Week 51 – The year ends soon; our reading to know God better, continues into 2019

When Jesus said, “I am the Way” He meant there is NO OTHER way. We can’t do this without Him.. TRUST HIM!

DAY ONE – Luke 14-15

It’s one thing to study the teachings and miracles of Jesus. There is no other like Him in recorded human history. But try as we might to emulate Him, to follow His example, we discover that our humanity keeps interfering. Our desire is not enough to help us over the obstacles. This is why, once again, Jesus instructed His listeners to pick up the pieces of their life (their cross) and follow Him every day. He wasn’t just showing the way; He was PROVIDING the way. Filled with the Holy Spirit, operating in complete submission to His Father, demonstrating heaven on earth, Jesus was creating a portal in His own life through which we would be able to become part of heaven’s family while living here on earth. Here is His take on things: John 6:63 (NLT) The Spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing. And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. Jesus’ words are not to be just studied; they are to be imbibed! We take them into ourselves by welcoming the Holy Spirit who empowered Jesus in His life. Yes, Jesus taught humility, self-giving, sacrifice, loving God, rejoicing over the lost ones who find their way home. He taught on all levels of human behavior and response. But the works He DID was evidence that the Holy Spirit is the ONLY ONE who can accomplish in us what was accomplished in Jesus’ life.

Jesus’ story of the young prodigal who wasted his inheritance and found himself eating with the pigs reveals first of all the abject poverty of spirit that universally abounds in the human arena. According to the prophet Isaiah every one of us has wandered from the Father even as that prodigal. We all left the Father’s house to go our own way and to do whatever we will. Interestingly, the young man ‘came to himself.’ Something in him remembered a better time and a better place: it was his father’s house. Why should he live in a stinking sty when he could be back home with his father? Embarrassment could have kept him away; so could his pride. It’s tough to come home a failure! But what other future is worth considering? So he carefully rehearsed his speech: “Father, I am not worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired servants.” How little he knew the great celebration awaiting him at his father’s house! In some ways we are/were all prodigals; if you are reading this and feeling homesick, rehearse your speech or whatever you have to do; but for pity’s sake, get up and get on your way home to the Father! He’s waiting for you. Welcome the Holy Spirit into your life, and He will be your Comforting Guide.

DAY TWO – Matthew 19, Mark 10:1-31, Luke 16:1-18:30

Jesus came speaking of the Kingdom of God and demonstrating its raw power by the miracles He did. Healing the sick, casting out demons, raising the dead–all these showed the nature of heaven, where LIGHT AND LIFE PREVAIL over all the dark aspects of our shadow world. Our shadow world needs to be fixed; heaven is already pristine. Our shadow world exalts mankind and showcases our abilities; heaven exalts Creator/Savior God and shows His great love and mercy. Our shadow world is in a state of decay and will pass away one day; heaven is in a state of constant creation and is the wave of the future. Our shadow world is a place of desperation and thus preparation for heaven, AND JESUS ASKS US TO FOLLOW HIM THERE! He taught voluminously about the things that keep us from God and mess up our world, then turned right around and said that the things that make it impossible for us to enter heaven are no match for God– “With God all things are possible!” Forget trying to fix yourself. The rich young man who broached the subject with Jesus discovered the only thing between him and heaven were his possessions; but then he was sad because he couldn’t part with them! A rich life here was more to him than heaven! Faith and trust in Jesus is the only human quality that transcends the shadow world and opens heaven’s possibilities to our consciousness. Only when we believe who Jesus is; what He did; and what He asks of us, are we able to generate the kind of faith that surrenders to the powers of heaven and puts us on a new course with eternal life.

Luke 17:20-21 (NLT) “…The Kingdom of God can’t be detected by visible signs. 21 You won’t be able to say, ‘Here it is!’ or ‘It’s over there!’ For the Kingdom of God is already among you.” Every day as you and I make our way in this shadow world, the Kingdom of God is present and working around us. Every day people of faith in Jesus go about their business, doing the works of Christ, and you never notice them. But heaven does! Jesus is still making heaven real in this world through His faithful followers. But unless you start to believe in Him and trust Him with your life, heaven will just pass you by, and you will, like the rich man in Jesus’ story, wake up one day startled to realize you totally missed it! Is there really anything in this shadow world that is so important it should keep us from heaven, and from our Father who is there? Everyone has to decide that for himself.

DAY THREE – Matthew 20, Mark 10:32-52, Luke 18:31-19:27

When Jesus teaches about the Kingdom of Heaven, everything seems upside down and backwards! The man who invests his master’s money and increases it ten times is given even more. The first seem to be last, and the last are first. The servant receives high honors, and those who serve most are considered the greatest. And finally, in order to be given the glory He deserves, the Son of Man will be betrayed into the hands of religious leaders who will condemn Him and turn Him over to the Romans to be crucified. What kind of Kingdom is this? And why is the Master going to die instead of ascending His throne? And why is the Kingdom now but not yet? Why can’t the disciples take places of royal honor as a reward for following their King? The answers lie in the very nature of this world and the Kingdom of Heaven. Heaven was first, before this world. Yahweh God placed a piece of heaven into the newly created world, and it was called the Garden of Eden. The first humans to live there enjoyed unparalleled creativity and peace. But forced to leave the garden, they entered a world that IS ACTUALLY UPSIDE DOWN AND BACKWARDS! Everything was suddenly difficult; they experienced sweat and pain. Their bodies began to age and would lead to eventual death. The first son born to this couple murdered his brother and became a wanderer. Everything right about heaven began to go missing on earth; this lasted four thousand years. Then Jesus came–heaven on earth. Miracles occurred; people were healed and forgiven; hope was born anew. Jesus totally upset the status quo as He asked people to follow Him. And when they did, He prophesied that He would be killed but would rise again. The Kingdom of Heaven seemed far away without Him.

Everything wrong with earth is right in heaven. Though He lived here only a short time, Jesus left the priceless deposit of His own life, which He took up again in the resurrection. He left the witness of His miracles and teachings to point the way for His followers. And He left the hope that all He had done was NOT LOST but simply planted into the soil of this world to spring up again in us His followers. He asked them then to trust Him and have faith in Him, and He is asking us today to do the same thing–trust Him and have faith in Him. You see, Jesus didn’t start a religion; He started a revolution of LIFE, to be followed by eternal life in the eternal Kingdom of heaven.

DAY FOUR – Matthew 26:6-13, Mark 14:3-9, John 11:55-12:11, Matthew 21:1-22, Mark 11:1-26, Luke 19:28-48, John 12:12-36, 2:13-2

Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NLT) For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. Acts 1:6-7 (NLT)  So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?” 7 He replied, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know…” A woman worships Jesus by breaking a box of expensive perfume and pouring it on his feet. People grumble because it could have been sold and the money given to the poor. Jesus’ reply? You will always have poor people around, but I won’t always be here; her timing is perfect! Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey to fulfill an ancient prophecy. His timing is impeccable! Jesus tells the disciples that the time has now come for the Son of Man to enter into His glory. But first He has to die! Should He shrink away from this hour, from this terrible time of testing? But He came for just this time. Then He says: John 12:31 (NLT) 31 The time for judging this world has come, when Satan, the ruler of this world, will be cast out. Can anyone improve on God’s timing?

In the process of revealing these things and working His final miracles before His passion, Jesus taught the disciples a lesson about faith. It happened when He approached a fig tree one morning to get something to eat. There were no figs on the tree, so Jesus cursed it, and it almost immediately withered from the roots and died. Questioned by the astonished disciples, He startled them even further by declaring that if they had any faith at all, they could literally move a mountain; but they would have to believe in their heart that their faith was real. How important is it that we stop worrying about the times and seasons and live our lives every day, full of faith in Jesus! If the Father in heaven perfectly timed Jesus’ coming to earth; if He timed Jesus’ life–His miracles and teachings–perfectly; and if He timed His death and resurrection to perfection; then cannot we trust Him with the seasonal movements of our life here? If you ask me what time I think it is, I will reply “It’s GOD’S TIME!” Our Father in heaven really is in charge of the seasons. In so many words, Jesus said, “Look, just follow me. Follow the Father’s leading; follow the Holy Spirit who is guiding you. Stop being so concerned about timing; it’s all planned in the Kingdom of God. So get back to your life of praise and thanksgiving; get to work in My harvest. Now is the RIGHT TIME for that.”

DAY FIVE – Matthew 21:23-22:14, Mark 11:27-12:12, Luke 20:1-19, John 12:37-50

Authority is a powerful word. Typically it is given, or assigned to a person by a governing authority. But nobody could figure out where Jesus got His authority. In His days the Jewish religious leaders operated from their positions of authority granted by Moses over a thousand years before. Whether or not they deserved it, or used it properly, seemed to not be important to them. What was important was that they HAD it and could more or less do as they pleased. So when this ‘upstart,’ as they must have fancied Jesus to be, appeared and taught ‘with authority,’ and did miracles of all kinds ‘with authority,’ they were not only offended that He didn’t seek their approval, but also that His effectiveness threatened their little world! No wonder they challenged His authority and demanded that He explain His position. Failing in their attempt, they plotted to defend their own tenuous positions by killing Jesus. But He relentlessly pursued and exposed them before the hapless crowds who were swayed by their own superstitions and ignorance. Through the story of the vineyard owner’s terrible losses at the hands of tenant farmers, Jesus clearly showed that their challenge to His authority was actually a challenge to God’s SUPER AUTHORITY! And as John wrote, He put the ‘coup de grace’ on their wickedness and superficiality.

John 12:44-50 (NLT)  Jesus shouted to the crowds, “If you trust me, you are trusting not only me, but also God who sent me. 45 For when you see me, you are seeing the one who sent me. 46 I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark. 47 I will not judge those who hear me but don’t obey me, for I have come to save the world and not to judge it. 48 But all who reject me and my message will be judged on the day of judgment by the truth I have spoken. 49 I don’t speak on my own authority. The Father who sent me has commanded me what to say and how to say it. 50 And I know his commands lead to eternal life; so I say whatever the Father tells me to say.”  Today’s world says, “Don’t trust authority.” But into this milieu the words of Jesus literally shout at us: “Trust me; trust God. On a day yet to come my words, my miracles, will be your judge. The RAW TRUTH I lived and spoke will judge you. So don’t be deceived by the world’s authority and its deceptions. I have come to save you.” The POWER Jesus displayed proved His AUTHORITY. It’s the same authority He gave His disciple/followers to go out and heal the sick and cast out demons. It’s the same authority He is giving us to be His followers and do His works in our days. Child of God, make yours a powerful and happy day as you share Jesus with our world.

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