Leading By Forgiving

 

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.

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“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: “Keep your eyes on heaven. You must learn to forbid here on earth only what is forbidden in heaven.  You must learn to allow here on earth only what is 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.”

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Then Peter asked Jesus, “Master, if my brother keeps on 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!”

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

(122) Matthew 18:15-22

Leading By Serving

 

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.”

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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.”

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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. 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.”

Holy Spirit, 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

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

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“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!

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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.”

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

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

The Cost Of Faith

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.

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“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.”

Jesus, please help me to love & live Your real life.

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

The Eyes Of Faith

Jesus & his students came to the village of Bethsaida, north of Galilee, where some people brought a blind man to Jesus and begged him to touch him (116).

Jesus wanted to leave an illustration for his students to understand that their eyes of faith were being opened gradually to see the greatness of God.

So he took the blind man by the hand and, accompanied by his students, led him away to a private place outside the village. After applying saliva to the man’s eyes, Jesus placed his hands on him and asked, “Do you see anything?” The man looked up and said, “Yes, I see people, but they look like trees walking around.”

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Jesus again placed his hands on the man’s eyes. Then the man saw everything clearly! Jesus told the man to go directly home, and not to go back into the village of Bethsaida.

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Then Jesus & his students continued on their way through the countryside, and Jesus continued teaching them more about God as they went.

God, please help me to love seeing more through Your eyes.

(116) Mark 8:22-26

Warning: Handle With Care!

More Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus; they wanted to trap him in some violation of Jewish or Roman law (115).  So they asked him to do a miracle for them, to give them a sign that God approved of him.

Jesus replied, “When the sun is setting you say, ‘We are going to have fine weather, because the sky is red.’  Then early in the morning you say, ‘It is going to rain, because the sky is red and dark.’ You can discern variations in the weather just by looking at the sky, but you don’t discern the signs of the times from God’s perspective.”

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Jesus really wanted the religious leaders to repent & begin living in the spirit of God’s laws, so he told them, “You are not fully submitted to God.  The miracle you really need is the sign of the prophet Jonah.” Then Jesus left them and went away.

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When Jesus’ students were crossing with him over to the other side of the lake, they forgot to take enough bread to eat on the way. As they were talking in the boat, Jesus said to them, “Be careful of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

Jesus knew his students thought he was referring to their lack of bread for the trip. So he asked them, “Why do you think this is about lacking enough bread? Your faith is still small.  Don’t you remember how we had so much left over, after feeding 10,000 with only five loaves & 8,000 with only seven loaves?

“Bread is not what you lack.  More truth about God is what you lack.  That’s why I told you to be careful of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

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Then Jesus’ students understood that he was warning them: Be careful of the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and Sadducees!

God, please help me to love facing up to my own hypocrisy.

(115) Matthew 16:1-12, Mark 8:11-21

More Food For The Flesh

Not long afterward another large crowd came & stayed with Jesus out in the countryside (114).

After three days, Jesus called his chosen witnesses to him and said, “I’m concerned about these people.  They have been with me for three days, and some of them have come a long way.  Now they have nothing left to eat. If I send them home without feeding them, they may faint along the way.”

His students asked him, “Where in this deserted place can anyone find enough food to feed all these people?” “How much bread do you have?” Jesus asked. “Seven loaves,” they answered.

He gave orders for the crowd to sit down on the ground. Then he took the seven loaves, gave thanks to God, broke them, and gave them to his students to distribute to the crowd.

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They also had a few small fish. Jesus gave thanks for these and told his students to distribute them, too.

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Everybody there — about four thousand men, plus the women & children — got enough to eat! When Jesus’ students collected the leftovers, there were seven baskets full!

Afterwards, Jesus sent the people away.  Then he got into a boat with his students and went to the area known as Magdala or Dalmanutha.

Jesus, please help me to love being spiritually nourished by You.

(114) Matthew 15:32-39, Mark 8:1-10