pharisees: “Why do you also disregard the commandment of God because of your tradition? So the REAL question is: Who decides the order of things? Who decides what is important to God? Which came first–the commandment or the tradition? When Moses received the Ten Commandments to give to Israel, it was part of the Law covenant Yahweh God struck with them. A thousand years later they mostly disregarded the commandments, holding to the traditions handed down to them, regardless of what God thought. At the beginning of the relationship, the Lord said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.” Once again Jesus cut straight to the issue at hand, for He made clear that the Jewish traditions employed to judge Jesus and His disciples were mostly irrelevant. And once again, religion as a way of life pales before the relationship our Lord wants to have with us. It’s all about the heart–a good heart is the source of goodness. An evil heart is the source of evil, and everything coming out of an evil heart defiles the very atmosphere in which we live. So we often, according to Jesus, place so much emphasis on the body and mind that we forget the condition of our heart!

When Jesus spoke this parable He said, “Listen.. If you can!” Then He had to explain the whole thing to His disciples in order to correct their way of seeing things; for the Jews found the piety of the Pharisees compelling. Jesus saw it as disgusting and misleading, for it left the evil heart covered over with pretense. We must change the way we think about religion in order to truly follow Jesus. The only true religion is the one Apostle James mentioned: James 1:26-27 (WEB)  If anyone among you thinks himself to be religious while he doesn’t bridle his tongue, but deceives his heart, this man’s religion is worthless. 27 Pure religion and undefiled before our God and Father is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. And to live this way our hearts must be cleaned up and produce the goodness our Lord desires. By now we must believe that Jesus is most certainly up to something important; let’s follow Him some more to see where He is leading.

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