Week 13 Summaries and Questions for the Life of Jesus Reading Plan

2020 Reading Plan JPEG.jpg

Stuck at home with nothing to do? It’s never been better time to binge read about the life and teachings of Jesus. I’ve made it so easy and interesting with the the The Life and Teachings of Jesus 2020 Reading Plan. So turn off the TV and open your Bible and your heart to Jesus.

The Life and Teachings of Jesus – Week 13 – March 30-April 3:

Monday – John 5:19-29: Why did the Jews want to kill Jesus? Simply stated it was, “because not only was He breaking the Sabbath but He was even calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God” (John 5:18). Did Jesus break the Sabbath? No, He only broke the Pharisees’ traditions regarding the Sabbath. Did Jesus really claim to be equal with God the Father? Yes, He did, and the audacious claims of Christ that we find in our text have colossal implications. Jesus prefaces His claims of equality with “Truly, truly” (v. 19) meaning, “I tell you the truth without the possibility of contradiction. Therefore, you must hear and accept what I have to say.” Jesus makes three great claims: He’s one with the Father in action (vv. 19-20), the power to give life just like the Father (vv. 21, 24-26), and like the Father Jesus has the authority to judge (vv. 22, 27-30). Even if we have already embraced this truth, we must repeatedly affirm it because the world wishes to deny this great truth.

In your own words, restate in what areas does Jesus claim to be equal with God the Father? What are the implications of this equality for you?

Tuesday – John 5:30-47: “You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life” Jesus said, “and it is they that bear witnesses about Me, yet you refuse to come to Me that you may have life” (vv. 39-40a). The Pharisees had three problems: One, they regarded the scriptures with such esteem that they linked study and memorization of holy text with salvation (vv. 39-40). They made knowing scripture an end in itself, instead of knowing the Savior of the scriptures. Second, they studied the scriptures with a wrong motive (41-44). They knew the word of God backwards and forwards, but they weren’t saved because they didn’t have the love of God within them. They loved their own opinions of the word of God which brought them the glory and notoriety. Self-love kept them from loving the God of scripture. Finally, the Pharisees didn’t really believe the scriptures they studied (vv. 45-47). Yes they would have died for their scrolls but they didn’t really believe what was written on them. The purpose of the Law of Moses was to expose their sinfulness and drive them to the Messiah. Instead, they hypocritically covered up their sins and rejected Christ. For believers today, there’s a great temptation to get caught up in the minutiae of scripture, which if left unchecked can trivialize our faith. There’s no doubt that as believers it is imperative that we immerse ourselves in the Bible, but it’s vastly more important that we respond to its teachings.

What “witnesses” does Jesus call forward to testify on His behalf and how does their testimony validate His clams? What factors influence your verdict for or against Jesus as being equal with God the Father?

Wednesday – Matt. 12:1-8 (cf. Mark 2:23-28; Luke 6:1-5): The disciples were hungry, so “they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat” (v. 1). The controversy that ensues centers not on whether the Sabbath should be observed but on what that observance entailed in practical terms. The Old Testament commandment was clear, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work” (Exodus 20:8-9). But what constituted “work”? Unlike the Pharisees, Jesus doesn’t attempt to define work. Rather, His reply consists of two related Old Testament analogies (vv. 3-4, 5-6), together with a prophetic quotation which exposes the underlying issue (v. 7), followed by a pronouncement which summarizes the thrust of the earlier analogies, “For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath” (v. 8). In other words, Jesus possesses the right to interpret proper Sabbath keeping. According to the Pharisees, a person should go hungry rather than glean on the Sabbath.

How did this view of God’s Sabbath miss its true significance? (cf. Mark 2:27) In what way(s) did Jesus’ answer dodge His opponent’s preoccupations and get to the heart of the matter?

Thursday – Mark 3:1-6 (cf. Matt. 12:9-14; Luke 6:6-11): Continuing on from the grain fields from our last reading, Jesus enters the synagogue (perhaps in Capernaum) “and a man was there with a withered hand” (v. 1). Like gathering grain on the Sabbath, medicine and healing on the day of rest were highly regulated. It was an accepted principle in most Jewish circles that saving a life on the Sabbath was permissible but it must be life-threatening. Healing a withered hand could wait until the next day. So, Jesus takes the initiative in asking what is permitted on the Sabbath, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” (v. 4a). His adversaries remain stubbornly silent (v. 4b). In their eagerness for legal detail they had forgotten the mercy and grace shown by God to man when He made provision for the Sabbath day (cf. Mark 2:27). In their zeal for piety they have become calloused to the purposes of God and to the sufferings of humanity. Restoring the man’s hand demonstrates what it means “to do good” and “to save life” on the Sabbath. As Lord of the Sabbath Jesus delivers both the Sabbath and humanity from oppression.

The irony in this second Sabbath assault by the Pharisees is that while Jesus is healing on the Sabbath, the Pharisees are making plans to kill Him. How does Jesus’ attitude toward people and Scripture differ from that of the Pharisees?

Friday – Matt. 12:15-21: Immediately after the two Sabbath day clashes, Jesus withdraws from those hostile to Him. Nevertheless, He heals those who flock to Him but is anxious to prevent the people from forcing the issue of His Messiahship by prohibiting inappropriate publicity (v. 16). Through a quote from Isaiah, Matthew paints a portrait of Jesus as God’s chosen servant; one who is not quarrelsome but gentle. Thus, the confrontations Jesus has encountered are not of His making. Matthew draws a sharp contrast to Jesus’ critical opponents, they seek to kill Him, but Jesus won’t even break a “bruised reed” or quench a “smoldering wick.” They live to condemn, however Jesus lives to encourage the damaged and vulnerable people and will do so until God’s purpose of “justice” has been achieved.

To describe the Messiah’s character, Matthew quotes Isaiah 42:1-4. What does this Old Testament passage confirm about Jesus? Based on this description, why is He worth following?

Fighting the Fight with Prayer

Fighting the Battle with Prayer.jpg

During the reign of King Saul (cf. 1 Chronicles 5:10) the valiant troops of the Transjordan tribes of Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh waged war against the Hagrites, Jetur, Naphish and Nodab with 44,760 men  who were described as “experts in war.” These soldiers were specialist in handling both a shield and the sword. When it came to drawing the bow, there were no others who were as capable as these men. With their combined fighting force they drove the uncircumcised out of the land. Why were they able to conquer their enemy? What was the secret to their victory? It wasn’t their valor or bravery. Nor was it their expertise of shield, or sword, or bow. All would have been in vain if they would have relied on these. These warriors were victorious because they were mighty warriors in the weapon of… prayer. Let’s start our study by reading 1 Chronicles 5:18-22.

They Fought the Battle with Prayer:

  1. “They cried out to God in the battle…” (v. 20)
    • Deuteronomy 20.1-4 – In the Law of Moses, the twelve tribes of Israel were given principles that governed warfare. First among them was seeking God’s blessing before battle.
    • It was not an uncommon practice for the nation (Judges 20.18; 1 Samuel 7.8-10; 2 Chronicles 20.20-22). However, one at least one occasion, it could become ritualistic and lead to devastating results (1 Samuel 4.1-3).
    • In our text, the soldiers are praying during the battle. When it would have been easier to focus on the enemy at hand, they focused on God.
  2. “He granted their urgent plea…” (v. 20)
    • “Urgent” suggest a frantic prayer in a time of trouble. We don’t know the words of their plea but we can get an idea from other urgent prayers: Psalm 3.7; 2 Chronicles 14.11; 20.12.
    • We don’t know the size of the opposing army, but based on the spoils it seems the enemy army was rather larger. But the size of the other army doesn’t matter at all, big or small, powerful or weak, they urgently need God for they fight.
  3. “Because they put their trust in Him.” (v. 20)
    • Psalm 20.7 reminds us, “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; But we will remember the name of the Lord our God.”
    • The text clearly points out the marshaling might of the Transjordan tribes (1 Chronicles 5.18). Nevertheless they didn’t trust in themselves, they trusted in God as evidenced by their prayer. Therefore, God gave them the victory (1 Chronicles 5.21-22)

There are Four Lessons to Draw from this Story:

    • The battle the Transjordan tribes fought was the Lord’s (ref. 1 Chronicles 5:22). The fight had a deeper, richer spiritual context that a mere political or ethnic conflict.
    • Paul reminds us that our fight isn’t against “flesh and blood” but rather against the dark, evil powers of Satan (Ephesians 6.10-12).
    • God has given us spiritual armor to help us in our spiritual fight (Ephesians 6.13-17).
    • One essential component of our armor is prayer (Ephesians 6.18).
    • It’s not uncommon to hear prayer referred to as the straps that hold all of our armor in place. This is an apt comparison. It takes prayer to hold the “breastplate of righteousness” in place, and secure the “shield of faith” to one’s arm, and to keep the “helmet of salvation” securely on one’s head.
    • Certainly, a short prayer before a meal, or a quick word before an important event is well and good. But these prayers will not suffice to sustain the Christian life in the spiritual battle we are fighting.
    • Note the words used to describe prayers: “Be constant in prayer” (Romans 12.12); “strive together with me in your prayers” (Romans 15.30); “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving” (Colossians 4.2); lastly “struggling on your behalf in his prayers” (Colossians 4:12) and from our text “urgent plea” (1 Chronicles 5:20 ESV)
    • Praying quick, rote, throwaway prayers won’t bring about the victory.
    • The kind of prayers that bring victory in the battle are “constant… striving… watchful… struggling… urgent pleas.” Do these describe your prayers? They better or defeat is at hand.
    • “Pray for one another” James writes in James 5:16.
    • To encourage us to pray for one another, he reminds us that the great prophet Elijah was human just like us. And through his prayers he did mighty works (James 5.16b-17).
    • Even though we’re ordinary people, we can work mighty deeds through prayer. We must never lose sight of this important spiritual truth!

Unfortunately, the story of the children of the half-tribe of Manasseh doesn’t end well. The next scene, after their triumph through prayer, says “They were unfaithful to the God of their fathers, and played the harlot after the gods of the peoples, whom God had destroyed before them” (1 Chronicles 5:25). It goes on to say God punished them by leading them into captivity. They in essence stopped praying. We’ve got to remember, that we can’t rest on our spiritual laurels, even though Jesus as won the war, the fight still rages. There is always an urgent need for Christians to pray. We must constantly be striving and struggling in praying for ourselves, our loved ones, our church, our country, our friends and our enemies. Because our souls and their souls depend on it. So fight the battle with prayer.

Week 12 Summaries and Questions for the Life of Jesus Reading Plan

2020 Reading Plan JPEG.jpg

During times like these it’s important to stay spiritually grounded. One great way to that is with the The Life and Teachings of Jesus 2020 Reading Plan. There’s so much anxiety and fear going around don’t contribute, rather be a light of hope and love in your community. It’s not enough to read about Jesus, we’ve got to live like Him! Remember two things: He>covid-19 and pray for a vaccine. Blessings to you my friends. By the grace of God we’ll get through this together.

The Life and Teachings of Jesus – Week 12 – March 23-27:

Monday – Matt. 7:24-29 (cf. Luke 6:47-49): Jesus’ great Sermon on the Mount concludes with a fourth warning and summary statement. The last warning is a parable about one man building on rock and another man building on sand, emphasizing the importance of acting in accordance with Jesus’ teaching. We neglect the warning at our peril. “And when Jesus had finished speaking these words” (v. 28; 11:1; 13:53; 19:1; 26:1) the crowd responds with awe. What amazes them so much about our Lord’s teaching is not His use of beatitudes, parables, hyperboles, or others forms of teaching; rather what astonishes them is His authoritative teaching, “He taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes” (v. 29).  Jesus declares God’s word, and the people recognize that He speaks with authority unlike any other.

In what ways was Jesus’ authority demonstrated in His sermon? What difference does it make to you that Jesus teaches with authority?

Tuesday – Mark 1:40-45 (cf. Matt. 8:1-4; Luke 5:12-16): “If You will, You can make me clean.” Afflicted with the worse disease of his day, a man with disfiguring leprosy doesn’t questions Jesus’ ability to heal, but rather His willingness to heal. Unfortunately, too many think that they are beyond help. Yet, we see Jesus’ answer to the man in v. 41 through His compassion, His touch, and His word. Mark tells us that Jesus was “moved with pity” when He heard the man’s request. Deep down in the pit of His stomach, Jesus felt a gut-wrenching compassion for this man. Then what follows is the Lord’s touch, He “stretched out His hand and touched him.” Mark delighted in telling the stories of Jesus’ touch (cf. 1:31; 1:41; 5:41; 6:5; 7:33; 8:23; 9:27, 36; 10:16). There’s no doubt that this was the first time in a long, long time that this man had felt the warmth of human contact. Finally, the Lord spoke, “I will; be clean.” Unbothered by the man’s question or grotesque appearance, Jesus compassionately heals him and sends him on his way.

What does Jesus’ interaction with the leper tell you about His character and how He will treat you with your “unclean” sins?

Wednesday – Mark 2:1-12 (cf. Matt. 9:1-8; Luke 5:17-26): Four men struggling with a litter on which lay a paralytic, prone and motionless man, approached the fringe of the impossible crowd. Their attempts to get through to Jesus were met with noisy rebuffs. So they did what any desperate person would do… they tore the roof of the house and lowered their beloved friend down to Jesus. What a picture of faith! “And when Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven” (v. 6) and “Rise, pick up your bed, and go home” (v. 11). Jesus’ power to heal the paralytic’s physical infirmities proved the veracity of His claim and power to forgive sins.

Let’s think through this story in spiritual terms. What sorts of sins may psychologically, emotionally, or spiritually “paralyze” you? Is there any such “paralysis” in your life from which you might be freed if you asked Jesus to forgive you? Who are some trusted friends who will go to any length to help you? Bring them into your struggle with spiritual paralysis.

Thursday – Matt. 9:9-17 (cf. Mark 2:13-22; Luke 5:27-39): “As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and He said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he rose and followed Him” (v. 9). Can you imagine writing your own conversion story in your very own gospel account of Jesus’ life? That is what we’re getting in this passage. To most first-century Jews, tax collectors, were easily the most hated men in Jewish society. They were viewed as religious and political traitors, trained extortionists, and thugs. Nevertheless, it’s that very type of person whom Jesus called to be His disciple, and later an apostle. Excitedly, Matthew threw a party and invited his friends to meet Jesus. This was too much for the religious hard-liners, who questioned, “Why does [He] eat with tax collectors and sinners?” (v. 11). In response Jesus made three statements: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick” (v. 12), “I desire mercy, not sacrifice” (v. 13a), and “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (v. 13b).  Each declaration demonstrated that our Savior’s mission was (and still is) to save those who acknowledged their sinfulness.

From your perspective, what does each one of Jesus statements mean, and how does each relate to you?

Friday – John 5:1-18: Although opposition to Jesus smoldered beneath the surface, the story of Jesus’ healing at the Pool of Bethesda highlights the beginning of open hostility toward Him by the Jewish leaders. John repeatedly ties his narrative to various Jewish feasts (ref. 2:13; 5:1; 6:4; 7:2; 10:22; 11:55), and so he does with this story, “After this there was a feast of the Jews and Jesus went up to Jerusalem” (v. 1). Entering the holy city, Jesus encountered the blind, lame and paralyzed (v. 4). To one invalid He asked, “Do you want to be healed?” (v. 6). The text states that this poor man had suffered in his condition for thirty-eight years. “Yes I do,” the man desperately replied. So Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed and walk. And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked” (vv. 8-9). Just as the thirty-eight years proved the gravity of the paralysis, so the carrying of the bed and the walking proved the completeness of the miracle. John briefly mentions that the healing took place on the Sabbath day, thereby setting the stage for the confrontation that followed.

The fourth commandment says, “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy” (see Exodus 20:8-11). In their zeal to apply this command, what do the critics of Jesus fail to realize? What does this say about them? Are you ever tempted to exhibit this same type of narrow-mindedness?

Week 11 Summaries and Questions for the Life of Jesus Reading Plan

2020 Reading Plan JPEG.jpg

The Life and Teachings of Jesus – Week 11 – March 16-20:

Monday – Matt. 7:7-11 (cf. Luke 11:9-13): When you pray, do you make your petitions with timidity as if you’re requesting something from a grudging giver or with impudence as if you’re requesting something from a generous giver? In our reading today, Jesus calls for us to approach the throne of our Father with boldness. Now, carte blanche approach to prayer taught by prosperity preachers is not supported from scripture. Perhaps it is wise to read the unqualified offer of vv. 7-8 against the backdrop of Matt. 6:11, 16-24, 25-34. But for all the necessary caution, there is a sense that Jesus invites not merely a resigned acceptance of what the Father gives, but a willingness to prayerfully explore the extent of His generosity. The point Jesus is making is not that human persistence wins out in the end, but that the heavenly Father who loves His children will certainly answer their prayer… if only they would ask, seek, and knock.

What encouragement does Jesus give those who ask, seek and knock? How can we be assured of these promises?

Tuesday – Matt. 7:12 (cf. Luke 6:31): “Therefore, whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” For ninety-one verses Jesus has been teaching us what He expects from His disciples. Yet, in one verse He summarizes His whole sermon, not to mention all of the Old Testament. In these few words, our Lord gives us a guide to how unselfish love should work itself out in our relationships with others. Our actions, He teaches, are not supposed to be dictated by the actions of others. If a person is mean to us, then we’re to be good to them because that’s how we want to be treated. The person who consistently lives according to this rule is totally excluding selfishness and replacing it with love and care for others. An ancient Jewish teaching stated in the negative, “What is hateful to you, do not do to anyone else.”

How does Jesus’ positive rule go beyond this command? In what ways would your life change if you followed Jesus’ teaching from this verse?

Wednesday – Matt. 7:13-14: The concluding section of the sermon is taken up with impressing upon hearers the difference between real and nominal discipleship. In four short warnings (vv. 13-14, 15-20, 21-23, and 24-27) Jesus calls for wholehearted commitment to Himself and the Father’s kingdom. To start, Jesus makes it clear that there are only two paths in life that are set before people; therefore it is important that the right choice be made. He presents a scene where a broad road leading to a splendid gate is obvious and easy to be seen, whereas a way that brings a traveler to the unimposing gate is inconspicuous and is perceived only by those who look for it carefully.  The first road “leads to destruction,” a fact that doesn’t alter its popularity. While the second road is “narrow” (or “difficult” NKJV) and few find the way “to life.” (We must not press “few” too hard, for elsewhere in Matthew Jesus speaks of “many” that are saved cf. 8:11; 20:28.) The contrast is stark and clear between the two roads in their character, popularity, and in their destination. Without using the words, this saying sets before us the alternatives of heaven or hell. Those are our only two choices, choose wisely.

In what sense is “the gate wide and the way easy” that leads to destruction? Conversely, in what sense is “the gate narrow and the way hard” for those who follow Jesus? Which road are you on?

Thursday – Matt. 7:15-20 (cf. Luke 6:43-45): The second warning focuses on the danger posed by false prophets, who are, by implication, contrasted with true prophets who may be trusted. How can followers of Jesus recognize false teachers? From their fruits; their fruits will in the end betray them. It is not outward appearance that is important (ravenous wolves may be dressed in sheep’s clothing) but the things that the false prophets teach and the manner of their life. For their teaching and lifestyle proceed from what they are in their hearts. The fruit is the test of the tree; if there is no good fruit, there is no good reason for the tree to exist. And the fruit is the test of one who claims to be a prophet (or in modern terms, preacher, pastor, etc.). “Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?” Jesus asks. Obviously not, if there is no fruit there, then there’s no good reason for the person to be treated as a prophet worthy of an audience.

List several “fruits” a false teacher would produce and several “fruits” a true teacher would produce.

Friday – Matt. 7:21-23 (cf. Luke 6:46): In the third warning, we’re confronted with a profoundly searching and disturbing scene for all professing disciples. Here we meet people who confess their allegiance to Jesus as “Lord” and who can back up that claim with impressive spiritual achievements, all carried out explicitly in the name of the Lord. Nevertheless, Jesus says to them, “I never knew you, depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness” (v. 23). Even good works by themselves are not enough. There are good people who claim to follow Jesus as “Lord” and who do good works, nonetheless they are on the broad way leading to destruction. Despite their good deeds, they were carried out by people who still lacked the relationship with Jesus which is the essential basis for belonging in the kingdom of heaven. While the words and actions may be good, their lives were lawless denying Him in their hearts. Since they didn’t really know Him, He didn’t know them.

In spite of their admirable statements or actions, why does Jesus condemn these people? Why do you think people so often confuse religious activity with knowing and doing the will of the Father?

When Nature Rages

When Nature Rages.jpg

We awoke Tuesday morning to the terrible news of the tornado outbreak that struck Nashville, Mt. Juliet, and Putnam County. In the middle of the night, as a front passed through the mid-state, perhaps the most terrifying of all storms, nocturnal tornadoes left a wide swath of destruction. As the week has pasted, our screens have been plastered with images of destroyed homes, business, and school. But we’ve also seen the number 25, a number that represents the total dead, yet cannot capture the totality of their lives. We’ve seen their pictures, we’ve heard their names and we’ve read their stories. While contractors can rebuild broken buildings, but broken hearts can only be healed by God.

It’s not uncommon in times such as these that people ask such questions as: Where was God? Why didn’t He save these people? Why did He let this happen? The sadness and heartache can even test the strongest of faiths. These are tough questions no doubt and they require faithful answers. That’s what we’ll do as we consider the topic When Nature Rages: A Biblical Perspective on Natural Disasters and the Christian’s Response.

  1. Three Foundational Facts about God and His Creation:
    • God is good (Mark 10.18)
    • He is creator (Genesis 1.1)
    • Therefore, our good God is in control of His creation
      • In response to Job and his friends God demonstrates His power and authority by highlighting His control over creation (Job 38-41).
      • Jesus holds the creation together because as God He controls the creation (Colossians 1.16-17).
  1. Examples and Reasons of Natural Disasters in the Bible:
    • The Flood – For Judgement (Genesis 6.17)
    • Famine, Drought, Blight, Pestilence – For Repentance (Amos 4.6-13)
    • Hail Storm – For Deliverance (Joshua 10.11)
    • Earth Quake – Death and Resurrection of Jesus (Matthew 27.51; 28.2)
    • Windstorm – Used by Satan to Tempt Job (Job 1.18-22)
    • Any disaster – Time and Chance (Ecclesiastes 9.11-12)
    • There are many more examples we could cite but these will suffice to show that there are many different reasons God has used or allowed natural disasters to occur.
  1. Why did God allow THIS disaster?
    • There are no easy answers or simple platitudes that will suffice to answer the question why did God allow THIS disaster happen.
    • Unlike the examples we just cited, we don’t have divine revelation as to the reason for this disaster.
    • Why did Josh, Erin and Sawyer Kimberlin die? Then a few doors down, why was little four year old Hatti Collins ripped from her parent’s arms? Then not far away from these deaths, how come the Grooms family survived, despite the fact they’re home was completely blown away. How does one make sense of this?
    • Eric Grooms said it this way, “God just put His hand down and said nope you’re not taking these today. I mean literally you take the floor and the house and leave the people. Nobody can do that but God. Nobody.” So true.
    • Even without clear answers as to who lives and who dies and the why behind a disaster, we still trust our God and worship Him just as Job did when tragedy befall him (Job 1.20-21).
    • In the end, no matter the reason for the disaster, God will show His glory through any tragedy (cf. John 9.1-3). David Begnaud, a reporter for CBS, said this, “There was a resilience that seemed to bond them [the people of Cookeville] together which was inspiring to me… Every single person I talked to mentioned God.” God is showing His glory.
  1. How should Christians response to natural disasters?
    • WEEP WITH THOSE WHO WEEP. It’s easy to become detached from the world around us, but God calls us to empathize with those who hurt (Romans 12.15; Hebrews 13.3).
    • HELP THOSE IN NEED. It’s also a time for us to help those who have lost so much. We certainly help the brethren (Acts 11.27-30) but our hearts must extend to all persons who need assistance (Galatians 6.10).
    • DRAW NEAR TO GOD. James 4:8 reminds us to, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” Disasters should lead us to draw closer to God.
      • Psalm 46.1-3 with hyperbolic language regarding natural disasters, the Psalmist calls for us to turn to God as our “refuge and strength.”
      • As with many disasters, some people live and some people die within close proximity to each other. No doubt God was with those who “miraculously” survived, but He was also with those who died in faith. He is the “refuge and strength” of the living and the dead.
      • Clint Pit said of his sister Erin and her family, “As terrible as it sounds they wouldn’t want to live without each other. They’re all together not and that’s all we can really ask for.” God was their refuge.
  1. CONSIDER OUR OWN SPIRITUAL STATE. Our lives our short. We appear for a while and then we vanish away (James 4.13-17).
    • In response to a political and structural disaster of His time, Jesus challenges us to look past the why a disaster happened to what our response should be (Luke 13.1-5).
    • Whether it’s a nocturnal tornado, or an earthquake, or a raging fire, or perhaps a car wreck, etc. our lives can, and are, upended in the blink of an eye. When tragedy strikes someone else, we must take stock of our own spiritual state because it could be us next.

Ever since sin entered the world, disasters have been a part of the human experience. We won’t always be able to make sense of why they happen but we can look to our good God for help to see us through. For He is “our refuge and strength a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear though the earth give way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling” (Psalm 46:1-3).


Week 10 Summaries and Questions for the Life of Jesus Reading Plan

2020 Reading Plan JPEG.jpg

In the first section of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught us that our righteousness must be greater than that of the Pharisees (they only obeyed the letter but not the heart of the Law) and greater also than that of the pagans. Now, in this week’s reading, Jesus draws the same two contracts regarding our religion. He teaches we shouldn’t be hypocritical like the Pharisees, nor mechanical or materialistic like the pagans. Remember, so long as you’re breathing it’s a good time to start The Life and Teachings of Jesus 2020 Reading Plan.

The Life and Teachings of Jesus – Week 10 – March 9-13:

Monday – Matt. 6:5-15: Just as in the case with almsgiving, there is a tendency for people to use their prayers as a means of impressing others with their piety. Prayer is to be communion with God, not a means of increasing one’s reputation in the manner of the “hypocrites” (vv. 5-6). Rather, Jesus calls on praying disciples to, “Go into your inner room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly” (v. 6). He further instructs believers to not pray in the manner of “Gentiles” heaping word upon word as a means to entice a reluctant God. Jesus turns this image of God as a grudging giver on its head, “Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him” (v. 8). Jesus’ example prayer (vv. 9-13) guides us to see God as the source of glory and supplier of our spiritual and physical needs. Lastly, our Lord supplies one bit of commentary on His prayer, in short He says, only the forgiving will be forgiven. In a way then, prayer is a transformative exercise that aligns the disciple’s heart to God.

In what ways do your prayers need to: align with Jesus’ instructions on how to pray (vv. 5-8), more closely resemble His model prayer (vv. 9-13), and a proper heart (vv. 14-15)?

Tuesday – Matt. 6:16-18: In his third, and last, example of the proper practice of piety, Jesus turns to the act of fasting. In biblical terms, fasting is never about health or weight loss, but rather it was about “afflicting” oneself before God to entreat His favor. As with almsgiving and prayer, it is assumed that disciples will fast; the issue is not whether to do it but how. In a culture where few now give serious attention to fasting as a religious discipline this assumption can cause surprise. Fasting is often mentioned in the Old Testament as a response to a distressing situation, whether by an individual or a group (2 Samuel 12:16-23; Daniel 9:3; Ezra 8:21-23; Jonah 3:5-9 to just name a few). Several fast days were prescribed for the people the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:29-31; 23:27-23) and later, during the exile, the fast established in memory of the destruction of Jerusalem (Zechariah 7:3-5; 8:19). It’s not until New Testament times that we read about the weekly fast of the Pharisees (Luke 9:14). However, their faux fast were not to draw the favor of God, but the favor of men (v. 16). The sort of fasting Jesus envisions here is presumably of choice, not routine. Whether individually, or in a group, for the disciple, during a fast everything is to be outwardly normal. Fasting like almsgiving and prayer, is to be between the believer and God.

Jesus’ instructions assume His followers will fast (for spiritual reasons, not health reasons), describe a time when you fasted. Why were you fasting? How did this spiritual discipline help you? If you’ve never fasted why not?

Wednesday – Matt. 6:19-24: Jesus’ words on money and treasure strike at the core of human selfishness, challenging both the well-to-do who have possessions to guard and the poor who wish they could acquire them. He challenges us with three truths: If disciples really trust God, they will live as if treasure in heaven is what matters most (vv. 16-21). Second, the person whose perspectives are distorted by materialism is blind to God’s truth (vv. 22-23). Lastly, one must love God or money; there is no middle ground (v. 24). Perhaps the greatest threat to Christians in America is not Islam, spiritualism, or atheism, but rather the all-pervasive materialism of our affluent society. Our Lord demands from His followers a wholehearted devotion to Him. Therefore, whatsoever tethers one’s heart to the earth should be released.

Why is it impossible to serve two masters? How does this principle connect with the Lord’s teaching on laying up “treasures on earth” verses laying up “treasure in heaven”?

Thursday – Matt. 6:25-34: In our last reading, Jesus has exhorted His disciples not to value earthly treasure of heavenly possessions (vv. 16-24). Now He goes one step further, He also exhorts us not to value possessions enough to worry about them (vv. 25-34). Christians must not agonize over seeking material gain, but should trust God’s power to provide our needs. If God cares for the birds, lilies, or grass, how much more for people created in His image and for His blessed children? Anxiety will not add even a single hour to one’s life (or cubit to one’s stature as some translations read). Indeed, worry does just the opposite; it shortens life. Yet when Jesus forbids His disciples from worrying about tomorrow this does not suggest that He expects us to ignore whatever concerns arise. Rather, He expects us to express dependence on God in each of these concerns, praying for our needs (ref. Matthew 6:11). The pagans, Jesus says, seek after the necessities of life in a worried pace. In contrast, the believer seeks God’s agenda instead, fully trusting He will provide.

From your perspective, how will the crucial choices we make between serving God or money (Matthew 6:24) affect our ability to live free from worry?

Friday – Matt. 7:1-6 (cf. Luke 6:37-42): Moving from materialism, Jesus addresses interpersonal relationships. “Judge not, that you be not judged” (v. 1). Judging others assumes a divine prerogative. The final judgment belongs to God alone, and those who seek to judge others usurp God’s position. Nevertheless, Jesus is not opposed to offering correction, but only offering correction in a judgmental attitude, “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” (v. 3). Consider the absurdity of walking around with a thick beam protruding from one’s eye, totally ignorant of one’s grotesque state. In spiritual terms, one must first pluck out any impediments to their own sight before they can see well enough to help others remove the source of their blindness. However, even when one is right, one should not impose the truth on others against their will (v. 6).

How does vv. 3-5 help define the kind of “judging” Jesus is talking about in vv. 1-2?

The #1 Reason Not To Sin

The 1 Reason Not To Sin.jpg

What motivates you to not give into temptation? I realize, depending on the situation several different reasons might be cited. For example, an unhappily-married couple facing the temptation of divorce might stay together for the sake of the kids. Or, an employee may not steal because he or she is afraid of getting caught. Or, a person might not give into sin because they want to sleep well at night.

These reasons are all well and good, however, there is one fatal flaw they all share… the motivation for not sinning is temporal consequences and relationships. The couple is staying together for the kid’s sake, what holds the marriage together when the kids move out? When the employee figures out how not to get caught, what will keep him or her from stealing? When a person learns how to cope with guilt and shame so they can sleep at night, what’ll stop them from sinning? In short, so long as our reasons for not sinning are solely based on our ever-changing consequences and/or relationships, we will yield to temptation and sin.

There has to be a better way in fighting the battle against sin. There is and it’s the #1 reason not to sin… God. To learn this lesson, let’s start with the story of Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife from Genesis 39.1-20.

    • His Position of Trust (v. 8) – Joseph wasn’t going to betray the high position of trust Potiphar had given him.
    • His Master and Mistress (v. 9a) – While Joseph was a powerful member of the household he still respected his master’s and mistress’ authority in the house.
    • His God (v. 9b) – Most importantly, Joseph wouldn’t sin against his God.
    • This is not to suggest we should ignore the importance of circumstances or personal relationships when facing temptations.
    • Joseph uses them both to resist temptation (Genesis 39.8-9a)
    • Jesus teaches us what to do when someone sins against us individually (Matthew 18.15-17)
    • But to solely see sin in circumstantial or person-to-person terms decreases our motivation to fight temptation.
    • Our problem with fighting sin is that we’re self-centered. We resist sin simply because we don’t like its consequences, or because we’re ashamed of the stigma attached to it. These are inadequate reasons. We’re called to be God-centered in everything, especially in how we view sin. Realizing that all sin is sin against God brings focus and purpose to our resisting temptation.
    • The Bible consistently presents sin as a person-to-God offence.
    • God kept Abimelech from sinning against Him (Genesis 20.6)
    • David says he sinned against God alone (Psalm 51.4)
    • He who oppress the poor sins against God (Proverbs 14.31)
    • Ananias and Sapphira lied to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5.3)
    • We’ve all sinned against God (Romans 8:23)
    • REFUTE THE LIE: IT’S NOT A SIN IF NO ONE IS KNOWS OR GETS HURT. David’s sin is the classic example. It appears it was going to be “secret” affair but snowballed (2 Samuel 12.12). Sin is never secret God knows.
    • GIVE US THE PROPER MOTIVATION TO FIGHT TEMPTATION. As mentioned temporal circumstances and relationships maybe useful but aren’t the best defenses against temptation. The Hebrew writer (Hebrew 10.26-31) gives us a healthy reminder of who we’re really sinning against and the consequences.
    • DEMONSTRATES THE TRANSFORMING POWER OF THE GOSPEL. Why do we show grace, and mercy, and love and forgiveness to others? Because Jesus Christ has shown us grace, mercy, love and forgiveness, despite the fact we have sinned against Him (Colossians 3:12-17). Without a God-centered view of sin, there’s no God-centered gospel to truly transform the sinner.

So, if we want to overcome temptation, then we have to see our relationship with our God as the #1 reason not to sin. He has saved us and thus calls for us as His children to live lives of holiness before Him (1 Peter 1.15-16). It won’t always be easy. Joseph does the right thing (because he’s thinking the right thoughts), he maintains his moral high standard and resists temptation. Yet, as a result of his righteous behavior, he’s framed and thrown into prison (Genesis 39.20). Making a stand for what is right is going to be tough, but it’s a fight we must win through Christ Jesus because our souls are at stake. Therefore, may our prayer echo that of the Psalmist, “Lord may we store up Your words in our heart, that we might not sin against You” (ref. Psalm 119.11).

Check out my other sites:

Jackson Heights Church of Christ – www.thebibleway.org

My Other Website: www.simplesermonoutlines.com