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.”

rebuked

Father, please help me to love being Your child.

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

Life Means Following The Spirit

Some people brought to Jesus a man who was blind & couldn’t talk because of an evil spirit (104). Jesus expelled the evil spirit, so that the man was suddenly able to see & talk!

healing

The crowds were all amazed at what Jesus had done. “Could he be the Messiah?” they asked.

When the Pharisees heard this, they began repeating their earlier slander: “Jesus expels evil spirits from people only because Satan lets him.”

In reply, Jesus repeated his earlier assertion that he was expelling evil spirits from people only because God let him.  “If a country divides itself into opposing forces which fight each other, then that country will fall apart. If a family divides itself into opposing forces which fight each other, that family will fall apart. It is the same with Satan; if his forces are divided & fight each other, his power will not last.

“It is God’s Spirit, who gives me the power to expel evil spirits, which proves that God’s kingdom is already here. In order for anyone to expel evil spirits which have been sent from Satan, it is first necessary to overcome Satan.”

Suddenly Jesus turned the tables on the Pharisees, saying: “Anyone who is not for me is really against me; anyone who doesn’t help me gather people into God’s kingdom is really keeping people out of God’s kingdom. People can be forgiven all the evil things they may do or say. But whoever consistently refuses to be led by the Holy Spirit cannot be forgiven & will be condemned by God!”

Jesus then explained to the crowds an essential way to tell if people are being led by the Holy Spirit.  “To have good fruit you must have a healthy tree; if you have a sick tree, you will have bad fruit. A tree is known by the kind of fruit it bears.

fruit-of-the-spirit-tree11-300x300

“With people it works the same way; our mouths speak what our hearts are full of.  A good person speaks good things out of the treasure of good things in his heart.  A bad person speaks bad things out of the treasure of bad things in his heart.

“On the day of judgment, everyone will have to give account for every useless word he has ever spoken!  Your own words will be used to judge you — either innocent or guilty.”

God, please help me to love following & being filled by Your Holy Spirit.

(104) Matthew 12:22-37

The Mission: His Eye Is On The Sparrow

Jesus continued preparing his students to go out as his witnesses (99):

If they say I am controlled by Satan, they will say worse things about you.  But don’t be afraid of people who say such things. Their evil deeds do not escape God’s notice; they will be judged by God.

013-disciples-mission

Your job is to continue spreading my message, everywhere you go.  Don’t be concerned about those who can only destroy your body; rather give your highest respect & honor to God, who has power to condemn both your body and your soul to hell.

Sparrows seem insignificant, yet not one sparrow falls to the ground without God’s consent. In the same way, God is aware of everything that you’re going through; he’s even aware of every hair on your head!  You are more important to God than many sparrows.

sparrow-363x238

If you declare publicly that you belong to me, I will do the same for you before God in heaven. But if you reject me publicly, I will reject you before God in heaven.

God, please help me to love showing my love for You.

(99) Matthew 10:25-33

Compassion In Action

When Jesus left that place, two blind men started following him (96). “Have mercy on us, son of David!” they shouted. When they were alone, Jesus asked the two blind men, “Do you believe that I can heal you?” “Yes,” they both answered.

healingtwoblindmen222

So Jesus touched their eyes, saying, “Let it happen, then, just as you believe.” And immediately their sight was restored!

Jesus said to them, “Don’t tell this to anyone else.” But they left & spread the news about Jesus all over that part of the country.

Then some people brought to Jesus a man who couldn’t talk because he had an evil spirit. But as soon as Jesus expelled the evil spirit, the man started talking!

Everyone was amazed. “We have never seen anything like this in Israel!” they exclaimed.  But some of the Pharisees still claimed: “It is Satan who gives him the power to drive out evil spirits.”

Jesus went around visiting many towns and villages. He taught in the synagogues, preached the good news about the kingdom of God, and healed people of every kind of disease and sickness.

As Jesus saw the crowds which flocked to him, his heart was filled with compassion for them, because they were worried and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

So Jesus planted this idea in the minds & hearts of his students: “A great harvest of people is ready, but there are few workers to gather it in. Pray that God will send out workers to gather in this harvest.”

God, please help me to love working to connect people with You.

(96) Matthew 9:27-38

Stories About Seeds & Weeds

Jesus then told another story to emphasize that God is working out his purposes, even when we do not fully understand how this is happening (90).

“A man scatters seed in his field. He sleeps at night, and he works during the day.  And all the time, his seeds are sprouting and growing, even though he doesn’t fully understand how this is happening.  The plants grow and bear grain naturally. First the tender stalk appears, then the budding head, and finally the full head of grain. When the grain is ripe, the man starts cutting it with his sickle, because harvest time has come.”

wheat

But Jesus also wanted to teach them that, even though we have an enemy who is always working to uproot our relationship with God, we must remain diligent in cultivating our relationship with God.  So he told them this story:

“A farmer sowed good seed for his wheat crop in his field. One night, when everyone was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. When the plants grew and the heads of grain began to form, the weeds grew up, too. The farmer’s servants came to him and asked: ‘Where did the weeds come from?’  The farmer replied, ‘It was an enemy who did this.’ ‘Do you want us to go and pull up the weeds?’ they asked. ‘No,’ he said, ‘because you might accidentally pull up some of the wheat when you’re pulling up the weeds.”

Weeds

“Let the wheat and the weeds grow together until harvest. Then I’ll have the harvest workers pull up the weeds first, tie them in bundles and burn them.  Afterwards, they will gather the wheat and put it in my barn.'”

Later, after the crowds had left, Jesus explained this story about the weeds to his students.

“The farmer who sowed the good seed is me.  The field is the world.  The growing stalks of wheat represent you people who serve God.  The enemy who sowed the weeds is Satan, and the weeds represent people who serve Satan instead of God.  The harvest will come at the end of time, and the harvest workers are my angels. 

“As the weeds in the story are gathered up and burned in the fire, the same sort of thing will happen at the end of time: I will send out my angels to gather up intentional sinners who will be thrown into the fiery furnace, where they will cry and grind their teeth in perpetual pain.

“Then God’s servants will shine like the sun in God’s kingdom.”  And, as he often did, Jesus concluded: Listen to what God is saying to you!

Sovereign God, please help me to love serving You.

(90) Matthew 13:24-43, Mark 4:26-29

Story About Seed & Dirt

One day Jesus taught the people beside Lake Galilee, using a story about different kinds of dirt to present his message (89).

vg-sower

“Once there was a farmer who went out to plant some grain seed.

  • As he spread the seeds over the field, some of them fell along the hard path, and the birds came and ate up those seeds right away.
  • Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where there was very little dirt.  The seeds sprouted, but because the dirt wasn’t deep, the sprouts were soon burned up by the sun.
  • Some of the seeds fell among thorn bushes, which eventually grew up and choked the plants, so they didn’t bear any grain.
  • But some of the seeds fell in good dirt, where the plants sprouted, grew, and bore fruit; some plants had thirty grains, others sixty grains, and others a hundred grains.”

Jesus concluded, “Listen to what God is saying to you!”

Later, when Jesus was alone, some of the people asked him to explain why he used stories to teach. “As you understand my stories you are receiving the keys to living in God’s kingdom here on earth,” Jesus said.  “But many people, who don’t care about God’s kingdom, will hear my stories & never understand them at all.  It is very important for you to understand these stories.

“The farmer is anyone who shares God’s message.

  • Some people are like the hard path; as soon as they hear the message, Satan comes and takes it away. It’s like it goes in one ear & out the other.
  • Some people are like the rocky ground. As soon as they hear the message, they receive it gladly. But when trouble or persecution comes because of the message, they forget the message immediately.
  • And some people are like the thorn bushes. They hear & receive the message, but the message is gradually choked out by their worries, by love of money & by other desires, so they never bear any grain but instead remain unfruitful.
  • But some people are like good dirt. They hear the message, receive it & live their lives by it, and so they bear fruit —  some a little grain, some even more grain, and some a lot of grain.”

Jesus wanted to emphasize that it’s important for his students to share God’s message, just as it’s important for the farmer to sow the seed.  So he said, “Does anyone ever put his lamp under a basket or under the bed? Doesn’t he put it on the lamp-stand? In the end, God will be the judge of how people share his light.”

light-under-a-basket

Jesus again added, “Listen to what God is saying to you! Pay attention to what you hear. The same rules you use to judge others will be used by God to judge you — but with even greater severity.”

Jesus concluded: “The person who pays attention to God will grow into a stronger relationship with God. But the person who does not pay attention to God will find his relationship with God withering away.”

God, please help to love paying attention to You, all day, every day.

(89) Matthew 13:1-23, Mark 4:1-25, Luke 4:4-17

Family Matters

Then Jesus started home to Capernaum (83). Very large crowds followed, so that Jesus and his students could not even take time to eat.

crowds

Jesus’ family members heard how his ministry was exploding.  People had begun spreading wild rumors about him; some people in the crowds were even saying, “Jesus has gone mad!” His family members were concerned & they wanted to get Jesus under control .

Certain teachers of the law, who had come from Jerusalem, tried discrediting Jesus by saying, “He has Satan in him! It is by Satan’s power that Jesus expels evil spirits from people!” Jesus gave them this reply:

“You know the evil spirits that torment people are sent from Satan. And now you say that I expel those evil spirits by Satan’s power? But how can Satan drive out Satan?

“If a country divides itself into opposing forces which fight each other, that country will fall apart. If a family divides itself into opposing forces which fight each other, that family will fall apart. It is the same with Satan; if his forces are divided & fight each other, they will fall apart and Satan’s power will not last.”

Then Jesus concluded with this telling comment: “In order for anyone to expel evil spirits which have been sent from Satan, it is first necessary to restrain Satan.”

SatanDefeated

Still, some of the people in the crowd kept saying, “Jesus has an evil spirit in him.” Jesus replied to them this way: “People can be forgiven all the evil things they may say or do. But whoever blasphemes — by repeatedly refusing to recognize & revere the Holy Spirit of God — cannot be forgiven & will be condemned by God.”

Then Jesus’ mother & other family members arrived. They sent a message through the crowd, asking for him. Someone in the crowd told Jesus, “Your mother & brothers are outside, and they want to see you.” Jesus answered with a question, “Who are my real family members?” He looked at the people sitting around him and said, “My real family members are right here. Those of you who follow the Holy Spirit & do what God wants are the real members of my family & God’s family.”

obedience

Father, please help me to love all the varied members of Your family.

(83) Mark 3:22-35, Luke 8:19-21