A Story About Forgiveness

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Then Jesus told this story to show his students how God looks at forgiveness (123).

“Once there was a king who decided to check on the status of his servants’ accounts. One servant owed him a million dollars, but he didn’t have enough to pay his debt.  So the king ordered that he be sold as a slave, with his wife & his children,  & that all his possessions also be sold, in order to pay the debt. The servant fell on his knees before the king & begged him, ‘Please be patient, and I will pay you everything!’

unforgiving-servant 1

“The king had compassion for him, so he forgave him the entire debt and let him go!

“Then that same man went out & met a fellow servant who owed him a hundred dollars. He grabbed him & started choking him & demanding, ‘Pay back what you owe me!’

unforgiving-servant 2

“The fellow servant fell down & begged him, ‘Please be patient, and I will pay you everything!’  But the first servant refused & had the second servant thrown into jail until the debt was paid!

“When other servants saw this, they were very upset and went to the king and told him everything. So the king called the first servant in & exclaimed, ‘You are a worthless servant!  I forgave you the million you owed me, just because you asked me to. You should have shown mercy to your fellow servant, just as I showed mercy to you.’  In his fury, the king sent the first servant to jail to be punished until his entire debt was paid.”

unforgiving-servant 3

Jesus concluded, “That is just how God will treat you, unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”

LORD, please help us to love forgiving others, as You have loved forgiving us.

(123) Matthew 18:23-35

Leading By Forgiving

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Jesus continued teaching his students about leadership, emphasizing the importance of forgiveness & reconciliation (122).

“If a member of God’s family sins against you, discuss the matter with him privately. If he listens to you, then you are on the road to reconciliation with that brother.

forgiveness private

“But, if he refuses to listen to you in your private conversation, then take one or two other brothers with you as neutral observers, and go to discuss the matter with him again.

“If that does not bring resolution, and if the observers agree that your brother is at fault, then get your church leaders to intervene.

“And, if your brother will not listen to the church leaders, then you should keep your distance from him.”

Jesus continued: “As you keep your eyes on heaven, what you forbid here on earth will be forbidden in heaven; what you allow here on earth will be allowed in heaven.

“When it’s impossible to resolve a dispute with another member of God’s family all by yourself, get other family members involved.  When two or three of you pray together about the matter, you’ll get a better grasp of God’s perspective.”

Men praying

Then Peter asked Jesus, “Master, if my brother keeps sinning against me, how many times must I forgive him? Seven times?”  To emphasize the essential importance of God’s command to forgive, even someone who repeatedly sins against you, Jesus answered, “No, not seven times, but seventy times seven!”

LORD, please help us to love forgiving others, as You have loved forgiving us.

(122) Matthew 18:15-22

Leading By Serving

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Jesus and his students left that place and went on through Galilee (121).  Along the way, Jesus continued instructing his students:  “I am going to be handed over to men who will kill me. Three days later, however, I will rise to life again.” But his students didn’t understand exactly what he meant, and they were a little afraid to ask him.

Nevertheless, as they walked on, Jesus’ students debated as to which of them would be the greatest, after Jesus was gone.  Jesus was aware of this, so when they broke their journey in Capernaum, he asked his students, “What were you debating as we walked?” They were ashamed to answer him.

Then Jesus sat down, gathered the twelve witnesses, and taught them: “If you want to be the greatest from God’s perspective, you must take the lowest place from the world’s perspective.  You must be a servant to everyone in the world!”


Jesus took a child in his arms and said to them, “You must even be a servant to little children.  Anyone who welcomes a child in my name welcomes me.  Anyone who welcomes me welcomes God.”


John said to him, “Teacher, we saw a man who was expelling evil spirits from people in your name; we told him to stop, because he’s not part of our group.” Jesus responded, “Don’t try to stop him.  It is not evil to do such a miracle in my name. Anyone who is not openly against us is effectively for us. And anyone who simply gives you a drink of water — because you are my friend — will be rewarded by God.

“It is true that God will often use fire to purify your lives here on earth, even as you use salt to purify your temple sacrifices.  But when the salt is bad, the sacrifice is impure.  Be salt for one another; make each other thirsty for more of God.  This is the way to avoid useless debates & live in peace with one another.”

LORD, please help us to love serving people in Jesus’ name.

(121) Matthew 17:22-18:14, Mark 9:30-50, Luke 9:43b-50

The Prayer Of Faith

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At the bottom of the mountain, a large crowd had gathered around the rest of Jesus’ chosen witnesses, and some teachers of the law were arguing with them (120).

The people were surprised when Jesus joined them, and everyone’s attention turned to him.  Jesus asked, “What’s this argument about?”

A man in the crowd said, “Teacher, my son has an evil spirit and cannot talk. The spirit sometimes throws him to the ground, causing him to foam at the mouth, clench his teeth & become stiff as a board! I asked your students to expel the spirit, but they couldn’t.”

“How unbelieving you people are!” Jesus exclaimed. “How long will you refuse to have faith?  Bring the boy to me.”

As soon as the evil spirit saw Jesus, it threw the boy into a fit; he fell on the ground & rolled around, foaming at the mouth!


“How long has he been like this?” Jesus asked the father. “Ever since he was a child,” the man replied. “Many times the evil spirit has tried to kill him — by throwing him into burning fires or into water. Have pity on us and help us, if you possibly can!”

Jesus said, “Anything is possible for the person who has faith.” The father at once cried out, “I do have faith, but I need more faith. Help me have more faith!”

Then Jesus commanded the evil spirit, “Come out of the boy and never go into him again!” The spirit screamed, threw the boy into another fit, but then came right out! The boy looked like a corpse, and many said, “He’s dead!” But Jesus took the boy by the hand and helped him stand up!


After Jesus had gone indoors, his students asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we expel this spirit?” Jesus answered, “Prayer is always necessary to expel evil spirits; sometimes fasting will help focus your prayer.  Prayer brings the power of God; evil spirits cannot be expelled by any other power.”

LORD, please help us to love having faith in You.

(120) Matthew 17:14-21, Mark 9:14-29, Luke 9:37-43a

The Focus Of Faith

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About a week later, Jesus took Peter, John, and James with him and went up a small mountain so they could pray alone (119).

As the three witnesses looked on, a change came over Jesus; his face was shining like the sun, and his clothes were dazzling white!

Then Peter, James & John saw Jesus talking with Moses & Elijah — both of whom had died hundreds of years earlier! They were discussing what Jesus would soon accomplish at Jerusalem.


Not fully understanding, Peter exclaimed, “Master, it’s great for us to be here! Shall we make three tents — one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah?”

But while he was talking, a shining cloud came over them all, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dear son, with whom I am very pleased.  Listen to him!”

When Jesus’ witnesses heard the voice, they were so terrified that they fell face down on the ground.  Jesus came to them and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid!” So they looked up & saw no one there but Jesus!


As they came down the mountain, Jesus told them, “Don’t tell anyone about what you saw, until after I’ve risen from death.” The three friends of Jesus obeyed him, although they didn’t really grasp what “rising from death” meant.

Then they asked Jesus, “Why do the teachers of the law say that Elijah has to come before the Messiah?” “Elijah is indeed coming first,” said Jesus, “to get everything ready. In fact, Elijah has already come and people didn’t recognize him; instead, they mistreated him, even to the point of killing him.  They will mistreat me in the same way.”

Again, Jesus’ witnesses didn’t fully understand him, but they did realize he was referring to John the Baptizer as Elijah.

LORD, please help us to love listening to Jesus.

(119) Matthew 17:1-13, Mark 9:2-13, Luke 9:28-36

The Cost Of Faith

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Then Jesus told his students (118), “If you want to follow me, you must forget yourself; you must even be willing for your physical life to be ended by execution on a cross.


“If you try to preserve your physical life, then you’ll ultimately lose your real life.  But if you’re always willing to sacrifice your physical life, for me and for the good news about God, then your real life will be preserved forever in heaven — even after your physical death!

Mother Teresa

“If you win the whole world but lose your real life, there is nothing you can do to get it back.

“If you reject me and my message in order to win favor with the world, then I’ll reject you, when I return to the earth in the glory of God & in the company of angels.

“To help you believe this, some of you will soon see the power & glory in which I will return to the earth.”

LORD, please help us to love & live Your real life.

(118) Matthew 16:24-28, Mark 8:34-9:1, Luke 9:23-27

The Birth Of Faith

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As they went on to the territory near the town of Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asked his chosen witnesses, “Who do people say I am?” “Some say John the Baptizer,” they answered. “Others say Elijah or Jeremiah or some other prophet.” (117)

“What about you?” Jesus asked them. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the son of God!”

Peter's Faith

“Peter,” said Jesus, “God has truly blessed you with this faith.  On this foundation I will build my church, my family of believers.  Not even Satan & the kingdom of hell will ever be able to overcome you!

“In this faith, you will speak with the authority of the kingdom of heaven here on earth.  What you faithfully forbid here will be forbidden there; what you faithfully permit here will be permitted there.”

Then Jesus told his students not to tell other people that he was the Messiah.  But, from then on, Jesus began to be more open with his students about his plan:

“I must go to Jerusalem, where I will suffer much at the hands of the Jewish religious leaders; they will even have me executed.  But three days later I will rise to life!”

Peter got stuck on the execution part of the plan & exclaimed, “May God forbid this, Master!  May God never let this happen to you!”

But Jesus rebuked Peter: “When you think that way, you’re actually working against me, just like Satan.  You’re looking at things from a human perspective instead of from God’s perspective.”


LORD, please help us to love growing in faith.

(117) Matthew 16:13-23, Mark 8:27-33, Luke 9:18-22