The Birth Of Faith

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

“God has truly blessed you with this faith, Peter” answered Jesus. “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.  You will forbid here what is forbidden there; you will permit here what is 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.”

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Father, please help me to love being Your child.

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

Life Begins With Repentance

As Jesus was teaching people about God (105), some teachers of the law and some of the Pharisees spoke up. “Teacher,” they said, “we want to see you do a miracle.”

Jesus exclaimed: “The only miracle you will be given is the miracle of the prophet Jonah! Just as Jonah spent three days & nights in the whale, I will spend three days & nights in the grave.

“On the day of judgment, the people of Nineveh will stand up and accuse you, because they repented & turned from their sins when they heard Jonah preach.

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“I have been given greater authority than Jonah, yet you will not repent!

“On the day of judgment, the Queen of Sheba will stand up and accuse you, because she traveled all the way from her country to listen to King Solomon’s wise teaching.

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“I offer greater wisdom than Solomon, yet you will not repent!”

Then Jesus warned against trying to get right with God by human effort.  “When an evil spirit goes out of a person, it travels about looking for a place to rest. When it can’t find one, it says, ‘I will return to the person I came from.’ So the evil spirit returns and finds the person seemingly clean & all fixed up. Then it brings seven worse spirits, and they all come & invade that person. And in the end, that person is in worse shape than he was at the beginning.

“This is what will happen to the evil people of this day – the people who trust themselves for deliverance from evil, instead of trusting God for deliverance from evil.”

While Jesus was still talking to the people, his mother and brothers arrived. They stood outside, asking to speak with him. One of the people there said to Jesus, “Look, your mother is standing outside with your brothers, and they want to speak with you.”

In response, Jesus again insisted that God’s family is defined by submission to the Holy Spirit, not by blood relations.  In other words, from God’s point of view, our faith family is more real than our flesh family.

Specifically, Jesus asked, “Who are my real family members?” Looking at the people sitting around him, he then answered his own question: “My real family members are right here. Those of you who do what God wants are the real members of my family & God’s family.”

Jesus, please help me to love my forever faith family.

(105) Matthew 12:38-50

The Mission: Serpents & Doves

Then Jesus called his twelve chosen witnesses together and gave them authority to expel evil spirits and to heal every disease & every sickness.  These twelve men would be sent out in pairs by Jesus, with the following instructions (97):

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Go to the lost sheep of the people of Israel. Tell them that God’s kingdom is open to them right now!  They can serve God as their king right now!

Restore health to the sick, even those with leprosy; restore life to the dead; and expel evil spirits.  You have been freely given God’s kingdom, so freely give God’s kingdom to others.

Don’t carry any money; don’t carry an extra shirt or shoes or a walking stick. Trust God to provide what you need for your work.

When you come to a town, find people who welcome you, and stay with them until you leave that town. Bring peace to every house in which you stay; if the people in that house welcome you, let your peace remain with them; but if they don’t welcome you, then keep your peace.

If any home or town will not welcome you or listen to you, then leave that place. On the day of judgment, God will show more mercy to the evil people of Sodom and Gomorrah, than to the people of that town.

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I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So you must be careful as serpents, but also carefree as doves.

God, please help me to love trusting You as I serve You.

(97) Matthew 10:1 & 10:5-16, Mark 6:7-11, Luke 9:1-5

The Respect Of A Roman

When Jesus had finished teaching the crowd, he continued his journey toward Capernaum (86).

A Roman officer who lived there had a servant who was very dear to him, but who was sick & about to die. When this Roman officer heard that Jesus was coming, he sent some local Jewish elders to ask him to heal his servant.

The Jewish elders came to Jesus and begged him, “You should really help this man. He loves our people and he personally paid to build a synagogue for us.” And Jesus agreed to help.

As they were approaching the Roman officer’s house, other friends came with this message for Jesus from the Roman officer:

“Sir, don’t take the trouble to come into my house. I’m not worthy for you to come to me, and I’m not worthy to come to you. Just give the order, and I know my servant will get well.

“I believe that you have the authority to do this, and I understand authority. I serve under superior officers, and I have soldiers who serve under me. I order one to go, and he goes. I order another to come, and he comes. I order another to do something, and he does it.”

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Jesus was impressed when he heard this; he turned around and said to the people following him, “I’ve never found faith like this, even in Israel! Many faithful people, from every nation, will be welcomed to sit with the first people of faith — Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob — & feast in the kingdom of heaven.

“But many of God’s chosen people — who should be faithful & who should be at that feast — will be excluded for their lack of faith. They will be sent out into the darkness, where they will cry & grind their teeth in perpetual pain.”

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Then Jesus sent word to the Roman officer, “What you have believed will be done for you.”

And the officer’s servant was healed at that very hour!

Trustworthy God, please help me to love trusting in You for all things.

(86) Matthew 8:5-13, Luke 7:1-10

Four Witnesses

Jesus continued trying to persuade the Jewish religious leaders in Jerusalem that he had come to do God’s will (81).

“I understand that you won’t believe me just because of my personal testimony. But there are other witnesses who have confirmed my testimony. I want you to consider these witnesses, not for my benefit but for yours, so you can believe & be saved.

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John the Baptizer has testified about me. John was like a bright lamp, burning and shining, and you were willing for a while to enjoy his light.

“But there is also another witness for me, even greater than the witness of John the Baptizer. Consider the miracles that God has given me to do. These deeds testify on my behalf and show that the Father has sent me.

“What’s more, God himself also testifies on my behalf, through the words of inspired scriptures. You have never heard God’s voice or seen his face. But you study God’s words — because you believe they have the key to new life that will continue in heaven forever, even after physical death.

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“Yet, although God’s words speak about me, you’re not willing to trust in me — in order to have that new life.

“I’m not looking for human praise. Besides, I know what kind of people you are, and I know that you haven’t really surrendered your hearts to God.

  • For example, I have come with God’s authority, but you haven’t received me.  Yet you receive other people, speaking on their own authority.
  • Here’s another example: You like to receive praise from one another, but you don’t try to receive praise from God.

“Just as you resist God in these fundamental ways, so you resist believing in me.

“But don’t think I’m the one who will accuse you before God.  Moses is the one who will accuse you, even though you say Moses is someone you actually do trust & believe. If you really believed Moses, you would believe me, because God inspired Moses to write about me.

“The bottom line is that  you choose not to believe all that Moses wrote, and you choose not to believe all that I say.”

Ever-speaking God please help me choose to believe everything You speak.

(81) John 5:31-47

Jesus & God Are One

The Jewish religious leaders began to challenge Jesus, because he had healed a man on the Sabbath (80). Jesus answered them, “God my father works every day, so I must work every day.”

The religious leaders understood that when Jesus claimed to be God’s son, he was claiming to have power equal to God!

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The religious leaders were determined to resist any connection between Jesus & God. They saw right away that, as God’s Son, Jesus would have more power than they did!

But Jesus insisted that his power & authority were really from God: “I can’t do anything on my own,” he said.  “I can only do what I see God my father doing. What God does, I must also do. God loves me & shows me everything that he is doing.

“Soon, God will give me even greater things to do than this healing miracle, and you will all be even more amazed. Just as God raises the dead and gives them life, so I will give life to whomever I choose!

“God has also given me the right to judge all people. God wants all people to honor me, just as they honor him.  Anyone — who doesn’t honor me — doesn’t honor God who sent me.  But anyone — who receives me as God’s son — has already received new life that will continue in heaven forever, even after physical death. That person will not be judged; that person will have already passed from death to life.

“From now on, when spiritually dead people hear my voice, they will begin to experience spiritual life. Just as God inspires all life, so I inspire all spiritual life.

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“God has given me the right to judge all people, because I am his son.  Don’t be surprised about all this. One day even physically dead people will hear my voice & rise from their graves to be judged:

  • People — who lived their natural lives in obedience to God — will have new life that will continue in heaven forever.
  • People — who lived their natural lives in disobedience to God — will be condemned to a horrible existence that will continue in hell forever.

“I can do nothing apart from God’s authority. I judge only as God tells me. So my judgment is right, because I judge only in accordance with God’s perfect will!”

Sovereign Lord, please help me to love living according to Your perfect will.

(80) John 5:16-30

Jesus Heals Paralysis In Galilee

A few days later Jesus went back to Capernaum; the news spread that he was at his home there.  People came from all over Galilee & Judea to hear Jesus teach; even some Pharisees & teachers of the law of Moses came to check out Jesus. In fact, crowds of people flocked to the house where Jesus was staying, until there was no room left, not even outside in front of the door (76).

Jesus was also healing the sick that day, by the power of God. Some men came carrying a paralyzed friend on a bed; they wanted to carry him into the house & put him in front of Jesus. But because of the crowd, they could find no way to get their friend inside. So they improvised: they carried him up on the roof, made an opening in the roof tiles, and let him down on his bed, right into the middle of the crowd in front of Jesus!

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When Jesus saw how much faith he & his friends had, he said to the paralyzed man, “Your sins are forgiven.”

The teachers of the law and the Pharisees immediately thought to themselves, “Who is this man who speaks such blasphemy! God is the only one who can forgive sins!”

But Jesus knew their thoughts and he said to them, “Why do you think such things? I will prove to you that I have God’s authority to forgive sins on earth.”

Then Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “Get up, pick up your bed, and go home.”

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At once the man stood up in front of them all! He picked up the bed he had been lying on, and he went home, praising God.

The people there were all completely amazed! Full of respect for the authority & power Jesus had displayed, they also praised God, saying, “What marvelous things we have seen today!”

Lord Jesus, please help me to love honoring Your authority over my life.

(76) Matthew 9:1-8, Mark 2:1-12, Luke 5:17-26