Together, we serve
to know Christ
and to make Christ known
for the glory of God

1 October 2020

Proverbs 14:4

Where there are no oxen, the manger is empty,
    but from the strength of an ox come abundant harvests.

When there are no oxen, the farmer does not have the trouble of feeding them or cleaning up after them. He can keep his barn nice and neat. His one problem is that he cannot plow his fields! If he desires abundant crops, then he needs his oxen and must be willing to invest in them. The moral, then, is that if we desire to reap wealth, we must be willing to put in the labor and make the sacrifices to produce a harvest.

Our church could save a lot of money if we did not spend so much on missions and ministry. Our facilities would be far easier to maintain if we gave them a rest during the week and not host a school or conduct weekly meetings and ministry. All we would lose would be abundant crops of souls saved and discipled.

Risk and sacrifice are necessary for achieving worthwhile goals. The risk may be money or emotional vulnerability or pride; the sacrifice may require years of preparation or hard labor. What makes the risk and sacrifice acceptable to undergo is the greatness of the goal.

What is your goal today? To make a deal? To pass a test? Here was the apostle Paul’s goal that gave him the motivation to suffer and to achieve beyond ordinary ability: “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).

 

Hebrews 7

This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him, and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. First, the name Melchizedek means “king of righteousness”; then also, “king of Salem” means “king of peace.” Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest forever.

Just think how great he was: Even the patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder! Now the law requires the descendants of Levi who become priests to collect a tenth from the people—that is, from their fellow Israelites—even though they also are descended from Abraham. This man, however, did not trace his descent from Levi, yet he collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. And without doubt the lesser is blessed by the greater. In the one case, the tenth is collected by people who die; but in the other case, by him who is declared to be living. One might even say that Levi, who collects the tenth, paid the tenth through Abraham, 10 because when Melchizedek met Abraham, Levi was still in the body of his ancestor.

 

Jesus Like Melchizedek

11 If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood—and indeed the law given to the people established that priesthood—why was there still need for another priest to come, one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron? 12 For when the priesthood is changed, the law must be changed also. 13 He of whom these things are said belonged to a different tribe, and no one from that tribe has ever served at the altar. 14 For it is clear that our Lord descended from Judah, and in regard to that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. 15 And what we have said is even more clear if another priest like Melchizedek appears, 16 one who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life. 17 For it is declared:

“You are a priest forever,
    in the order of Melchizedek.”[a]

18 The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless 19 (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.

20 And it was not without an oath! Others became priests without any oath, 21 but he became a priest with an oath when God said to him:

“The Lord has sworn
    and will not change his mind:
    ‘You are a priest forever.’”[b]

22 Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantor of a better covenant.

23 Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; 24 but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. 25 Therefore he is able to save completely[c] those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.

26 Such a high priest truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. 27 Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. 28 For the law appoints as high priests men in all their weakness; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever.

30 September 2020

Proverbs 14:3

A fool’s mouth lashes out with pride,
    but the lips of the wise protect them.

When David was still on the run from Saul, he asked for food from a rich rancher named Nabal to feed his men. Nabal, as a fool, rebuffs the messengers sent to him. As a miserly, harsh man, Nabal does not consider the ancient custom of showing hospitality to those requesting his help, particularly, as in this case, to those who have treated his servants well and fairly. As a fool, he doesn’t consider his own vulnerable position. David has a small army and can take what he wants. He does not consider how much he will be offending a man renowned as a warrior. Fortunately, Nabal has a wife who is discerning, and by her wise action and words, she preserves the life of her husband and all the men.

Are you foolish or wise with your lips? Here are some warning signals. Do these remarks characterize you?

“I pride myself in speaking my mind.”
“People always know where they stand with me.”
“I’m not afraid to shoot from the hip.”
“I call it like I see it.”

If you make such remarks; if you don’t see what these remarks really convey, then you may be in the fool’s camp. Because what is missing in the remarks is a wise understanding of your own limitations and sin. Our minds are clouded with sin. However clear a perspective we may think we have, it is quite likely we do not see clearly. We have limited mental abilities, and even the wisest mind is nevertheless clouded with sin.

To speak wisely requires humility. It requires the right goal – to glorify God. If you simply ask yourself this question before you speak, wisdom will come to you to know the right words: Will what I am about to say glorify God? For glorifying God is ultimate wisdom.

 

Hebrews 6

Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death,[a] and of faith in God, instruction about cleansing rites,[b] the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And God permitting, we will do so.

It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen[c] away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.

Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are convinced of better things in your case—the things that have to do with salvation. 10 God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. 11 We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. 12 We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.

 

The Certainty of God’s Promise

13 When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, 14 saying, “I will surely bless you and give you many descendants.”[d] 15 And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised.

16 People swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument. 17 Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. 18 God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. 19 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, 20 where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.

29 September 2020

Proverbs 14:2

Whoever fears the Lord walks uprightly,
    but those who despise him are devious in their ways.

CS. Lewis writes of this fear phenomenon in his Narnia Chronicles in the reaction of characters when they first meet Aslan. The good are drawn to him. As the horse Hwin said to him, “Please, you’re so beautiful. You may eat me if you like. I’d sooner be eaten by you than fed by anyone else.” That is the fear of the Lord. The wicked despise him. And so the witch of The Magician’s Nephew throws a bar at him and runs away in a fearful hatred.

And then, there are the sinners who do not dread him, yet are uncomfortable, for the sight of him (and hearing his voice) removes the veil by which they considered themselves. Before Aslan, excuses fall away and sin is exposed. And yet, unlike the wicked who run away in hatred, the sinners find that what follows the painful exposure of sin is the peace of forgiveness and the blessedness of welcome into Aslan’s fellowship.

So is the experience of those made righteous in Christ. To fear the Lord is to know one’s sin and the Lord’s holiness. It is to be made humble. And in that humility one finds grace. Pity the devious who only devises his own misery. Give thanks to the Lord for the grace of teaching you the fear of him.

 

Hebrews 5

Every high priest is selected from among the people and is appointed to represent the people in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness. This is why he has to offer sacrifices for his own sins, as well as for the sins of the people. And no one takes this honor on himself, but he receives it when called by God, just as Aaron was.

In the same way, Christ did not take on himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him,

“You are my Son;
    today I have become your Father.”[a]

And he says in another place,

“You are a priest forever,
    in the order of Melchizedek.”[b]

During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him 10 and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.

 

Warning Against Falling Away

11 We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

28 September 2020

Proverbs 14:1

The wise woman builds her house,
    but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.

Though the proverb may be contrasting two persons, one who is wise and another who is foolish, it can be describing a person who starts off wise and later turns foolish. Solomon himself is an example. By wisdom, he built Israel to its greatest height; and, yet, in foolishness he prepared its downfall. By wisdom, he honored God with the Temple and his own devotion; by foolishness he brought in idol worship through his many wives. By wisdom, he built cities and made Israel strong; by foolishness, he over taxed and over worked his people, leading to revolt after his death.

Many a woman and a man has achieved great deeds and built up wealth because of wise strategy and decision making. Yet, their very success led them astray to trusting too much in their ability and to wanting too much. If a person is not satisfied with God, nothing else will satisfy and eventually she will overstep her limited wisdom. Then the house she built will fall down.

Wisdom is the fear of God applied. Remove the fear of God, then wisdom becomes mere cleverness. And there is nothing like cleverness to pump ones pride, which then makes one blind. Then comes the downfall.

 

Hebrews 4

4 Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. For we also have had the good news proclaimed to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because they did not share the faith of those who obeyed.[a] Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said,

“So I declared on oath in my anger,
    ‘They shall never enter my rest.’”[b]

And yet his works have been finished since the creation of the world. For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: “On the seventh day God rested from all his works.”[c] And again in the passage above he says, “They shall never enter my rest.”

Therefore since it still remains for some to enter that rest, and since those who formerly had the good news proclaimed to them did not go in because of their disobedience, God again set a certain day, calling it “Today.” This he did when a long time later he spoke through David, as in the passage already quoted:

“Today, if you hear his voice,
    do not harden your hearts.”[d]

For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; 10 for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works,[e] just as God did from his. 11 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.

12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

 

Jesus the Great High Priest

14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven,[f] Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

26 September 2020

James 1:19-2:13

19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

 

Favoritism Forbidden

2 My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?

If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,”[a] you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 11 For he who said, “You shall not commit adultery,”[b] also said, “You shall not murder.”[c] If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.

12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

Prayer: Lord, let Your continual pity cleanse and defend Your church, and because it cannot continue in safety without Your aid, keep it evermore by Your help and goodness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

25 September 2020

Proverbs 13:25

The righteous eat to their hearts’ content,
    but the stomach of the wicked goes hungry.

The righteous has enough because: 1) his lifestyle curbs immoral and unethical impulses that lead to trouble and loss; 2) he curbs his appetite so that it does not control him; 3) God blesses the righteous; 4) his appetite is for God and God satisfies such an appetite.

Like the person who craves only non-nourishing food, the wicked’s belly always aches. He craves what does not satisfy. Furthermore, his appetite controls him; an uncontrolled appetite cannot be satisfied. The wicked’s lifestyle causes him to waste his money, leads him into activities that harm his body and ruin relationships. His wickedness separates him from God, bringing wrath instead of blessing.

What do you want today? What will satisfy you today? Are you looking in the right direction? Is your craving for the blessing of God?

 

Hebrews 3

3 Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest. He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God’s house. Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. “Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house,”[a] bearing witness to what would be spoken by God in the future. But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.

 

Warning Against Unbelief

So, as the Holy Spirit says:

“Today, if you hear his voice,
    do not harden your hearts
as you did in the rebellion,
    during the time of testing in the wilderness,
where your ancestors tested and tried me,
    though for forty years they saw what I did.
10 That is why I was angry with that generation;
    I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray,
    and they have not known my ways.’
11 So I declared on oath in my anger,
    ‘They shall never enter my rest.’ ”[b]

12 See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. 14 We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end. 15 As has just been said:

“Today, if you hear his voice,
    do not harden your hearts
    as you did in the rebellion.”[c]

16 Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? 17 And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies perished in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? 19 So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.

24 September 2020

Proverbs 13:24

Whoever spares the rod hates their children,
    but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.

Understand the message here. It is that parents – because they love their children – will exercise appropriate discipline to correct them. They teach their children that sinful behavior brings punishment.

The message is not that parents must always use physical punishment for discipline.
Wise parents will choose the appropriate means depending upon the offending behavior and depending upon the nature of the child, as well as upon the nature of the parent. A parent who struggles with anger must be all the more careful not to let anger control how he disciplines. Discipline is necessary, but it must be coupled with wisdom and love to carry out God’s intentions.

Which leads to the next application: because God is wise and loves us, he disciplines us. He does not watch idly as we go astray, but will see that our sins bring correcting consequences. Many of the troubles we complain about are the results of our own sins. This does not mean that because I sin, God then causes a loved one to be ill. It means that God allows the natural consequences of sinful behavior to take place. As proverbs points out, if I choose to hang out with wicked friends, I will get into trouble. If I choose to lie and slander, it will turn on me.

By grace, God protects me from many consequences, the most important of which is my damnation. But by his grace, he lets many consequences fall on me so that I may turn from sin and to him through Christ.

 

Hebrews 2

2 We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For since the message spoken through angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

 

Jesus Made Fully Human

It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking. But there is a place where someone has testified:

“What is mankind that you are mindful of them,
    a son of man that you care for him?
You made them a little[a] lower than the angels;
    you crowned them with glory and honor
    and put everything under their feet.”[b][c]

In putting everything under them,[d] God left nothing that is not subject to them.[e] Yet at present we do not see everything subject to them.[f] But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

10 In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered. 11 Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.[g] 12 He says,

“I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters;
    in the assembly I will sing your praises.”[h]

13 And again,

“I will put my trust in him.”[i]

And again he says,

“Here am I, and the children God has given me.”[j]

14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. 16 For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. 17 For this reason he had to be made like them,[k] fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. 18 Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

23 September 2020

Proverbs 13:23

An unplowed field produces food for the poor,
    but injustice sweeps it away.

Here is a sobering observation, not to make us cynical but to make us compassionate and zealous for justice. It is a reminder that righteousness is not merely to be about personal holiness, but about how we care for others, particularly those who are poor and defenseless.

Somehow, evangelical Christianity has become known as the religion about morality and of little interest in justice. How did that happen, considering that the rise of evangelicalism corresponded with the societies formed in the 1800s to combat slavery, child and women oppression, and poverty? Jesus said that we would always have the poor with us, one reason being that we always have injustice with us. Do not be quick to explain poverty away on laziness. Scripture, God’s Word, observes that the poor may be kept in poverty through injustice.

As you examine your life, what do you do to support the cause of justice and to help the poor?

 

Hebrews 1

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.

 

The Son Superior to Angels

For to which of the angels did God ever say,

“You are my Son;
    today I have become your Father”[a]?

Or again,

“I will be his Father,
    and he will be my Son”[b]?

And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says,

“Let all God’s angels worship him.”[c]

In speaking of the angels he says,

“He makes his angels spirits,
    and his servants flames of fire.”[d]

But about the Son he says,

“Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever;
    a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.
You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
    therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions
    by anointing you with the oil of joy.”[e]

10 He also says,

“In the beginning, Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth,
    and the heavens are the work of your hands.
11 They will perish, but you remain;
    they will all wear out like a garment.
12 You will roll them up like a robe;
    like a garment they will be changed.
But you remain the same,
    and your years will never end.”[f]

13 To which of the angels did God ever say,

“Sit at my right hand
    until I make your enemies
    a footstool for your feet”[g]?

14 Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?

22 September 2020

Proverbs 13:22

A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children,
    but a sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous.

Much could be said about what the inheritance of a good man entails. Foremost is leaving a legacy of faith in Christ and of walking in righteousness. But we should not be quick to lay aside the subject of money. Indeed, Christians are quick to do so, somehow disconnecting a righteous life from how money is handled. There are many Christians devoted to ministry and yet leave their families in a destitute state. Christian financial consultant Ron Blue tells of a minister who only served small churches until his retirement; and yet he had a million dollars in assets. How? By spending less than he took in and saving the remainder bit by bit.

This proverb is not teaching that you must leave lots of money for your grandchildren when you die. It is, however, teaching that goodness includes handling money wisely. The sinner’s wealth ends up in the hands of the righteous, not because they take it from him, but because he is foolish with his money. His pride and greed lead him to make foolish choices.

How are your finances? Are they in order? If you are struggling in debt, is the reason because you do not earn enough or because you are not wise with what you have?

 

Matthew 27-28

27 Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people made their plans how to have Jesus executed. So they bound him, led him away and handed him over to Pilate the governor.

When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.”

“What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.”

So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.

The chief priests picked up the coins and said, “It is against the law to put this into the treasury, since it is blood money.” So they decided to use the money to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners. That is why it has been called the Field of Blood to this day. Then what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: “They took the thirty pieces of silver, the price set on him by the people of Israel, 10 and they used them to buy the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.”[a]

 

Jesus Before Pilate

11 Meanwhile Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

“You have said so,” Jesus replied.

12 When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. 13 Then Pilate asked him, “Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?” 14 But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor.

15 Now it was the governor’s custom at the festival to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. 16 At that time they had a well-known prisoner whose name was Jesus[b] Barabbas. 17 So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” 18 For he knew it was out of self-interest that they had handed Jesus over to him.

19 While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.”

20 But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed.

21 “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor.

“Barabbas,” they answered.

22 “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked.

They all answered, “Crucify him!”

23 “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.

But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”

24 When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!”

25 All the people answered, “His blood is on us and on our children!”

26 Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.

 

The Soldiers Mock Jesus

27 Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. 28 They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. 30 They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. 31 After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

 

The Crucifixion of Jesus

32 As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross. 33 They came to a place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”). 34 There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it. 35 When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots. 36 And sitting down, they kept watch over him there. 37 Above his head they placed the written charge against him: this is jesus, the king of the jews.

38 Two rebels were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. 39 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads 40 and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” 41 In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. 42 “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 44 In the same way the rebels who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.

 

The Death of Jesus

45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. 46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli,[c] lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).[d]

47 When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.”

48 Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. 49 The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”

50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and[e] went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

54 When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

55 Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. 56 Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph,[f] and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.

 

The Burial of Jesus

57 As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. 58 Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. 59 Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60 and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. 61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb.

 

The Guard at the Tomb

62 The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. 63 “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ 64 So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.”

65 “Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” 66 So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.

 

Jesus Has Risen

28 After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.

There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”

So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

 

The Guards’ Report

11 While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. 12 When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, 13 telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14 If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.

 

The Great Commission

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

21 September 2020

Proverbs 13:21

Trouble pursues the sinner,
    but the righteous are rewarded with good things.

Sinners do not merely flirt with danger; they place targets on their back to make sure danger does not miss the mark. Furthermore, they do not see that disaster is already upon them. They are unaware of the seeds of destruction they have sown: a marriage destroyed before they know it; a job loss before the notice has come; friends who have unknowingly become enemies. They are strolling in the park, unaware that an army of destruction is bearing down on them.

The righteous court reward; their very behavior invites positive responses from the people around them. Their behavior naturally keeps them away from sinful activities that lead into disaster.

But the worldview of the proverb makes a strong statement about disaster and reward in the light of God serving as judge. The righteous Judge will punish the wicked and reward the righteous. This would be frightening news to us if we did not know the gospel, which reveals Christ’s atoning work whereby he exchanged his righteousness with us and received our sin, thus bearing our punishment and giving us his reward.

Let us not be filled with anger towards our neighbors who offend us and engage in sin. They are getting away with nothing. All the more pray for Gods mercy to awaken them to their sin and know Christ.

 

Matthew 26

26 When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples, ‘As you know, the Passover is two days away – and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.’

Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and they schemed to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him. ‘But not during the festival,’ they said, ‘or there may be a riot among the people.’

 

Jesus anointed at Bethany

While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.

When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. ‘Why this waste?’ they asked. ‘This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.’

10 Aware of this, Jesus said to them, ‘Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 11 The poor you will always have with you,[a] but you will not always have me. 12 When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. 13 Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.’

 

Judas agrees to betray Jesus

14 Then one of the Twelve – the one called Judas Iscariot – went to the chief priests 15 and asked, ‘What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?’ So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver. 16 From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.

 

The Last Supper

17 On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?’

18 He replied, ‘Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, “The Teacher says: my appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.”’ 19 So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover.

20 When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. 21 And while they were eating, he said, ‘Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.’

22 They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, ‘Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?’

23 Jesus replied, ‘The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.’

25 Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, ‘Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?’

Jesus answered, ‘You have said so.’

26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’

27 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the[b] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.’

30 When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

 

Jesus predicts Peter’s denial

31 Then Jesus told them, ‘This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written:

‘“I will strike the shepherd,
    and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.”[c]

32 But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.’

33 Peter replied, ‘Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.’

34 ‘Truly I tell you,’ Jesus answered, ‘this very night, before the cock crows, you will disown me three times.’

35 But Peter declared, ‘Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.’ And all the other disciples said the same.

 

Gethsemane

36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’ 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.’

39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.’

40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. ‘Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?’ he asked Peter. 41 ‘Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.’

42 He went away a second time and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.’

43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.

45 Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, ‘Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!’

 

Jesus arrested

47 While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. 48 Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: ‘The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.’ 49 Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, ‘Greetings, Rabbi!’ and kissed him.

50 Jesus replied, ‘Do what you came for, friend.’[d]

Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. 51 With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.

52 ‘Put your sword back in its place,’ Jesus said to him, ‘for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. 53 Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?’

55 In that hour Jesus said to the crowd, ‘Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me. 56 But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.’ Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.

 

Jesus before the Sanhedrin

57 Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders had assembled. 58 But Peter followed him at a distance, right up to the courtyard of the high priest. He entered and sat down with the guards to see the outcome.

59 The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death. 60 But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward.

Finally two came forward 61 and declared, ‘This fellow said, “I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.”’

62 Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, ‘Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?’ 63 But Jesus remained silent.

The high priest said to him, ‘I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.’

64 ‘You have said so,’ Jesus replied. ‘But I say to all of you: from now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.’[e]

65 Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, ‘He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. 66 What do you think?’

‘He is worthy of death,’ they answered.

67 Then they spat in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him 68 and said, ‘Prophesy to us, Messiah. Who hit you?’

 

Peter disowns Jesus

69 Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant-girl came to him. ‘You also were with Jesus of Galilee,’ she said.

70 But he denied it before them all. ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about,’ he said.

71 Then he went out to the gateway, where another servant-girl saw him and said to the people there, ‘This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.’

72 He denied it again, with an oath: ‘I don’t know the man!’

73 After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, ‘Surely you are one of them; your accent gives you away.’

74 Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, ‘I don’t know the man!’

Immediately a cock crowed. 75 Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: ‘Before the cock crows, you will disown me three times.’ And he went outside and wept bitterly.

19 September 2020

Hebrews 13:20-25

Benediction and final greetings

20 Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, 21 equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

22 Brothers and sisters, I urge you to bear with my word of exhortation, for in fact I have written to you quite briefly.

23 I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been released. If he arrives soon, I will come with him to see you.

24 Greet all your leaders and all the Lord’s people. Those from Italy send you their greetings.

25 Grace be with you all.

Prayer: Keep Your Church, Lord God, with Your continual mercy, and because the frailty of man without You cannot but fall, keep us always under Your protection, and lead us to everything that makes for our salvation; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

18 September 2020

Proverbs 13:20

Walk with the wise and become wise,
    for a companion of fools suffers harm.

There are individuals who were foolish in their behavior and beliefs, yet fell into friendships with mature, godly believers and came to a strong faith that turned them around. There are also individuals who professed Christ and seemed mature, yet came into the circle of unbelievers and/or foolish people and then fell away from the faith and/or engaged in foolish behavior.

Who are the wise with whom you associate? Is there a wise person whom you look to for counsel? Are there wise persons whom you emulate? Think about that right now. Can you name companions who are godly, wise persons whose counsel and behavior are to be trusted? What of foolish companions? Do you have companions who get into trouble; who act immaturely; who have yet to exhibit mature faith? Your companions will infect you with either wisdom or folly.

Depending upon your circumstances, you may need to proactively seek out wise companions. We cannot control who all our companions will be at work, family, school, and neighborhood. But we can control whom we will look to for counsel and example. You may need to call on the telephone, email on the computer, or invite to your home wise companions. But seek them out.

Meanwhile, you always have your wise Lord, and you may share in his vast wisdom through the study of his Word and through prayer. Seek after the Lord’s wisdom. Whomever you seek counsel from and emulate, let it be one who is walking in the path of God.

 

Matthew 25

25 ‘At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

‘At midnight the cry rang out: “Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!”

‘Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, “Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.”

‘“No,” they replied, “there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.”

10 ‘But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.

11 ‘Later the others also came. “Lord, Lord,” they said, “open the door for us!”

12 ‘But he replied, “Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.”

13 ‘Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.

 

The parable of the bags of gold

14 ‘Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. 15 To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag,[a] each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. 17 So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. 18 But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

19 ‘After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. “Master,” he said, “you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.”

21 ‘His master replied, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”

22 ‘The man with two bags of gold also came. “Master,” he said, “you entrusted me with two bags of gold: see, I have gained two more.”

23 ‘His master replied, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”

24 ‘Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. “Master,” he said, “I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.”

26 ‘His master replied, “You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

28 ‘“So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. 29 For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

 

The sheep and the goats

31 ‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34 ‘Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was ill and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

37 ‘Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you ill or in prison and go to visit you?”

40 ‘The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

41 ‘Then he will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was ill and in prison and you did not look after me.”

44 ‘They also will answer, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or ill or in prison, and did not help you?”

45 ‘He will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”

46 ‘Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.’

17 September

Proverbs 13:19

A longing fulfilled is sweet to the soul,
    but fools detest turning from evil.

The key to this proverb is knowing what should be our desire. John Piper’s book, Desiring God, has seemed misguided, even heretical, to some because of his strong emphasis on fulfilling desire. His argument rests, however, on having right desires, namely the enjoyment of God. We are often left feeling unfulfilled, not because others have prevented us from obtaining our desires, but because we are, as C. S. Lewis notes, content with too little. We think temporal objects will fulfill us – a vacation, good food, sex, entertainment. But they cannot replace love, holy fear, peace with God, redemption. They cannot replace the invisible eternal, and they are only as satisfying as they give a taste of the eternal rest, eternal banquet, eternal joy that will someday be ours.

Fools are fools precisely because they take pleasure in what is evil. They think it is fun to act in shameful ways. Getting drunk is something to laugh about and even boast about. Illicit sex is exciting. Taking advantage of others fulfills inner desires to feel superior.

The folly of the world is that it upholds the first line of this proverb and deletes the second line. To live with passion is the fulfilled life according to the foolish world. A life worth living is a life lived with passion. That is the basic plot line of many movies in which a debauched character teaches a clean-cut character to “really” live, which always includes illicit sex and getting drunk.

Piper is right. The choice is not between living a life of desire or passion and that of living a dull life of good behavior. It is living a life of right desire.

 

Matthew 24

24 Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. ‘Do you see all these things?’ he asked. ‘Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.’

As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. ‘Tell us,’ they said, ‘when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?’

Jesus answered: ‘Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, “I am the Messiah,” and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumours of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth-pains.

‘Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

15 ‘So when you see standing in the holy place “the abomination that causes desolation,”[a] spoken of through the prophet Daniel – let the reader understand – 16 then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17 Let no one on the housetop go down to take anything out of the house. 18 Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak. 19 How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! 20 Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. 21 For then there will be great distress, unequalled from the beginning of the world until now – and never to be equalled again.

22 ‘If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. 23 At that time if anyone says to you, “Look, here is the Messiah!” or, “There he is!” do not believe it. 24 For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you in advance.

26 ‘So if anyone tells you, “There he is, out in the desert,” do not go out; or, “Here he is, in the inner rooms,” do not believe it. 27 For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 28 Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.

29 ‘Immediately after the distress of those days

‘“the sun will be darkened,
    and the moon will not give its light;
the stars will fall from the sky,
    and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.”[b]

30 ‘Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth[c] will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory.[d] 31 And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

32 ‘Now learn this lesson from the fig-tree: as soon as its twigs become tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 33 Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it[e] is near, right at the door. 34 Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

 

The day and hour unknown

36 ‘But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son,[f] but only the Father. 37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.

42 ‘Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: if the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

45 ‘Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? 46 It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. 47 Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 48 But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, “My master is staying away a long time,” 49 and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. 50 The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. 51 He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

16 September 2020

Proverbs 13:18

Whoever disregards discipline comes to poverty and shame,
    but whoever heeds correction is honoured.

The downfall of the person who ignores instruction comes about for two reasons. One, he remains an ignorant person. Those with knowledge will pass him by in competition. His ignorance will expose him to danger and traps. It will lead him along the wrong paths. Two, he loses respect before others. Only the fool ignores instruction, and foolishness is highly visible. Others will mock him and delight in his failure.

Conversely, the person who heeds instruction and reproof will be honored for the same reasons. By heeding reproof, he grows in knowledge and skill, thus gaining advantage over others who are lazy or foolish. He is also honored by others. It is the wise who prize knowledge and are humble enough to receive it; and wisdom is also visible, especially in the eyes of others who are wise.

If you want to win respect before others, then prove yourself to be a good student. And if you seek commendation from God, then humble yourself and learn from all experiences he grants you. Study his Word; learn from his servants, both those who are learned in the Scriptures and from the lowest of his servants. Seek God’s wisdom. Pray for it. Gladly receive correction.

 

Matthew 23

23 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: ‘The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practise what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.

‘Everything they do is done for people to see: they make their phylacteries[a] wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honour at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted with respect in the market-places and to be called “Rabbi” by others.

‘But you are not to be called “Rabbi”, for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth “father”, for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

 

Seven woes on the teachers of the law and the Pharisees

13 ‘Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. [b]

15 ‘Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.

16 ‘Woe to you, blind guides! You say, “If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gold of the temple is bound by that oath.” 17 You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? 18 You also say, “If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gift on the altar is bound by that oath.” 19 You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 Therefore, anyone who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And anyone who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. 22 And anyone who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it.

23 ‘Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices – mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law – justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practised the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

25 ‘Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

27 ‘Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

29 ‘Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. 30 And you say, “If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.” 31 So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Go ahead, then, and complete what your ancestors started!

33 ‘You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? 34 Therefore I am sending you prophets and sages and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. 35 And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 Truly I tell you, all this will come upon this generation.

37 ‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. 38 Look, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”[c]

15 September 2020

Proverbs 13:17

A wicked messenger falls into trouble,
    but a trustworthy envoy brings healing.

Apply this to preaching. Tremble for the preacher who uses his pulpit to preach that the Scriptures are not reliable, waters down the Gospel to a formula of good works, and assures sinners and unbelievers that they have nothing to fear.

Tremble for the preacher who uses his pulpit to preach politics and push his social agenda. Tremble for the preacher who is not faithful in preaching the message of his scripture; who wins a following for his entertaining style and not his substance; who becomes a self-help guru instead of a prophet for God’s Word. Such a messenger will fall into trouble before the God who called him to be a faithful envoy of the Gospel and the full counsel of God found in Scripture.

But the faithful envoy who week after week proclaims God’s Word and makes it clear, such a person truly brings healing to his people who hurt from sin and sinning; who need to hear God speaking to them; who need to hear again and again the Gospel. Real healing comes from God’s Word working in us. So much that comes from pulpits are diversions to take our attention away from our wounds, or they are Band-Aids to make us feel better for awhile, thinking that we have been healed, when the wound is as deep as ever.

 

Matthew 21-22

21 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, ‘Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.’

This took place to fulfil what was spoken through the prophet:

‘Say to Daughter Zion,
    “See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
    and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”’[a]

The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,

‘Hosanna[b] to the Son of David!’

‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’[c]

‘Hosanna[d] in the highest heaven!’

10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, ‘Who is this?’

11 The crowds answered, ‘This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.’

 

Jesus at the temple

12 Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money-changers and the benches of those selling doves. 13 ‘It is written,’ he said to them, ‘“My house will be called a house of prayer,”[e] but you are making it “a den of robbers.”[f]

14 The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple courts, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David,’ they were indignant.

16 ‘Do you hear what these children are saying?’ they asked him.

‘Yes,’ replied Jesus, ‘have you never read,

‘“From the lips of children and infants
    you, Lord, have called forth your praise”[g]?’

17 And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night.

 

Jesus curses a fig-tree

18 Early in the morning, as Jesus was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. 19 Seeing a fig-tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, ‘May you never bear fruit again!’ Immediately the tree withered.

20 When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. ‘How did the fig-tree wither so quickly?’ they asked.

21 Jesus replied, ‘Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig-tree, but also you can say to this mountain, “Go, throw yourself into the sea,” and it will be done. 22 If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.’

 

The authority of Jesus questioned

23 Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. ‘By what authority are you doing these things?’ they asked. ‘And who gave you this authority?’

24 Jesus replied, ‘I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. 25 John’s baptism – where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or of human origin?’

They discussed it among themselves and said, ‘If we say, “From heaven”, he will ask, “Then why didn’t you believe him?” 26 But if we say, “Of human origin”– we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet.’

27 So they answered Jesus, ‘We don’t know.’

Then he said, ‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.

 

The parable of the two sons

28 ‘What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, “Son, go and work today in the vineyard.”

29 ‘“I will not,” he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.

30 ‘Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, “I will, sir,” but he did not go.

31 ‘Which of the two did what his father wanted?’

‘The first,’ they answered.

Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32 For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.

 

The parable of the tenants

33 ‘Listen to another parable: there was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall round it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. 34 When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit.

35 ‘The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. 36 Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them in the same way. 37 Last of all, he sent his son to them. “They will respect my son,” he said.

38 ‘But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, “This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.” 39 So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.

40 ‘Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?’

41 ‘He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,’ they replied, ‘and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.’

42 Jesus said to them, ‘Have you never read in the Scriptures:

‘“The stone the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone;
the Lord has done this,
    and it is marvellous in our eyes”[h]?

43 ‘Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. 44 Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.’[i]

45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they knew he was talking about them. 46 They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet.

 

The parable of the wedding banquet

22 Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.

‘Then he sent some more servants and said, “Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and fattened cattle have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.”

‘But they paid no attention and went off – one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, ill-treated them and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.

‘Then he said to his servants, “The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.” 10 So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.

11 ‘But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12 He asked, “How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?” The man was speechless.

13 ‘Then the king told the attendants, “Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

14 ‘For many are invited, but few are chosen.’

 

Paying the poll-tax to Caesar

15 Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. 16 They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. ‘Teacher,’ they said, ‘we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are. 17 Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the poll-tax[j] to Caesar or not?’

18 But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, ‘You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax.’ They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, ‘Whose image is this? And whose inscription?’

21 ‘Caesar’s,’ they replied.

Then he said to them, ‘So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.’

22 When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.

 

Marriage at the resurrection

23 That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. 24 ‘Teacher,’ they said, ‘Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for him. 25 Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. 26 The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. 27 Finally, the woman died. 28 Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?’

29 Jesus replied, ‘You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. 30 At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. 31 But about the resurrection of the dead – have you not read what God said to you, 32 “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”[k]? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.’

33 When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at his teaching.

 

The greatest commandment

34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’

37 Jesus replied: ‘“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”[l] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: “Love your neighbour as yourself.”[m] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’

 

Whose son is the Messiah?

41 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 42 ‘What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?’

‘The son of David,’ they replied.

43 He said to them, ‘How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him “Lord”? For he says,

44 ‘“The Lord said to my Lord:
    ‘Sit at my right hand
until I put your enemies
    under your feet.’”[n]

45 If then David calls him “Lord”, how can he be his son?’ 46 No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions.

14 September 2020

Proverbs 13:16

All who are prudent act with[a] knowledge,
    but fools expose their folly.

How will you act today at work, at school, the home? Will you speak without thinking, merely reacting to others and circumstances? Will you lose your temper because traffic is bad or a sales clerk is rude? Will you express your frustrations to whoever happens to be near? Or will you go through the day praying to God for wisdom? For God to keep you alert that you not give in to sin? For God to keep you alert to the opportunities to witness for him, to show the love of Christ?

The prudent acts with knowledge – knowledge of what is going on around him, knowledge of wise and ethical behavior, and foremost, knowledge of the Gospel. The more one understands the Gospel, the more prudent he will be in life’s daily circumstances. The more he knows grace, the more gracious he will be. The more he knows God in Christ, the more Christ-like he will be.

 

Matthew 20

20 ‘For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius[a] for the day and sent them into his vineyard.

‘About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the market-place doing nothing. He told them, “You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.” So they went.

‘He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, “Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?”

‘“Because no one has hired us,” they answered.

‘He said to them, “You also go and work in my vineyard.”

‘When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, “Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.”

‘The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 “These who were hired last worked only one hour,” they said, “and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.”

13 ‘But he answered one of them, “I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?”

16 ‘So the last will be first, and the first will be last.’

 

Jesus predicts his death a third time

17 Now Jesus was going up to Jerusalem. On the way, he took the Twelve aside and said to them, 18 ‘We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death 19 and will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!’

 

A mother’s request

20 Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favour of him.

21 ‘What is it you want?’ he asked.

She said, ‘Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.’

22 ‘You don’t know what you are asking,’ Jesus said to them. ‘Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?’

‘We can,’ they answered.

23 Jesus said to them, ‘You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.’

24 When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. 25 Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’

 

Two blind men receive sight

29 As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. 30 Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they shouted, ‘Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!’

31 The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, ‘Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!’

32 Jesus stopped and called them. ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ he asked.

33 ‘Lord,’ they answered, ‘we want our sight.’

34 Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.

12 September 2020

Hebrews 13:1-19

13 Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are ill-treated as if you yourselves were suffering.

Marriage should be honoured by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,

‘Never will I leave you;
    never will I forsake you.’[a]

So we say with confidence,

‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.
    What can mere mortals do to me?’[b]

Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever.

Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by eating ceremonial foods, which is of no benefit to those who do so. 10 We have an altar from which those who minister at the tabernacle have no right to eat.

11 The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. 12 And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. 13 Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. 14 For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.

15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. 16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

17 Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.

18 Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honourably in every way. 19 I particularly urge you to pray so that I may be restored to you soon.

Prayer: Almighty and eternal God, grant that we may grow in faith, hope and love; and that we may obtain what You promise, make us love what You command; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

11 September 2020

Proverbs 13:15

Good judgment wins favour,
    but the way of the unfaithful leads to their destruction.

There are two reasons the “treacherous” come to ruin. The first is justice. Usually in this lifetime, always in the next life, justice punishes wrongdoing. The other reason is that wrongdoing is not wise. It can seem to be clever to lie, to plot ways to get ahead of a competitor or take advantage of a customer; but such actions lay traps for future failure. Such a person earns distrust and contempt. He must now expend energy protecting himself from his enemies. He becomes suspicious of everyone because through his own example he knows how devious others can be.

“Good” people often act without good sense. For one thing, they put too much confidence in their own goodness, thinking that others will act the same way; that others will recognize their good behavior and intentions. They become puzzled to learn that they have offended their colleagues, not realizing how their “goodness” comes across as self-righteousness; how their “goodness” has blinded them to the ways they have offended others through their speech and behavior.

Good sense means being sensible to the people around you. It means being able to judge properly the circumstances in which you find yourself, and not barging into a situation with your own agenda unaware of how foolish or offensive you may appear. Use good sense today. Pray for good sense. You don’t know what awaits you. All the more reason to go through the day prayerfully, asking the Spirit to grant you good sense.

 

Matthew 18-19

18 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’

He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

 

Causing to stumble

‘If anyone causes one of these little ones – those who believe in me – to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung round their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come! If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.

 

The parable of the wandering sheep

10 ‘See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven. [a]

12 ‘What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? 13 And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. 14 In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.

 

Dealing with sin in the church

15 ‘If your brother or sister[b] sins,[c] go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that “every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.”[d] 17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

18 ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be[e] bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be[f] loosed in heaven.

19 ‘Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.’

 

The parable of the unmerciful servant

21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’

22 Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.[g]

23 ‘Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold[h] was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

26 ‘At this the servant fell on his knees before him. “Be patient with me,” he begged, “and I will pay back everything.” 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, cancelled the debt and let him go.

28 ‘But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins.[i] He grabbed him and began to choke him. “Pay back what you owe me!” he demanded.

29 ‘His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, “Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.”

30 ‘But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.

32 ‘Then the master called the servant in. “You wicked servant,” he said, “I cancelled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?” 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

35 ‘This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.’

 

Divorce

19 When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan. Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.

Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?’

‘Haven’t you read,’ he replied, ‘that at the beginning the Creator “made them male and female,”[j] and said, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh”[k]? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.’

‘Why then,’ they asked, ‘did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?’

Jesus replied, ‘Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.’

10 The disciples said to him, ‘If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.’

11 Jesus replied, ‘Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. 12 For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others – and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.’

 

The little children and Jesus

13 Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them.

14 Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’ 15 When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.

 

The rich and the kingdom of God

16 Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, ‘Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?’

17 ‘Why do you ask me about what is good?’ Jesus replied. ‘There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.’

18 ‘Which ones?’ he enquired.

Jesus replied, ‘“You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, 19 honour your father and mother,”[l] and “love your neighbour as yourself.”[m]

20 ‘All these I have kept,’ the young man said. ‘What do I still lack?’

21 Jesus answered, ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’

22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.’

25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, ‘Who then can be saved?’

26 Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’

27 Peter answered him, ‘We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?’

28 Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife[n] or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.

10 September 2020

Proverbs 13:14

The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life,
    turning a person from the snares of death.

How well are you tuning into wise teaching? Are you reading daily the wise teaching of Scripture? Do you read the wise teaching of the Gospels, of Christ himself? Do you listen to the sermons of wise preachers, to the lessons of wise teachers? Do you read the writings of wise men and women of God?

You must go to the fountain to drink. All about you are the snares of death – the teachings of the world which bombard you daily through TV, movies, advertisements, novels, secular teachers, colleagues, neighbors, etc. These things influence you more than you think. Indeed, the genius of good advertising is to enter into your unconscious thoughts. I like to read well written novels and watch well produced movies. Good books and movies are thought provoking and can help me see life in a way I would not have before. But they come with danger, presenting perspectives that run counter to God’s truth. Thus, I must keep up a steady diet of Christian teaching, writing, and arts. Foremost, I must keep up the steady study of God’s Word.

Be sure to go to the fountain of life today and drink deeply of God’s wisdom.

Matthew 16-17

16 The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven.

He replied, ‘When evening comes, you say, “It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,” and in the morning, “Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.” You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.[a] A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.’ Jesus then left them and went away.

 

The yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees

When they went across the lake, the disciples forgot to take bread. ‘Be careful,’ Jesus said to them. ‘Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’

They discussed this among themselves and said, ‘It is because we didn’t bring any bread.’

Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, ‘You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 11 How is it you don’t understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’ 12 Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

 

Peter declares that Jesus is the Messiah

13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’

14 They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’

15 ‘But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’

16 Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’

17 Jesus replied, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter,[b] and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades[c] will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be[d] bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be[e] loosed in heaven.’ 20 Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

 

Jesus predicts his death

21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. ‘Never, Lord!’ he said. ‘This shall never happen to you!’

23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling-block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.’

24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life[f] will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.

28 ‘Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.’

 

The transfiguration

17 After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.

Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters – one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’

While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!’

When the disciples heard this, they fell face down to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. ‘Get up,’ he said. ‘Don’t be afraid.’ When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.

As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, ‘Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.’

10 The disciples asked him, ‘Why then do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?’

11 Jesus replied, ‘To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. 12 But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognise him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.’ 13 Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist.

 

Jesus heals a demon-possessed boy

14 When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. 15 ‘Lord, have mercy on my son,’ he said. ‘He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. 16 I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.’

17 ‘You unbelieving and perverse generation,’ Jesus replied, ‘how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.’ 18 Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed at that moment.

19 Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, ‘Why couldn’t we drive it out?’

20 He replied, ‘Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.’ [g]

 

Jesus predicts his death a second time

22 When they came together in Galilee, he said to them, ‘The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. 23 They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life.’ And the disciples were filled with grief.

 

The temple tax

24 After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma temple tax came to Peter and asked, ‘Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?’

25 ‘Yes, he does,’ he replied.

When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. ‘What do you think, Simon?’ he asked. ‘From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes – from their own children or from others?’

26 ‘From others,’ Peter answered.

‘Then the children are exempt,’ Jesus said to him. 27 ‘But so that we may not cause offence, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.’

9 September 2020

Proverbs 13:13

Whoever scorns instruction will pay for it,
    but whoever respects a command is rewarded.

The proverb sums up Jesus’ parable of The Rich Man and Lazarus. Because the rich man did not heed “Moses and the prophets,” he brought destruction upon himself in Hades. Lazarus, though he suffered in his earthly life, was rewarded with heaven, no doubt as a keeper of the commandments.

Jesus’ parable made the further point that the despiser of the Word is not to expect extra efforts made to turn him around – no visits from ghosts like Scrooge received, no extraordinary miracles. The Word of God is enough on its own, and, indeed, it serves to reveal the true state of our hearts. Those who reject Scripture feel justified now, claiming that it contains contradictions, is filled with error, etc. They may claim now that Scripture does not bring with it enough evidence to be believed. But once they have died or Christ has returned, all arguments will be seen for what they are – excuses to cover up pride and rebellion.

Now is the time to heed God’s Word. Now is the time to heed his Gospel. And today is the time to read God’s Word, meditate upon it, and let it examine your heart so that you will live for him in obedience.

 

Matthew 14-15

14 At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the reports about Jesus, and he said to his attendants, ‘This is John the Baptist; he has risen from the dead! That is why miraculous powers are at work in him.’

Now Herod had arrested John and bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, for John had been saying to him: ‘It is not lawful for you to have her.’ Herod wanted to kill John, but he was afraid of the people, because they considered John a prophet.

On Herod’s birthday the daughter of Herodias danced for the guests and pleased Herod so much that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked. Prompted by her mother, she said, ‘Give me here on a dish the head of John the Baptist.’ The king was distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he ordered that her request be granted 10 and had John beheaded in the prison. 11 His head was brought in on a dish and given to the girl, who carried it to her mother. 12 John’s disciples came and took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus.

 

Jesus feeds the five thousand

13 When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed those who were ill.

15 As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so that they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.’

16 Jesus replied, ‘They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.’

17 ‘We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,’ they answered.

18 ‘Bring them here to me,’ he said. 19 And he told the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. 20 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 21 The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.

 

Jesus walks on the water

22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. ‘It’s a ghost,’ they said, and cried out in fear.

27 But Jesus immediately said to them: ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’

28 ‘Lord, if it’s you,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.’

29 ‘Come,’ he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came towards Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’

31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’

32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’

34 When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret. 35 And when the men of that place recognised Jesus, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought all who were ill to him 36 and begged him to let those who were ill just touch the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.

 

That which defiles

15 Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, ‘Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!’

Jesus replied, ‘And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, “Honour your father and mother”[a] and “Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.”[b] But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is “devoted to God,” they are not to “honour their father or mother” with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:

‘“These people honour me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
    their teachings are merely human rules.”[c]

10 Jesus called the crowd to him and said, ‘Listen and understand. 11 What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.’

12 Then the disciples came to him and asked, ‘Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?’

13 He replied, ‘Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. 14 Leave them; they are blind guides.[d] If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.’

15 Peter said, ‘Explain the parable to us.’

16 ‘Are you still so dull?’ Jesus asked them. 17 ‘Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts – murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.’

 

The faith of a Canaanite woman

21 Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, ‘Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.’

23 Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, ‘Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.’

24 He answered, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.’

25 The woman came and knelt before him. ‘Lord, help me!’ she said.

26 He replied, ‘It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.’

27 ‘Yes it is, Lord,’ she said. ‘Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.’

28 Then Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.’ And her daughter was healed at that moment.

 

Jesus feeds the four thousand

29 Jesus left there and went along the Sea of Galilee. Then he went up on a mountainside and sat down. 30 Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them. 31 The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel.

32 Jesus called his disciples to him and said, ‘I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.’

33 His disciples answered, ‘Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?’

34 ‘How many loaves do you have?’ Jesus asked.

‘Seven,’ they replied, ‘and a few small fish.’

35 He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. 36 Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, and when he had given thanks, he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people. 37 They all ate and were satisfied. Afterwards the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 38 The number of those who ate was four thousand men, besides women and children. 39 After Jesus had sent the crowd away, he got into the boat and went to the vicinity of Magadan.

8 September 2020

Proverbs 13:12

Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
    but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.

Remember this proverb on motivation. If you desire a person to work hard towards a goal (produce more, win a competition, be nice to you, etc.), then see that desires are fulfilled along the way. Provide rewards. Positive motivation is more effective than negative motivation.

What are desires that can be fulfilled? Receiving encouragement is important. The laborer is more likely to produce 20 gadgets a day, if he is praised for raising his production from 5 to 10. But if he receives no encouragement, then his production is likely to decline. In my counseling, I’ve noticed that this is a common problem in marriages. Wives will focus on what their husbands are failing to do, baffled that their husbands will not change. (“How many times do I have to remind him?”) Husbands are frustrated that their wives have to keep being told that they are loved. (“Shouldn’t she just know?”) We all need rewards and encouragement to motivate us to press on. A fulfilled desire is life renewing and gives us the strength to move forward.

That is what God does for us. Our greatest hope – glorification at Christ’s return – has remained a long-awaiting hope. But we press on for the desires that are fulfilled now – the joys of salvation, of Christian fellowship, of spiritual sanctification. We are given the Lord’s Supper to give us tastes of the heavenly banquet and be comforted. We are given earthly blessings of family, friends, productive work, and so on.

God knows how weak and sinful we are, and so he grants us fulfilled desires that keep the real hope before us. Let us do the same for one another. Make it your business today to encourage your neighbor, your spouse, your family – whomever God places in your path.

Matthew 13

13 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered round him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables, saying: ‘A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop – a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.’

10 The disciples came to him and asked, ‘Why do you speak to the people in parables?’

11 He replied, ‘Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12 Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables:

‘Though seeing, they do not see;
    though hearing, they do not hear or understand.

14 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:

‘“You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
    you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
15 For this people’s heart has become calloused;
    they hardly hear with their ears,
    and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
    hear with their ears,
    understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.”[a]

16 But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. 17 For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.

18 ‘Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 when anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. 23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.’

 

The parable of the weeds

24 Jesus told them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed ears, then the weeds also appeared.

27 ‘The owner’s servants came to him and said, “Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?”

28 ‘“An enemy did this,” he replied.

‘The servants asked him, “Do you want us to go and pull them up?”

29 ‘“No,” he answered, “because while you are pulling up the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: first collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.”’

 

The parables of the mustard seed and the yeast

31 He told them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. 32 Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.’

33 He told them still another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about thirty kilograms of flour until it worked all through the dough.’

34 Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable. 35 So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet:

‘I will open my mouth in parables,
    I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world.’[b]

 

The parable of the weeds explained

36 Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, ‘Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.’

37 He answered, ‘The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.

40 ‘As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear.

 

The parables of the hidden treasure and the pearl

44 ‘The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

45 ‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

 

The parable of the net

47 ‘Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. 48 When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. 49 This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous 50 and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

51 ‘Have you understood all these things?’ Jesus asked.

‘Yes,’ they replied.

52 He said to them, ‘Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.’

 

A prophet without honour

53 When Jesus had finished these parables, he moved on from there. 54 Coming to his home town, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. ‘Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?’ they asked. 55 ‘Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? 56 Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?’ 57 And they took offence at him.

But Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honour except in his own town and in his own home.’

58 And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.

7 September 2020

Proverbs 13:11

Dishonest money dwindles away,
    but whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow.


This is a proverb we don’t like. We all dream of being surprised by a large inheritance from an unknown relative or winning the lottery (from a ticket someone else bought for us). If only I could get rich now! But this proverb teaches that wealth gained quickly without effort is likely to dwindle easily. For it is those who, through diligence and wisdom build wealth, who will more likely use the same diligence and wisdom to maintain it.

Wealth is dangerous to those immature to handle it, and immaturity is normally related to lack of experience. Thus, if we have little experience handling money, a sudden rush of it into our hands can be our downfall rather than our salvation.

But are you accumulating wealth even little by little? Are you budgeting how you earn and spend your money? Your wisdom regarding money lies not in how much you earn but in how well you live with what you earn. Live prudently so that you may increase what you have, so that you may build security for yourself and your dependents and that you may generous in giving to others.

 

Matthew 12

12 At that time Jesus went through the cornfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some ears of corn and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, ‘Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.’

He answered, ‘Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread – which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. Or haven’t you read in the Law that the priests on Sabbath duty in the temple desecrate the Sabbath and yet are innocent? I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. If you had known what these words mean, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice,”[a] you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.’

Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue, 10 and a man with a shrivelled hand was there. Looking for a reason to bring charges against Jesus, they asked him, ‘Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?’

11 He said to them, ‘If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.’

13 Then he said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other. 14 But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.

 

God’s chosen servant

15 Aware of this, Jesus withdrew from that place. A large crowd followed him, and he healed all who were ill. 16 He warned them not to tell others about him. 17 This was to fulfil what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:

18 ‘Here is my servant whom I have chosen,
    the one I love, in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,
    and he will proclaim justice to the nations.
19 He will not quarrel or cry out;
    no one will hear his voice in the streets.
20 A bruised reed he will not break,
    and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out,
till he has brought justice through to victory.
21     In his name the nations will put their hope.’[b]

 

Jesus and Beelzebul

22 Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see. 23 All the people were astonished and said, ‘Could this be the Son of David?’

24 But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, ‘It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.’

25 Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, ‘Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. 26 If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand? 27 And if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. 28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

29 ‘Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can plunder his house.

30 ‘Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. 31 And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

33 ‘Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognised by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. 35 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. 36 But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. 37 For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.’

 

The sign of Jonah

38 Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, ‘Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.’

39 He answered, ‘A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here. 42 The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now something greater than Solomon is here.

43 ‘When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. 44 Then it says, “I will return to the house I left.” When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. 45 Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.’

Jesus’ mother and brothers

46 While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. 47 Someone told him, ‘Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.’

48 He replied to him, ‘Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?’ 49 Pointing to his disciples, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers. 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.’

5 September 2020

Hebrews 12:29-40

Warning and encouragement

14 Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. 16 See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. 17 Afterwards, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done.

The mountain of fear and the mountain of joy

18 You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; 19 to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, 20 because they could not bear what was commanded: ‘If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.’[a] 21 The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, ‘I am trembling with fear.’[b]

22 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

25 See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, ‘Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.’[c] 27 The words ‘once more’ indicate the removing of what can be shaken – that is, created things – so that what cannot be shaken may remain.

28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our ‘God is a consuming fire.’[d]

Prayer: Merciful God, it is by Your gift alone that Your faithful people do You true and acceptable service; grant that we may so faithfully serve You in this life that we fail not finally to obtain Your heavenly promises; through the merits of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

4 September 2020

Proverbs 13:10

Where there is strife, there is pride,
    but wisdom is found in those who take advice.

This is insolence of pride. The insolent person rudely rebuffs help and counsel, especially from others whom he deems below himself. He believes it is beneath his dignity or a sign of weakness or a giving in of his authority. Thus the insolent professional does not need advice, especially from a nonprofessional. The person in authority will not take counsel from those under him.

Christians fall under this same spell through spiritualizing the same attitude. Church officers, citing that they are responsible to God for the use of their authority, may be resistant to seek the counsel of their flock. A husband, intent on being the “head” of the family, may not listen to the counsel of his wife and children.

But it is true wisdom to receive and consider good advice, from whomever it comes. The wise person is wise precisely because he knows his limitations and because he desires wisdom and knowledge above reputation. The one who seeks to protect his reputation often loses it because such a goal will lead to foolish decisions. But the one who prizes wisdom will rise in the estimation of others, even those who differ with him.

Seek wisdom today. Listen to whatever advice is given. Indeed, listen more carefully to the advice of those you least respect. God may be speaking to you through them. In his wisdom, he may very well choose the foolish and the weak to deliver his wise message to us.

 

Mathew 10-11

10 Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and illness.

These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: ‘Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, proclaim this message: “The kingdom of heaven has come near.” Heal those who are ill, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy,[a] drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.

‘Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts – 10 no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker is worth his keep. 11 Whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave. 12 As you enter the home, give it your greeting. 13 If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. 14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. 15 Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.

16 ‘I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. 17 Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. 18 On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. 19 But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, 20 for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

21 ‘Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 22 You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 23 When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

24 ‘The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for students to be like their teachers, and servants like their masters. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household!

26 ‘So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. 28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.[b] 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

32 ‘Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.

34 ‘Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn

‘“a man against his father,
    a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law –
36     a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.”[c]

37 ‘Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.

40 ‘Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. 42 And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.’

 

Jesus and John the Baptist

11 After Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee.[d]

When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?’

Jesus replied, ‘Go back and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy[e] are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.’

As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: ‘What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces. Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is the one about whom it is written:

‘“I will send my messenger ahead of you,
    who will prepare your way before you.”[f]

11 Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence,[g] and violent people have been raiding it. 13 For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. 14 And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. 15 Whoever has ears, let them hear.

16 ‘To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the market-places and calling out to others:

17 ‘“We played the pipe for you,
    and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge,
    and you did not mourn.”

18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, “He has a demon.” 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.” But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.’

 

Woe on unrepentant towns

20 Then Jesus began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. 21 ‘Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades.[h] For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.’

 

The Father revealed in the Son

25 At that time Jesus said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. 26 Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.

27 ‘All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

28 ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’