Day 31 – Matthew 10:2-4; Mark 3:13-19; Luke 6:12-16

Prayerful Decision Making.

Matthew 10:2-4; Mark 3:13-19; Luke 6:12-16

“One day soon afterward Jesus went up on a mountain to pray, and he prayed to God all night. At daybreak he called together all of his disciples and chose twelve of them to be apostles.” – Luke 6:12-13 NLT

The choosing of the twelve. If we’re not careful, we can easily view Jesus’ calling of the disciples and His choosing of the twelve as one and the same event. We can also mistakenly view this process as having been somewhat random and indeliberate. After all, in His calling of the various disciples named in this list, Jesus appears to have just stumbled upon them and invited them to follow Him. But there was a method to His madness. Luke and the other Gospel writers record that sometime earlier, Jesus had begun the process of calling certain men to follow Him. “One day as Jesus was preaching on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, great crowds pressed in on him to listen to the word of God. He noticed two empty boats at the water’s edge, for the fishermen had left them and were washing their nets. Stepping into one of the boats, Jesus asked Simon, its owner, to push it out into the water” (Luke 5:1-3 NLT). Simon did as he was told. And not long after that, he followed Jesus’ further instructions and was witness to a miraculous catch of fish. As a result, Simon and his business partners, James and John, “left everything and followed Jesus” (Luke 5:11 NLT). Jesus would also end up calling the other men found in this list. But they would be among a larger group classified as followers or disciples of Jesus. But today’s passage records a very special and separate occasion in which Jesus chooses from among all His followers a group of twelve men. He called all of His followers together and selected those men who would be His apostles. The Greek word used to convey this choosing process is ekléxo and it is very similar to the Greek word ekklesía which is translated “church” in the New Testament. It simply means “called out.” It refers to a called people. The men listed in this passage were called out by God for a very specific purpose. He appointed them to be apostles, or “sent ones.” These men were going to be sent by Jesus as His ambassadors and representatives to the world, witnessing of who He was. His choice of these twelve men was both conscious and calculated.

It is interesting that only Luke makes a point of including what took place prior to Jesus action of selecting the apostles. He refers to Jesus having spent the entire night prior to this event in prayer. And the word he uses describes an all-night prayer vigil. In other words, Jesus bathed preceded this process with intense and intimate communion with His Father before He did or said anything. While He was the Son of God, He did not take His position for granted, but modeled for us the very attitude we should have have when considering a decision. He consulted with His Father. He listened. He shared. He sought guidance. He took direction. And He sought confirmation. It was only after an entire night in prayer that He was willing to move forward with His choice. His list of names had been communicated and confirmed by God Himself. But Jesus probably prayed for more than just a list of names. Once He knew the men who would be chosen the next morning, He probably lifted each of them up individually, asking God to prepare them and protect them for what lie ahead. I have a feeling His prayer sounded much like what He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane right before His betrayal. “I have revealed youto the ones you gave me from this world. They were always yours. You gave them to me, and they have kept your word.Now they know that everything I have is a gift from you, for I have passed on to them the message you gave me. They accepted it and know that I came from you, and they believe you sent me.My prayer is not for the world, but for those you have given me, because they belong to you. All who are mine belong to you, and you have given them to me, so they bring me glory. Now I am departing from the world; they are staying in this world, but I am coming to you. Holy Father, you have given me your name;now protect them by the power of your name so that they will be united just as we are” (John 17:6-11 NLT).

This was a momentous decision. He was choosing, setting apart the very men who would take His message of salvation to the world once He was gone. And isn’t it fascinating that His list included the name of the very man who would betray Him? Because Judas’ role was essential in the whole process. His betrayal of Jesus is what would help set in motion the final assault on the Son of Man and lead to His trial, crucifixion and death. Judas was not just a bit player, but a integral part of the plan of God for providing redemption to the world. His choice was bathed in prayer as well. Jesus knew what Judas would eventually do, but He prayed for him just the same. More than likely, Jesus prayed, just as He did in the garden on the night of His betrayal, “Your will be done” (Matthew 26:42 NLT). Jesus prayed for the will of God. He sought for the will of God. He ultimately obeyed the will of God, because His choice of the twelve was the very will of God. A decision bathed in and based on prayer.

Father, what a powerful reminder of the many, many decisions I make that are prayerless in nature. I tend to decide far too quickly and without talking to You first. Forgive me and thank You for reminding me that decisions that will make a difference for eternity are those that begin at the throne of Heaven, kneeling before You in humility, obedience and eager anticipation. Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

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Day 30 – Matthew 12:15-21; Mark 3:7-12; Luke 6:17-19

Healing Power.

Matthew 12:15-21; Mark 3:7-12; Luke 6:17-19

“Everyone tried to touch him, because healing power went out from him, and he healed everyone.” – Luke 6:19 NLT

Having read the stories surrounding Jesus’ earthly ministry for so long, it can be easy to become callous about the countless miracles He performed. We read about Jesus casting out demons, restoring sight to the blind, causing the lame to walk, the mute to speak, and making the diseased completely whole as if they were everyday occurrences in our world. For many of us, the miracles of Jesus have become mundane. They have lost their power and significance. But imagine what it must have been like in those days. Consider what the atmosphere surrounding Jesus would have felt like as hundreds, if not thousands of people flocked to Him everywhere He went, all in the hopes of being healed by Jesus. Think about it. There were few doctors in those days. Medical care was scarce and disease was a regular part of everyday life. Injuries and ailments abounded and there was little people could do about it except suffer with it. The general misconception was that most disease and illness was a result of sin, so there was a social stigma attached to it as well. So if given a chance to be made well, who wouldn’t have jumped at it? And the rumor was that all you had to do was touch Jesus and you would be made whole. That’s why Luke adds, “Everyone tried to touch him, because healing power went out from him, and he healed everyone.” Jesus wasn’t just a celebrity, He was a source of hope and expectation for thousands of people who had long ago given up and resigned themselves to a life of pain, suffering and despair.

So the people came from all over – north, south, east and west. Luke says “there were people from all over Judea and from Jerusalem and from as far north as the seacoasts of Tyre and Sidon” (Luke 6:15 NLT). Many walked for miles just to get to where Jesus was. They may have journeyed for days to get to the village where Jesus was last known to have been seen, only to find out that He had moved on. But in spite of their infirmities and disabilities, they kept pursuing Jesus. Their need drove them. Their helplessness motivated them. Their hope that Jesus could do something for them energized them. And Mark tells us that there were so many of them that Jesus had to tell “his disciples to have a boat ready so the crowd would not crush him” (Mark 3:9 NLT).

Jesus had healing power. So much so, that just to touch the hem of His robe would activate that power in a person’s life. A little later on in the Gospels we have the story of the woman who had suffered for years from constant bleeding. She had spent all her money pursuing treatment from doctors, but was simply poorer as a result, not better. In fact, she had actually gotten worse. Mark tells us, “She had heard about Jesus, so she came up behind him through the crowd and touched his robe. For she thought to herself, ‘If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed.’ Immediately the bleeding stopped, and she could feel in her body that she had been healed of her terrible condition” (Mark 5:27-29 NLT). Jesus was immediately aware that something had happened. Even in all the pushing and shoving of the crowd, He noticed that “healing power had gone out from him” (Mark 5:30 NLT). And that power revolutionized a woman’s life forever. Jesus told her, “God in peace. Your suffering is over” (Mark 5:34 NLT).

The miracles of Jesus were designed to reveal who He was and to reinforce His claim to be the Son of God. The demons certainly had no problem recognizing that reality. Every time Jesus cast one of them out of an individual, they would scream, “You are the Son of God!” There was no doubt in their demented minds that Jesus was just who He claimed to be. His power was self-evident to them. They were no match for Jesus. And while the people who happened to receive healing from Jesus may not have fully understood who Jesus really was, they had no trouble recognizing the fact that He had healing power. They had experienced it first hand. Their lives had been changed by it. They were walking billboards of Jesus’ miraculous healing power. And we should be too. Each one of us who have been healed from the deadly disease of sin should be a living testimony to the healing power of Jesus. We have not only been healed, we have been given new life. We were dead, lifeless and hopeless, with no means to do anything about our situation. Like the woman in the story, we had exhausted all our resources trying to fix our situation ourselves, only to be worse off than when we started. But Jesus touched us. His healing power transformed us. We immediately went from being spiritually dead to alive. He removed our sinfulness from us and replaced it with His righteousness. He took away our disease and replaced it with wholeness. He did for us what we could never have done for ourselves. But we run the risk of treating our miraculous transformation just like we do the stories of Jesus’ healings in the Scriptures. It can become old hat and pedestrian, losing its significance. We can easily forget what Jesus has done for us. We can take our healing for granted and allow our miraculous salvation to become mundane. Which is why we need to remind ourselves daily of what has happened and what Jesus has done. We must see ourselves in the lives of the people in these stories. We shared their hopelessness and helplessness. We were just as despairing. We were outcast and rejects, deformed and disfigured by sin. But when all hope was lost, the healing power of Jesus touched and transformed us. And our suffering was over.

Father, never let me take for granted the amazing transformation that has taken place in my life through the healing power of Your Son. I don’t want it to become old hat and old news. May I constantly be amazed at just what has happened in my life because of Your love and Jesus sacrificial death in my place. I am healed and whole. I am alive and well. I am sinless and righteous before Your eyes because of what Jesus has done for me. Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Day 29 – Matthew 12:9-14; Mark 3:1-6; Luke 6:6-11

Hardened Hearts.

Matthew 12:9-14; Mark 3:1-6; Luke 6:6-11

“He looked around at them angrily and was deeply saddened by their hard hearts.” – Mark 3:5 NLT

Another Sabbath and yet another confrontation between Jesus and the Pharisees. Jesus was teaching in the synagogue in the village of Capernaum. In the crowd there is a man there with a deformed hand. But there is also a group of Pharisees who are closely watching Jesus’ every move to see if He attempts to “work” on the Sabbath by healing someone, thus breaking the law. In fact, Matthew records the question they posed to Jesus, in hopes that His answer would condemn Him. “Does the law permit a person to work by healing on the Sabbath?” (Matthew 12:10 NLT).

Jesus knows their hearts and so he brings up the man with the deformed hand and has him stand in front of the crowd, in full view of everyone. Then Jesus confronts His antagonists and asks them a simple question in return: “Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing evil? Is this a day to save life or to destroy it?” (Mark 3:3 NLT). His enemies are speechless, not knowing how to respond.  So Jesus continues, “If you had a sheep that fell into a well on the Sabbath, wouldn’t you work to pull it out? Of course you would. And how much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Yes, the law permits a person to do good on the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:11 NLT).

This exchange between Jesus and these religious leaders causes Him to be both angry and sad. He is angry at their insensitive hearts and their indifference to the needs of those around them. They are more concerned with their rules and regulations than they are for the people under their care. But who exactly were these men and what were their responsibilities. In essence, the Pharisees were a religious sect or order. Their name seems to mean “separated ones.” But what or whom were they separated from? The general consensus is that they separated from the ‘people of the land,’ the ‘am ha’ares. This was a designation of the illiterate and the unrefined people of the land, the peasants, whose illiteracy impeded any careful fidelity to the religious duties such as concerned tithes and cleanness” (Alan Ross, The Religious World of Jesus). They tended to view the common people as ignorant and cursed (John 7:49). They tended to equate their separateness with holiness. That’s why they were constantly shocked by Jesus’ decision to eat and associate with the common people, including all manner of sinners. These men also prided themselves in their refusal to be tainted by the influence of the Greeks and Romans. They considered themselves the few remaining “pure” Jews, who kept themselves untainted by outside influence. They were prideful, arrogant and brutally condemning of all those who disagreed with them.

Jesus is angered by their attitudes and saddened by their hard hearts. In all their religious fervor, they had become hardened to the real point of having faith in God. They didn’t share God’s heart. They were incapable of seeing the world from God’s perspective. In fact, they had attempted to fit God into their own mold, and force Him to operate according to their standards. To them, God was just another Pharisee or rule-keeper. And yet Jesus, as the Son of God, revealed to them the very heart and nature of God the Father. He was compassionate, caring, empathetic, loving, sensitive and responsive to the needs of men – all men. He had a special place in His heart for the condemned, disenfranchised, broken, helpless, hopeless, sinful and needy. It was God’s love for mankind that motivated Him to send His Son in the first place. It was not that God jettisoned His law and replaced it with love. No, God still had exacting standards and His requirement was still sinless perfection. But He knew that no man, Pharisee or other, could ever meet that standard. He gave His law to reveal to man his insufficiency and need. Then He sent His Son to do what no man had ever done before – keep the law of God perfectly and live His life sinlessly. He became the perfect, sinless sacrifice to pay for the sins of man. That is just how much God loves us.

But the Pharisees represent all self-righteous individuals who still believe that it is the keeping of rules that sets us apart from the rest, that our ability to perform earns us favor with God. But this attitude angers and saddens the Savior. It keeps us from recognizing our need for Him, and it prevents us from seeing ourselves as no better than any other man or woman who walks the face of the earth. We too, are sinners saved by grace. We are in need of the mercy of God every day of our lives. Of all people, we should share Christ’s passion for the lost and a heart for those still suffering from the effects of sin.

Father, give us a heart like Your Son had. Help us to see the world the way He did. Don’t let us live our lives or view ourselves as somehow better than everyone else. We have been transformed because of Your grace and mercy, not because we somehow deserved or earned it. Give us the ability to see others the way You do. Motivate us to extend grace in the same way it has been extended to us. Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Day 28 – Matthew 12:1-8; Mark 2:23-28; Luke 6:1-5

Lord of the Sabbath.

Matthew 12:1-8; Mark 2:23-28; Luke 6:1-5

“Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for people,not people for the Sabbath. For this reason the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.” – Mark 2:27-28 NLT

The Pharisees had turned the requirements of God into a set of ridiculously impractical religious rules. They had expanded God’s law, adding an overwhelming list of additional prohibitions that made keeping it burdensome. All the while, they missed the point of the Law altogether. The Law, like the Sabbath, was created to protect man from himself. The original law given by God regarding harvesting on the Sabbath, was to prevent farmers from allowing their greed to allow them to ignore God and, in essence, worship material gain instead. It also protected them from forcing their workers to labor on the Sabbath. The Sabbath itself was designed that man might have rest one day out of the week. The fourth commandment given by God reads: “Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy” (Exodus 20:8-11 NLT).

The Sabbath was to be a day of rest, It was a day to be set apart for the Lord. But the Pharisees had turned even the observance of that day into a list of rules to keep. Rather than restful, it had become laborious and cumbersome. For the average Jew, the day was filled with fear and trepidation because you never knew if some simple act you performed was violating some new rule added in by the religious leaders. So it is no surprise that the Pharisees confronted Jesus and His disciples, accusing them of harvesting on the Sabbath just for rubbing a few heads of grain together in order to satisfy their hunger. According to the Pharisees, they were working. But their keeping of their own laws was quite subjective in nature. On another occasion, Jesus had a similar conversation with the Pharisees after he had healed someone on the Sabbath. They were appalled. Jesus simply replies, “If you had a sheep that fell into a well on the Sabbath, wouldn’t you work to pull it out? Of course you would. And how much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Yes, the law permits a person to do good on the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:11-12 NLT). In other words, Jesus knows that these very same, self-righteous men would violate their own rules if it involved something of value to them. And that is Jesus’ point in this story. People are more valuable than the religious and ritualistic observance of the Sabbath. And because He is the Son of God, Jesus has authority over the Sabbath. He can do what He chooses to do, and because He is doing the will of His Father, it is NOT in violation of the Sabbath, but in keeping with God’s original intent. Jesus would later say, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29 NLT). Jesus came to bring mankind rest from the weariness of trying to keep the Law. He came to bring rest from the burden of trying live under the overwhelming requirements of religious rule-keeping.

When asked one time what the greatest commandment was, Jesus replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40 NLT). Loving God and loving others trump all other laws. Every other law given by God was based on these two. The Pharisees had missed this point. They loved their rules more than they loved people. They loved their rules more than they loved God! Keeping their rules had become an idol to them. That is how they could look past the miraculous healing of a man on the Sabbath, and only see the violation of their rules. And we can be guilty of the same thing today. We can have our own list of denominational rules or standards. We can have a stack of religious requirements that we put on ourselves and others that are not based on a love of people, but a love of rules. We burden others with our own rules, burdening them down with requirements rather than easing their load with love. We require people to clean up their act, THEN we’ll love and accept them. Jesus loved people as they were. We require people to learn our rules and live by them, then we’ll consider them part of our community. Jesus accepted people as they were. We are to love God and love others just as He did. If any rule, requirement, or religious standard keeps us from doing either, it is not of God. If our rules drive others away from God rather than to Him, they are of our own making, not His. Jesus came to ease burdens, not create them. The same thing should be true of us.

Father, it is easy to fall into the role of the Pharisee. Without even knowing it, I can find myself creating rules and standards that I hold others to, but that are not from You. Those rules can become burdensome and drive others away from You rather than to You. Help me to see this tendency and change it. Show me how to put loving You and others ahead of any rule I may hold sacred. Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Day 27 – John 5:1-47

The Son of God.

John 5:1-47

“You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me!” – John 5:39 NLT

In this passage, Jesus encounters a man who had been sick for 38 years. Every day, this man somehow made his way to the pool of Bethesda, near the wall of the Temple. The waters were thought to hold healing properties and, when they were stirred up, if you could be one of the first to get in the water, you would receive healing. This man’s problem was that, after 38 long years of suffering, he had no hope of ever getting in the water in time. Jesus asked him a question with a very obvious answer. “Would you like to get well?” (John 5:6 NLT). To which the man replied, “I can’t, sir, for I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone else always gets there ahead of me” (John 5:7 NLT). In response, Jesus tells the man, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!” (John 5:8 NLT).

And immediately the man is healed and does just as he is told. It was an amazing moment. This man’s life was changed forever. But John reminds of us one small detail in the story. It is the Sabbath. And when the Pharisees see this man “working” on the Sabbath by carrying his mat, they are appalled. And when they find out Jesus told him to do so, they begin to confront Jesus about breaking the Sabbath. But it would be Jesus response to them that would turn their anger into thoughts of murder. Jesus said, “My Father is always working, and so am I” (John 5:17 NLT). Here lies the greatest disconnect between Jesus and the religious leadership of His day. He claimed to be the Son of God, and in so doing, He claimed to be deity. According to their standards, that was blasphemy, a crime punishable by death.

And this is still the disconnect most people have with Jesus today. Most have no problem believing that Jesus lived or that He was a powerful and influential teacher. Many have little or no struggle with the idea of Him doing miracles. But where the problem comes up for most is with the concept of Jesus as the Son of God. This remains a stumbling block for most people today. Even for many church-going, Bible-believing, so-called Christians today. Like the Pharisees, they search the Scriptures, thinking that in them they will find eternal life (John 5:39). In other words, the secret to having a right relationship with God is through discovering His requirement as found in His Word. So they read the Scriptures trying to decipher the rules and requirements God has set out so that they can keep them and make God happy. But Jesus reminds us, “the Scriptures point to me! Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life” (John 5:39-40 NLT). Jesus’ miracles were simply to act as proof of who He claimed to be. They were evidence of His deity. The power He displayed came from God and so did He. In fact, Jesus makes it clear that God had given Him the power to provide eternal life to any and all who would believe that He was God’s Son. “I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life” (John 5:24 NLT). It was essential that they believe that Jesus was sent from God and was the Son of God. And not only has God given Jesus the life-giving power to provide eternal life to those who would believe He came from God, He has given Him the power to judge all men at the end of the age. With a word from Jesus, all the dead will rise and face judgment – some to face eternal life and some  eternal death. The Pharisees saw the miracles of Jesus. They heard the powerful teachings of Jesus. But they could not handle the claims of Jesus to be God. That was beyond their ability to comprehend or consent to. And as a result, they missed the point. They were so busy trying to work their way to eternal life that they missed the very one who could give them eternal life.

Jesus was and is the Son of God. He is the second person of the Trinity. He was God’s means by which the world might be saved and men might be reconciled to a right relationship with Him. But it is essential that men believe Jesus was who He claimed to be. The miracles and messages of Jesus mean nothing if they do not point us to His deity. The words of Scripture will mean nothing if we do not find within them the message that Jesus is the Son of God, sent to save the world from the judgment of God. Jesus was more than just a man. He was more than just a prophet. He was more than just a faith-healer. He was more than just a teacher. He was the Son of God. Yet Jesus can still say to so many, “For I have come to you in my Father’s name, and you have rejected me” (John 5:43 NLT).

Father, it was Jesus’ claim to deity that became the stumbling block for so many. They couldn’t comprehend it, so they simply rejected it. They couldn’t explain it, so they refused to believe it. But to those who believed through a simple act of faith, He gave eternal life, and I am so grateful to have been included in that number. Thank You. Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Day 26 – Matthew 9:14-17; Mark 2:18-22; Luke 5:33-39

New Wine.

Matthew 9:14-17; Mark 2:18-22; Luke 5:33-39

“New wine must be stored in new wineskins. But no one who drinks the old wine seems to want the new wine. ‘The old is just fine,’ they say.” – Luke 5:38-39 NLT

When it comes to reading, studying and understanding the Scriptures, context is everything. In other words, it is critical that we always look for what is going on in and around a particular passage. Lifting verses out of context is a recipe for disaster. It allows us to twist and manipulate the intended meaning to fit our own preconceived notions. So discovering the immediate context of a passage is essential to understanding what the author intended. And the greatest context we must always keep in mind when approaching the Word of God is that of God’s holiness and man’s sinfulness. From beginning to end, the Bible records for us this tension and how mankind has attempted to resolve it. The Bible makes it clear that God is holy and that man is completely sinful. And yet God commands man to be holy as He is holy. He even provides mankind with a set of divine rules and regulations that clearly articulate His expectations. But man is sinful and incapable of living righteously and holy as God demands. And the penalty for man’s unrighteousness? Death. That is the context of Scripture. God is a holy God and He has holy expectations of man. Man is unholy and he has a serious problem. So as we read through the Scriptures, we see men attempting to find ways to somehow solve their problem and satisfy the just demands of a holy God.

When Jesus appears on the scene, the context is no different. In fact, it had only worsened with time. And it was particularly bad among the Israelites, who He had chosen as His own people. He had hand picked them and then given them His Law to keep. Their keeping of His law would have set them apart from all the other nations. But they had failed. They were still trying when Jesus came along, but there track record was not exactly stellar. So when the disciples of John approach Jesus and ask why His disciples didn’t fast in the same way they and the Pharisees did, Jesus gives them an interesting and somewhat confusing answer – unless we remember the context. The fact that these men ask, “Why don’t your disciples fast like John’s disciples and the Pharisees do?” (Mark 2:18 NLT), reveals that this fasting was ritualistic in nature and tied to one of the many man-made laws that had been added to the Law of God. The fasting was tied to a form of righteousness based on human effort. Their fasting was performance-based and designed to bring them into good standing with God. So they can’t understand why Jesus’ disciples (and Jesus as well) are not doing the same thing. Didn’t they want to keep God happy and satisfied. Were they “too good” to do what even the Pharisees did to stay right with God?

But Jesus, knowing the greater context, tells them that they are missing the point. And He does so by using some very interesting metaphors. He compares the activities of His disciples to those of wedding guests celebrating with the groom at his wedding. That’s not a time for fasting, but for feasting and festivities. Jesus’ very arrival on to the scene in Israel had changed the rules of the game. The groom had come. This was not a time for fasting. It was a time of celebration. He then uses the imagery of a new patch being sewed on to a piece of old clothing. Once washed, the new patch would shrink and rip away from the old clothing, leaving it destroyed and useless. Jesus is trying to convey that He had come to bring a new way of solving man’s age-old problem of his sinfulness and God’s holiness. But this new way wasn’t going to be an add-on to the old way of doing things. It wasn’t going to be based on merit, earning, performance, or rule-keeping anymore. Fasting as a form of self-righteousness was not the way to a right relationship with God. Jesus came to bring something completely new. It wasn’t going to be about works or self-effort anymore, because that way didn’t work.

Jesus’ last metaphor seals the deal. He says, “no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the new wine would burst the wineskins, spilling the wine and ruining the skins” (Luke 5:37 NLT). Jesus came to do something new. He came to present a new way to righteousness and a restored relationship with God. And that new way was not going to play well with the old way. The Pharisees, like old wineskins, were rigid and set in their ways. They couldn’t handle the new way Jesus came to offer. His message of grace, mercy, and repentance didn’t set well with them. They were satisfied with the old way, the old wine. They didn’t want what Jesus came to offer. “‘The old is just fine,’ they say.” (Luke 5:39 NLT). So Jesus says, “New wine must be stored in new wineskins” (Luke 5:38 NLT). In other words, His new message was going to require new hearts, and new lives transformed by the power of God. This was not going to be more of the same old thing, but something new altogether. Jesus was doing away with the old works-righteousness methodology and replacing it with something completely new that was going to work. Paul described it this way, “Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy” (Ephesians 4:21-24 NLT). New wine in new wineskins. The work of God, not man.

Father, mankind has suffered from the same old problem for centuries. And our solution has always been the same. We just keep trying to do good and live our lives in such a way that we might somehow please You enough to satisfy You and make You happy with us. But that was the old way and it never worked and it never will. So You came up with a new way, make possible through Your Son. You didn’t change the context, You just came up with a new solution to the same old problem. Thank You! Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

 

Day 25 – Matthew 9:9-13; Mark 2:13-17; Luke 5:27-32

The Danger of Self-Righteousness.

Matthew 9:9-13; Mark 2:13-17; Luke 5:27-32

Jesus answered them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent.” – Luke 5:31 NLT

Jesus never was one to mince words. Especially when it came to His views about the religious leaders of His day. At times, He could be brutally blunt and painfully honest. Not out of meanness, but because He wished to expose the hypocrisy and dangerous precedence they were setting for the people. They represented everything that was wrong with religious and the pursuit of a relationship with God in His day. They were prideful, arrogant, self-centered, and amazingly self-righteous. In other words, they had convinced themselves that their own efforts were their ticket to a right relationship with God. They had earned favor with Him by keeping all the rules. But what they had failed to understand was that God’s standard of measurement was not based on human effort, but the condition of the heart. And theirs were wicked.

You see time after time in the Gospels where these men confronted Jesus about His actions. They condemned Him for His words and railed on Him for His propensity to associate with those whom they considered unworthy, unclean, and unrighteous. They had established themselves as the gold standard and nobody else could measure up. They despised the common people as spiritually and morally worthless. They saw people like Matthew, a tax collector, as no better than a common prostitute. They looked down their noses at those who they considered second-class citizens from a spiritual perspective. When they saw Jesus having dinner with Matthew and his fellow tax collectors, they “complained to his disciples, ‘Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?'” (Luke 5:30 NLT). In their minds, it made no sense for the “righteous” to associate with the “unrighteous.” Obviously, Jesus was not of their caliber, because He didn’t have the spiritual astuteness to know a sinner when He saw one.

But Jesus’ response to them is simple, yet profound. He calmly says, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor – sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinful and need to repent” (Luke 5:31 NLT). In those few words, Jesus paints a vivid picture of their problem. He also clarifies the biggest difference between His view of how to attain righteousness and theirs. Their problem was that they refused to acknowledge their own sin. They saw themselves as already righteous and in no need of a “doctor.” They had no need of a Savior, because they were saving themselves. Theirs was a self-manufactured form of righteousness. As you read the Gospels, you can’t help but notice that the common people, especially those who were social outcast because of their lifestyles, moral choices, or health issues, were the ones who seemed to flock to Jesus. Why? Because they knew their need and understood their helplessness of hopelessness. They knew they were sinners and didn’t know what to do about it. The morally corrupt could no more save themselves than the lame, blind, deaf and dumb could heal themselves. So they flocked to Jesus. And many of them believed in Him. But the Pharisees, mired in their self-righteousness, couldn’t bring themselves to admit their own need. They refused to acknowledge their sin and confess their need for a Savior. And that sense of religious pride and self-righteousness still exists today. Even among Christ-followers. We can easily measure our worth based on our own self-effort. We can convince ourselves that we are somehow pleasing to God because of all that we do for God. We work hard at fixing ourselves through self-effort and behavior modification, failing to realize that our problem is beyond our capacity to remedy. We have a heart condition that can only be healed by Jesus.

The real point of Jesus’ message in this passage is that He came to call those who KNOW they are sinners and who know they NEED to repent. They know they need to change, but they don’t know how. So they turn to Jesus. They abandon self-effort and any attempts at self-righteousness and place their hope in Him. And He does for them what they could never have done for themselves. He supplies them with a righteousness that is not of their own making, but His. He takes their sin and replaces it with His righteousness. But it all begins with an awareness of need, an acknowledgement that you’re sick and need healing.

Father, self-righteousness can creep up so easily in my life. I find myself trying to earn favor with You on a regular basis. I also find it easy to think that I am better than I am based on some self-established standard of conduct. Never let me lose sight of my own susceptibility to sin and my daily need for the Savior. Without Him, my spiritual immune system is an easy target for the sin that so easily infects this world. But thank You that Your Son came to heal the sick like me.  Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Day 24 – Matthew 9:1-8; Mark 2:1-12; Luke 5:17-26

We Have Seen Amazing Things!

Matthew 9:1-8; Mark 2:1-12; Luke 5:17-26

“And immediately, as everyone watched, the man jumped up, picked up his mat, and went home praising God. Everyone was gripped with great wonder and awe, and they praised God, exclaiming, ‘We have seen amazing things today!’” – Luke 5:25 NLT

The scene is the village of Capernaum, on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. This rural village had become Jesus’ unofficial hometown during the early days of His ministry. Jesus had recently arrived back in town, and His growing reputation had preceded Him. News of His arrival resulted in a crowd showing up at the house where He was staying. They filled the room to the rafters and more people stacked up outside the doors, hoping to catch a glimpse of Jesus. Luke tells us, “the Lord’s healing power was strongly on Jesus” (Luke 5:17 NLT). So there were plenty of people crowding into the house in an effort to get a moment with the one who they heard could do miraculous healings.

Outside, watching warily, were the Pharisees and teachers of religious law. A group of them seemed to have been assigned the task of keeping an eye on Jesus, following Him wherever He went. As the crowds gathered, anticipating that something miraculous was going to happen, the Pharisees were looking for evidence to use against Jesus. Two different expectations filled the atmosphere that day. The scene was electric as everyone waited to see what would happen. And they were not to be disappointed. The Gospel writers record an encounter that brought Jesus into contact with a paralyzed man who had been brought to Jesus by his friends. They went to a great deal of effort to arrange this meeting, even removing tiles from the roof of the home in which Jesus sat, and using ropes to lower their friend into the room. What happened next was going to have a significant impact on everyone present.

Upon seeing the man on the mat descend from the roof into the room, Jesus can’t help but notice the men on the roof, laboriously lowering their friend. Luke tells us that Jesus “saw” their faith. What everyone saw was a man being lowered by ropes from the roof of a house. Not something you see every day. But Jesus saw something more. He saw faith revealed in the efforts of these men. They believed Jesus could do something to help their friend and they were willing to step out and put that belief into action, going through a great deal of effort to so.

But what Jesus says next is the most important thing in this story. He simply replies, “Young man, your sins are forgiven” (Luke 5:20 NLT). In that day, sickness was usually associated with sin. Diseases and infirmities were typically blamed on the presence of sin in the individual sufferer’s life. Their sickness was viewed as a punishment from God for some act of unrighteousness or disobedience. So Jesus addresses the elephant in the room and forgives the man’s sin. This simple statement gets the attention of the Pharisees and they immediately begin to salivate, thinking they have Jesus right where they want Him. This was blasphemy. Jesus was clearly claiming to be God, because only God can forgive sin. Jesus knows what they’re thinking and addresses their concerns head on, and He uses an interesting form of logic by asking a question. “Is it easier to say to the paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!'” (Mark 2:9 NLT). Of course, it would be easy to tell someone their sins are forgiven. The results would be hard to prove. So Jesus does the harder thing to prove He has the authority both to heal and forgive sins. He commands the young man to get up, pick up his mat and walk home under his own power. And he does.

And as amazing as it was that this paralyzed man regained his ability to walk, the more significant issue is that he received forgiveness for his sins. Not through some priest, or by making some kind of sacrifice in the Temple. His sins were completely absolved by a word spoken from the lips of Jesus. And while being able to walk was great, being able to live with forgiveness was even better. Spiritual healing trumps physical healing every time. Restoration of our relationship with God is far better than restoration of sight or the ability to walk. Whether this man’s paralysis was related to his sins was not the point. Because every single one of us suffers as a result of our sins. We are all sick, spiritually lame, blind, and dying from the disease of our own sinfulness. What we need is forgiveness. We need release from the very thing that is causing our problem – our sin. And Jesus offers us permanent and complete forgiveness from sin and restoration to a right relationship with God – forever. That is indeed an amazing thing, like nothing mankind has ever seen before.

Father, i can’t thank you enough for healing me from the disease that was destroying me and condemning me to death. My sin had me paralyzed, helpless and hopeless, unable to save myself. But because of what Your Son has done, I have had all my sins forgiven – once and for all!  Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Day 23 – Matthew 8:1-4; Mark 1:40-45; Luke 5:12-16

The Lord Is Willing. Are You Ready?

Matthew 8:1-4; Mark 1:40-45; Luke 5:12-16

“Lord,” the man said, “if you are willing you can heal me and make me clean.” – Matthew 8:2 NLT

How would you react if someone covered in contagious sores and possibly having a disfigured face came to you begging for help? What would you do? How would you feel? In Jesus’ day, leprosy was a horrible disease with no known cure. Those who contracted it were shunned by society and forced to live in isolation with other lepers, far from their families and friends. They were considered unclean according to the Law and unable to be restored to a right standing unless their healing from leprosy could be verified by a priest. These people were forced to call out, “Unclean, unclean!” if they came within shouting range of any normal person. This was in order to warn the other person to stay away. They were despised, rejected, unclean, unwanted, and helplessly burdened with a disease that had no known cure.

And yet, in our passages today, we read about one of these unfortunate souls who had the rare opportunity to come into contact with Jesus, the Messiah. He was taking a huge risk making his way into the crowds that surrounded Jesus. He shouldn’t have been there. He was an outcast and had no place among these people and in the presence of Jesus. But he came and he cried out, “Lord, if you are willing you can heal me and make me clean!” He somehow knew that Jesus could heal him. The question was whether or not Jesus would. But back to the original question. How would you react in this situation? What would your response be? Revulsion? Fear? Anger? I’m sure the crowds backed away as quickly as possible when they saw who it was that was kneeling at Jesus’ feet. They were horrified, shocked and probably a little bit put out that this social outcast had dared to ruin what had been a perfectly good day. But Mark tells us that Jesus was “moved with compassion” and He reached out and touched the man! You can almost hear the audible gasp come from the lips of the shocked onlookers as Jesus reaches out and purposely touches him. To do so was to not only risk contracting this man’s dreadful disease, but to make yourself ceremonially unclean. How could Jesus do this? Why would Jesus do this? Couldn’t He have healed the man with just a word from His lips? Was contact necessary?

Jesus always had a way of turning the status quo on its ear. He was a radical at heart. He never seemed to do what was expected or what was considered the usual. There is so much wrapped up in the imagery of this story. It reveals so much about Jesus, the healer, and Jesus, the Savior. This is less a story about restoration from leprosy, than a picture of redemption from sin. In this man we have pictured the state of every human being who has ever lived. All men are diseased, infected with sin, highly contagious, and unclean in the eyes of God. Their state is helpless and hopeless. There is no known cure for their malady. Their future is bleak. Their outcome assured. Death is all that awaits them. And yet, like this man, if they come to Jesus in complete submission and faith, and ask Him to heal them, His response will be, “I am willing, be healed!” And just as the man’s leprosy immediately disappeared, the sinful state of every man and woman who turns to Jesus for healing with be immediately healed and they will receive new life. Their uncleanness will be turned into holiness. Their certain death will be replaced with assurance of eternal life. Their condemnation will turn into forgiveness. Their isolation into full acceptance. And their healing will be complete and fully verifiable. The change in their condition will be easily recognizable to all who see them. Jesus healed this man’s physical condition. But the real reason He came was to heal mankind’s spiritual condition. And He is as willing today as He has ever been. All we need say is, “Lord, if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.”

Jesus, I am so grateful that You were willing to heal me. I know that my state was far worse than the man in this story. My sin was going to have a devastating effect on my future. I was diseased and destined to die as a result. But my death would have been an eternal one, separated from You forever. And yet Jesus, You showed me compassion, and reached out and touched me “while I was yet a sinner” and healed me. Thank You!  Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Day 22 – Matthew 4:23-25; Mark 1:35-39; Luke 4:42-44

Prayer-Fueled Ministry.

Matthew 4:23-25; Mark 1:35-39; Luke 4:42-44

“Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray.” – Mark 1:35 NLT

News about Jesus was spreading fast. It had even reached as far north as Syria. Hundreds, if not thousands of people were making their way to the region of Galilee in search of this man who could heal diseases and cast out demons. Matthew tells us that “large crowds followed him wherever he went” (Matthew 4:25 NLT). His days were filled with teaching, preaching and healing. Again, Matthew tells us that Jesus was “teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom” (Matthew 4:23 NLT). But in spite of His growing popularity among the people and the seeming success of His ministry, Jesus started His day with a time of solitary prayer, talking with His Father in heaven.

We will see this pattern take place often as we read through the Gospels. This was not an isolated event, but an ongoing habit that Jesus had developed over time. It could very well have started early in His childhood, but we know that throughout the days of His earthly ministry, prayer was vital to all that He did. Jesus walked in unity and unison with His Father. He did what only what God the Father told Him to do. He said only what He was told to say by the Father. He obediently did His Father’s will because He always knew what it was His Father wanted Him to do. Because they talked regularly. They communed and communicated often. But mornings seemed to be His preferred time for getting alone with God. Before the hustle and bustle of His day began, and the pressures of ministry overwhelmed Him, Jesus sought out His Father.

It would be appalling to think how much of our ministry is done without prayer. Far too frequently, we jump into our day without having spent a single second with God. We simply assume we are doing His will, but we haven’t taken the time to ask Him. Jesus seemed to receive His marching orders from one source: His Father. Like any other minister, Jesus was getting pressures from all sides. His disciples wanted Him to teach and preach more, so the numbers of His followers would increase. The people wanted Jesus to heal their sicknesses and cast out their demons. Every synagogue in every small town through which He passed wanted Jesus, the rabbi, as their guest speaker. Jesus was getting famous. He was gaining a reputation. And He was under tremendous pressure to perform. But Jesus knew that His strength came from God. He knew that His “To Do List” for each day had to be given to Him by His Father. That is why when the disciples confronted Jesus right after His time of prayer, they said, “Everyone is looking for you!” and Jesus simply replied, “We must go on to other towns as well, and I will preach to them, too. That is why I came.” (Mark 1:38 NLT).

Jesus was all about doing the will of His Father. Which is why He spent time talking to His Father – early and regularly. Jesus was not controlled by the crowd. He was not swayed by seeming success. He would not allow Himself to be pressured by the opinions and advice of His disciples. No, His will was to do the will of the one who had sent Him. And He knew exactly what that will was because He spent time talking to the Source.

Father, it’s easy to get distracted by the miracles that Jesus performed and lose sight of the fact that His days always seemed to begin with prayer. He put a high priority on prayer. And it seems that it was far more about communion with You than getting things from You. Those times of solitude were times of refreshing and fellowship. They were the small moments of time when He could cast aside all the cares and pressures of the day and simply sit with You and enjoy the fellowship He had enjoyed in eternity past. What a reminder of how much I need to spend time with You. But it is so easy to forego fellowship and simply launch into action. Help me learn to come into Your presence and rest, listening, learning, and enjoying fellowship with You. Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org