September 10

September 10

Jesus’ Passover at Jerusalem — Cleansing the temple, Nicodemus, & being born again.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: John 2:13-25

Reading 2: John 3:1-21

Reading 3: 1 Peter 1:23

Throughout Jesus’ ministry there are clear signs of the purpose of His life. Although these indications were too unexpected for most to understand while Jesus was alive, we who follow have the benefit of a record which specifies God’s plan as The Story unfolds.

Today, after cleansing the Temple to remove self-interest from worship, Jesus teaches Nicodemus  about the new birth that is possible through the crucifixion and resurrection. Although he is puzzled, Nicodemus is clearly hungry for this eternal life, and later chapters strongly imply that he received it.

And we can do the same as Jesus – whenever we encounter someone who sees the life of God in us, we can offer them what we have: new birth into eternal life.

Have a great day!

Mark.

September 9

September 9

Jesus’ First Miracle — A wedding runs out of wine (i.e. joy) & Jesus turns water to wine

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: John 2:1-12

Reading 2: Isaiah 24:11

Reading 3: John 13:1

Jesus constantly reveals the Father, and His actions were in obedience to Father’s voice. Thus today’s readings show us our own condition as well as God’s heart for us. The wedding runs out of wine (which was not only a great shame on the family for failing to provide for their guests, but also a disappointment to all present).

Just as the bride and groom’s joy was temporarily halted by the embarrassment of running out of wine, so we often experience a gap between our aspirations and our achievements. Whether in a simple task, or in the whole of life, it is common to find that what we hope for is beyond the reach of what is.

Well Jesus is willing to step in to these situations, even though it may not be His time to shine. What does He do? He transforms the mundane into the delightful. In this case large water pots prepared for ritual washing become gallons of fine wine.

Never let anyone convince you Jesus is a kill-joy. Even the professional bartender was impressed by the quality of Jesus’ wine! And so the joy was not only restored, but exceeded. What will Jesus do with the ordinary disappointments of your life or mine? Let’s tell Him about them and then follow Mary’s advice to the servants: “Do whatever He tells you.”

Have a great day!

Mark.

September 8

September 8

Pause and Reflect:

One Solitary Life.

The readings since our last pause for reflection point to one person: Jesus Christ. As you pause to reflect today, focus on Him first: remind yourself of His significance, and His comparative insignificance as described in this famous poem:

He was born in an obscure village, the son of a peasant woman.
He grew up in another village, where he worked in a carpenter’s shop until he was thirty. Then for three years, he became a wandering preacher.

He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family or owned a house. He didn’t go to college. He never visited a big city. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place where he was born. He did none of those things one usually associates with greatness.

He had no credentials but himself.

He was only thirty-three when the tide of public opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. He was turned over to his enemies and went through a mockery of a trial. He was executed by the state. While he was dying, his executioners gambled for his clothing, the only property he had on earth. When he was dead he was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.

Twenty centuries have come and gone, and today he is the central figure of the human race and the leader of mankind’s progress. All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man on this earth as much as that One Solitary Life.

Then, take a few minutes to let God speak to you about your one life: the trials you have faced, the points where God has been at work, the purpose God has created for you. As you watch God’s purpose for Jesus unfold over the next few weeks, expect His purpose for you to be established too!

Have a great day!

Mark.

September 7

September 7

Jesus’ First Disciples — John the Baptist points people to Jesus the Lamb of God.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: John 1:15-51

Reading 2: Deuteronomy 18:15-19

Reading 3: 1 Peter 1:18-19

There is power in testimony. Today we see the power of John the Baptist’s testimony about Jesus: it points people to the Messiah, and challenges the religious system. Then Jesus’ first disciples tell their testimony of encountering the Messiah, and their friends are drawn to Him too.

Moses promised a voice like John’s, centuries before. The reason was that the people did not want to hear directly from God. In this they resembled the religious leaders at the time of Jesus.

Today, we have the privilege of a relationship with Jesus, the Lamb of God; how does that impact our testimony to those around us?

Have a great day!

Mark.

September 6

September 6

Jesus’ Temptation — A 40-day fast, the Bible, & three types of temptation (flesh/eyes/pride).

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Matthew 4:1-11

Reading 2: Deuteronomy 8:1-3

Reading 3: 1 John 2:15-16

There are three types of temptation to which humanity is susceptible. These are described by the Apostle John as physical appetites (or pleasures), lust for what we see (which is an inability to be satisfied with God whom we cannot see), and pride in our own achievements and possessions.

Jesus faced all these temptations and overcame them by trusting God and His Word. This is a strategy you and I can use in our own battles with temptation.

Notice also that the 40 days Jesus went without food reflect the 40 years Israel wandered in the wilderness while God sought to cleanse them of their sin and teach them to overcome temptation. By winning the battle in 40 days, Jesus fulfills God’s purpose in the 40 years. And He will complete the good work He has begun in us.

Have a great day!

Mark.

September 5

September 5

Jesus’ Baptism — John the Baptist’s ministry & honor of baptizing Jesus.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Matthew 3

Reading 2: Luke 3:1-23

Reading 3: Isaiah 40:3-5

Each day we read of more prophetic fulfillments from centuries before, but today we also read of the current prophecies of John the Baptist.

Jesus’ cousin was called by God to prepare the way for the Messiah. His ministry was powerful and life-changing, yet he had no illusions of grandeur. John knew his place, and willingly kept to it, making his words and deeds all the more powerful.

He knows who Jesus is, and would have known  the promises surrounding the Messiah throughout the history of the Jewish people. Now promises come to fulfillment, and John has the privilege of being a vital part of what God is doing: baptizing Jesus and prophesying that He will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. Notice too that the Father joins in with His own affirmation of Jesus; words that you and I can personalize since we are in Christ.

You and I have our own part to play in God’s Story – a part only we can fulfill. Let’s be as faithful as John to boldly take our place in the picture, secure in Father God’s affirmation, whilst ensuring that Jesus gets all the glory.

Have a great day!

Mark.

September 4

September 4

Jesus’ Childhood — The Wise Men visit, Jesus is taken to Egypt, & Jesus at 12 years old.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Matthew 2

Reading 2: Micah 5:2-5

Reading 3: Luke 2:41-52

At the time of Jesus’ birth, there was a great deal of supernatural activity, as we saw yesterday. Often this supernatural activity is only partially understood by mankind. Today we read of the visit of the wise men, drawn from their country by a supernatural event that they understood (a rare star) to a place they did not fully understand. They go to the puppet king of the region (Herod) seeking the true king, thus setting off a chain of events that come from the dark side of human nature. But during the whole episode, the wise men both worship Jesus and hear God’s voice for themselves. Then they leave secretly for their own safety, as do Joseph, Mary and Jesus.

Throughout the terrible events that follow: exile to a foreign land, genocide, and upheaval in the government, God’s plans are secure and moving forward, fulfilling prophecy at every turn and making it impossible for these events to be dismissed as coincidence. Clearly God wants us to see His determination to win the battle for humanity that began with Adam and Eve’s sin.

And likewise, Jesus is drawn to His Father’s house (the rebuilt temple) in Jerusalem, where His wisdom and understanding surpass the limited knowledge of the scholars. Clearly this battle is going to be won by relationship, not religious observance. But more of that in future readings.

Have a great day!

Mark.

September 3

September 3

Jesus’ Birth — Jesus’ birth, promise, circumcision, & the mystery of Godliness.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Luke 2:1-40

Reading 2: Isaiah 9:6-7

Reading 3: 1 Timothy 3:16

The Nativity is a well-known chapter of God’s Story, so much so that we often miss the miraculous details of the accounts we are given. See how many fulfillments of prophecy you can see in today’s readings. Clearly there is a great deal of supernatural activity here, as you would expect with God beginning the “D Day” preparations in the battle for humanity. This explains why Paul teaches Timothy an early statement of faith centered on Jesus. This man (who was also God) changed the course of history.

Have a great day!

Mark.

September 2

September 2

Jesus’ Gestation — Mary’s pregnancy & Joseph’s crisis: “How should I divorce Mary?”

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Matthew 1:18-25

Reading 2: Deuteronomy 24:1-4

Reading 3: Isaiah 7:13-14

What an amazing man Joseph is!

Faced with a crisis (an apparently unfaithful fiancée) he determines to divorce her quietly rather than humiliate her publicly. But God speaks to him in a dream and shows him the plan for salvation (in which he is now a central component). And Joseph does not simply shake this off as a weird dream, but he goes ahead and does what God instructs him, at great personal cost (because everyone would know of Mary’s “infidelity” from the timing of Jesus’ birth).

Joseph was a man who cared more for what God said than what those around him thought. How about you and me? Can we say the same?

Have a great day!

Mark.

September 1

September 1

Jesus’ Conception — The miracle that a virgin could conceive a child by the Holy Spirit.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Luke 1:26-56

Reading 2: John 1:1-14

Reading 3: 1 John 1:1-5

More prophetic fulfillments today, as God’s plan for the Incarnation is revealed and fulfilled. In this moment the greatest miracle occurs – the Creator becomes the created, and bridges the gulf caused by sin.

After all the promises and disappointments of human history, this Story is going to turn out very well indeed. Not by human effort, but by God’s intervention. This is a truly mind-boggling solution to the problem of sin!

Whether you have read these passages once or countless times, let the wonder of what God has done increase for you today.

Have a great day!

Mark.