Be on Guard!

Mark 13

Thursday, August 4, 2022

   In comparison to the previous several chapters, Mark chapter 13 takes a rapid shift into a different topic. Recently Jesus has been responding to the trickery of the Sadducees and corrupt chiefs and priests, but as he and the disciples leave Jerusalem, he begins to speak on the nature of the end of times. Other than the fact that several of the disciples specifically questioned Jesus on the matter privately, I am assuming that this is sparking the point at which Jesus is coming to some sort of terms with what is about to happen. He has been warning the disciples of his death in somewhat cryptic manners, but I would imagine that seeing the state of the city and the leaders who were about to crucify him only made him feel worse.

               Now of course, as is always the case, it is important to be able to read the Bible with discernment between literal and poetic/prophetic verse. Interpret with great caution for yourself what makes the most sense in the context of what is being said, so that we don’t confuse literal for metaphor or vice versa. For this reason, I will go through some of what Jesus is about to say and without completely putting a definitive interpretation to it, as much as I can (as is so difficult to do with revelational scripture), I will provide objective fruit for thought that is applicable regardless of your interpretation.

               Alright, Jesus begins answering four of the disciples’ questions on what will happen at the end of days, when the stones and buildings will be thrown down. Jesus starts explaining the things that will happen, presumably in order although that is not clarified here, in detail. He first says, “Watch out that no one deceives you. Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many.” Mark 13:5-6. Already he explains that false prophets will come claiming to be the Messiah, and that we are not to believe them. This is the main delineating difference between Christians and the Jewish beliefs; they still await a Messiah. This first point is fairly simple; we must be careful that we do not accept or invite another Messiah, for the one and only has already come. Let’s continue.

               “When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.” Mark 13:7-8. Is this not incredibly applicable with what’s going on in the world right now? The news, 24/7, is pumping us with the prospect of potential growing war as the war in Europe is expanding and tensions between America and China heighten day after day. Increased frequency of earthquakes and constant food shortages around the world as farmers are told to stop planting their farms… But remember, “Do not be alarmed.” Have we not already won the war? Our battle is not in the flesh but for the salvation of our souls. The world will always be a bad place, as it is destined to be, but we aren’t put here to worry and cower in fear.

               The passage continues with, “You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.” Mark 13:9-10. This is a tale as old as time, but ever more important to be prepared for as rights and freedoms around the world are being slowly and quietly removed or revoked in the heat of terror. Not only that, but believers will be brought forward within the church to be punished for the truth. We’ll be thrown in jail and persecuted for his sake. But again, we are told not to worry. What better cause is there to not worry about ridicule than the unquestionable word of God and truth? We have won the war with God on our side, have no fear in the face of adversity.

               But what should we do in light of these things? Sure, we can say that we should have no fear, but it’s much easier said than done when facing the edge of tyranny’s sword against faith that is coming. Let’s continue reading to find out. “Therefore, keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’” Mark 13:35-37. Be prepared! Fortify your heart and soul with the truth of the word and watch for the second coming of Christ! Don’t wait until tomorrow to finally start that Bible reading plan, or tell your family you love them, or volunteer to work at that homeless shelter. We know not when Jesus is coming back, so we must be prepared at all times for when he does.

               Remember, “All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.” Mark 13:13. Our battle is already won, in the face of all worldly adversity, so be prepared for his coming.

-Mason Kiel

Application Questions

  1. How many times in Mark 13 does Jesus warn to watch, watch out or be on guard (or whatever terms your translation uses)?
  2. Why is this important to Jesus? Is it important to you?
  3. What will it look like for you to be diligently watching for the owner of the house to return?
  4. Do you sometimes find yourself worried about the condition of the world or the end times events? What would Jesus say? What can we do to overcome these fears?

This one is tricky, sort of.

Matthew 22

January 22

Like the parable of the tenants from the previous chapter, the parable of the wedding banquet illustrates how God has and continues to call out to His people. Yet time after time they reject Him with many of His prophets dying at the hands of the Israelites. This is a bit of foreshadowing on Jesus’ part as the Jewish leaders would soon call for his death.

Although Jesus was speaking to the people of his own day and their situations, verses 11-14 could just as easily be directed at our current age. A fine dining restaurant today will provide the loan of a suit jacket during the meal and the king would have provided the loan of the required garments for his banquet. The man not accepting the clothes and refusing to answer the king are deliberate acts. Here we see, in parable form, a man standing boldly defiant before God. How often do we see people doing this same thing today?

As difficult as that is, what we find after the parable is where it gets really tricky, or rather where they get tricky. The Jewish leaders were constantly trying to trip up Jesus, to find some flaw or inconsistency in what he taught. Naturally, they failed every time.

A major issue that they had with Jesus as the Messiah and why they did not accept him as such goes back to their expectations. The Messiah was supposed to be this mighty king who would save them all from the oppression of the worldly rulers. They expected a return to the earthly kingdom of Israel while God’s plan for Jesus was to establish His heavenly kingdom here on earth.

Their question about paying taxes was a challenge to his supposed authority. It was kind of a, “If you are the king then we should be able to tell Caesar to take a hike.” How Jesus responded was probably the last thing they expected. It says that they were “amazed” and we might think, “Wow!” but it is just as likely that it was a disbelief, shaking of their head as they walked away.

There are a number of Scriptures that tell us that God sets each ruler in place for His purposes. Jesus makes clear that we give to the worldly rulers what is due to them – the material things that are of the world and will decay and be gone. He then says to give to, “God what is God’s.” What is God’s? Everything! Specifically? Our love, adoration, praise, worship, attention, focus, our faith, our very life. These things, what is God’s, will endure. These things matter.

Then a group that did not believe in resurrection tried to trick Jesus concerning marriage. It says that they were astonished by his answer. I think about them standing completely speechless with their mouths hanging open. What really prompted that reaction was his description of God, quoting from Exodus 3:6, “I am the God…” and the revelation that “He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” By adding that Jesus reminded them that God did not speak in past tense but in the present. He did not say, “I was.” This points to the resurrection, to new life.

The rivals to this group were probably very pleased to see them stupefied and stepped in with their own question. “Which is the greatest commandment?” Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy and Leviticus to beautifully sum up all of the Law. “Love the Lord your God” – the first four of the Ten Commandments are about our relationship with God. “Love you neighbor” the remaining six commandments are about our relationship with one another.

Each time they tried to trick Jesus, they failed. Jesus responds to every inquiry and deception with Scripture and they are said to be astonished, amazed, and in awe. Then it is Jesus’ turn. He asks whose son the Messiah is. Knowing that the Messiah would come from the line of David it is a no-brainer to say David. Jesus then reminds them of Psalm 110:1, “The LORD said to my Lord.” LORD is God – Yahweh who is speaking to David’s Lord, or one greater than David and not his son. This points to Jesus as the Son of God which shuts their mouths once and for all, “No one dared to ask him any more questions.”

Trickery is the weapon of the devil. It is used to cause doubts to rise. Trickery makes us question what we know and believe. We are bombarded constantly with misinformation and attempts to shift reality to fit feelings and desire. Jesus faced these same challenges and responded confidently with the truth contained in the Word of God. I pray that we all follow his example.

-Jeff Ransom

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. The best way to avoid bad situations is knowing how to recognize them. What subtle ways do you see people, corporations, etc. standing defiantly before God? The ungodly may use what points to God to deceive people. What evidence of this have you seen?
  2. Remember that God places all authorities in place; from our parents, teachers, supervisors, politicians, etc. What are some things that we ought to give back to these authorities? I already mentioned what is God’s but what does that look like in your own life?
  3. The truth in God’s Word, as I mentioned, is vital to staying true to God and not being deceived. What are some other ways that you can be prepared to defend against the trickery of the world? And remember to always temper your discernment with love.

A Mountain Top Experience

Matthew 17

January 17

When I was growing up our youth group would take a hiking trip up a mountain in the fall each year. The owner of the mountain was a member of our church so we were the only ones there. When we reached the top we would take in the views and have a picnic. I also remember our descent (which was so much easier and faster than our hike to the top). 

That experience reminds me of our reading today. Just imagine what was going through the minds of Peter, James and John as they came down the mountain with Jesus after witnessing the transfiguration.

Jesus had told them six days earlier that some standing there would not taste death before they saw the Son of Man coming in his kingdom. The experience of the transfiguration accomplished that.

On that mountain, Jesus was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. There appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. 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!”

What an amazing confirmation that Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah. The appearance of Moses representing the Law, Elijah representing the Prophets and God’s voice confirming that Jesus is the beloved Son of God. God confirmed that Jesus’ message is true and should be heard and followed.  

The disciples were terrified and fell facedown. 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.”

Christ later explains that he will be killed and on the third day he will be raised to life. These men were about to experience the horrific trial of their lifetimes. Just hearing that it was going to happen filled them with grief, but they had also witnessed Jesus Christ as he will be when He is “Coming in His Kingdom.” This life may throw some awful situations at us. Just like the disciples, we need to remember who Jesus Christ truly is. No matter what is happening in our world, we must Keep Seeking, Keep Growing and Keep Loving God and Others. Remember that with our very own eyes we will “see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom”. 

-Rebecca Dauksas

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. The Transfiguration allowed Peter, James and John to experience a bit of what it will be like to, “see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom”. (Matthew 16:28) How do you think they felt during and after this event? How might it have changed or added to their understanding of who Jesus is and what will take place? Do you think seeing what they saw will change their actions, is so how?
  2. Jesus told Peter, James and John to not tell anyone what they had seen until what event took place? Why do you think, were they to keep the secret of the Transfiguration at first? Why do you think, were they free (and expected) to share it later?
  3. The Bible contains many descriptions of the return of Christ and the Kingdom of God it will initiate, most notably Revelation 19-22. What are you most looking forward to seeing and experiencing? What do you feel when you read about or talk about the coming Kingdom? What parts are hardest for you to imagine and picture in your mind or describe to others? How might knowing what you know about the Kingdom affect your actions?
  4. Matthew 17 includes the beautiful mountaintop experience and also the revealing of a very difficult “valley” experience to come – the betrayal and death of Jesus – followed by another mountaintop- the resurrection of Jesus three days after his death. What are some spiritual mountaintop and valley experiences you have faced? What benefit could be found in each?

Fulfilled

Matthew 2

January 2

While I am greatly looking forward to this year’s reading plan, I must say I am a little sad knowing we won’t be in the Old Testament everyday as we were last year. There is a LOT of good stuff in the Old Testament! Thankfully, even our New Testament readings will often take us back to the foundations laid in the Old Testament. My NIV Study Bible notes say that Matthew quotes from various Old Testament authors at least 47 times throughout his book of 28 chapters. He obviously knew his Scriptures well and saw great value in them. Matthew, inspired by God, would use these Old Testament passages wisely to show the connections from the plans God set into motion while working with the patriachs, kings and His chosen people, the Jews in the Old Testament to the birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension, and coming return of God’s Son the Messiah/Christ/Anointed One/Jesus! It is great fun reading through the Old Testament to find the clues leading to Jesus, and in the New Testament finding the prophecies fulfilled which had been spoken centuries before, pointing all generations and all peoples to this one-of-a-kind king that would show us God’s heart and purpose and plan like it had never been revealed before.

Two weeks ago the children and youth of our church performed a play called “Long Foretold”. It is a Christmas play from the Answers in Genesis organization which included not just the nativity but also many of the prophecies that would begin to see fulfillment with the birth of Jesus. The seed of woman that would crush the head of the serpent (Genesis 3:14-15). All nations shall be blessed through Abraham (Genesis 18:17-18). A child would come (Isaiah 9:6) – born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:13-14). A ruler would come from Bethlehem (Micah 5:2-5), from the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:8-10), from the line of David (Isaiah 9:7). Kings from afar will bring gifts and worship (Psalm 72:10-11). Foretold in the Old Testament. Fulfilled in the New Testament. The Scriptures are all about Jesus who is God’s Son and God’s ultimate plan of redemption. God’s Scriptures are perfect in revealing this plan.

But what happens when traditions take over and God’s word is replaced bit by bit with human ideas and misconceptions. Errors occur. Then we get three kings bowing at the manger next to the shepherds. But what does Matthew 2 -the only Biblical account of the magi – say? It does not record how many magi had traveled from the east – only that they brought three gifts. We only know it was more than one but it could have been four, five or a much larger group of magi or wise men, never referred to as kings. We know that these learned men from the East (possibly Persia) saw a new star in the sky and recognized it as a sign that a new king of the Jews was born. They had heard amazing things about this king and wanted to worship and bring gifts and see him for themselves. So they traveled to Jerusalem, straight to the king’s palace, a likely place to find a child king. But King Herod the Great had heard no such news and was in no mood to welcome a child who would take his place. He wants more information so he calls in Jerusalem’s own “wise men” – the chief priests and teachers of the law. They are very familiar with the Scriptures and reveal that the long-awaited Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem, a small town near Jerusalem. The magi’s journey continues and now they follow the star directly to the HOUSE and find the CHILD (not the baby in the manger).

While we aren’t told, it is interesting to think about where the wise men from a far away country to the east of Israel would have received this information that a star would signal the birth of a Jewish king that would be like no other. In the play “Long Foretold”, as well as many other sources, a possible link is explored between these wise men from the east and Daniel, the devout Jewish exile who was elevated to the role of lead prefect of the wise men of Babylon (also in the East) about 550 years before the birth of Christ. We know Daniel was faithful in serving and speaking for his God even in a foreign pagan country so it makes sense that he would have passed along Jewish knowledge to the wise men under him. We know Daniel prophesied about the coming Messiah. And we know that SOME information God gave him was to be sealed up and saved for a future time. Perhaps this was information saved for the generation of wise men that would see the star and travel to Jerusalem to welcome the Jewish child king. Perhaps there is yet more information sealed up awaiting the generation of wise men (and women) who will be on earth to welcome the return of this same king with a trumpet blast. Get all of the accurate information you can and act on it! You don’t want to be unprepared when the King comes into town.

-Marcia Railton

Reflection and Discussion Questions -pick and choose
  • How many times in Matthew 2 does Matthew quote or refer to what the prophets had said? What do you think he is trying to tell his readers? As we go through the book of Matthew this month take note of all the times he writes about the prophets and the Old Testament. Can you find at least 47?
  • Do a little research on King Herod the Great. Who was he? What motivated him? What is he known for? His death is recorded in Matthew 2:19, thus making it safe for Mary, Joseph and Jesus to exit out of Egypt and return to the land of Israel (sound familiar from anything in the Old Testament)? What members of Herod’s family will we see later in Matthew?
  • We are not told a lot of information about the magi. But from their actions, what can we learn about them? What characteristics found in the wise men would we be wise for us to work on today?
  • Look up or create your own list of Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah and New Testament fulfillments of these prophecies. You can even create a matching game for family devotions or your small group. Why is it important to see the Old Testament connection? Are there some prophecies of Jesus not yet fulfilled? How does that make you feel?

Coming with the Clouds of Heaven

Daniel 7

     Some words can get you in trouble.  Some words can get you beat up.  Others, in the right situation, can even get you killed!  You might be surprised to know that merely quoting some words from Daniel chapter 7 once got someone killed. How?  When?  It was only a few hours before Jesus’ death on the cross.  Jesus was being examined before the high priest.  They were attempting to find some guilt in Jesus.  They wanted a reason to condemn Him.  Finally, in Matthew 26:63, the high priest demanded of Jesus, “…tell us whether you are the Christ, the Son of God…”  Jesus answered, “…you have said it yourself; nevertheless, I tell you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power and coming on the clouds of heaven….”  Essentially, Jesus confirmed that He was the long-awaited Messiah, the Son of Man described in the book of Daniel chapter 7.  As a result of this confession, the high priest concluded in Matthew 26:66, “He deserves death!”  So, as I said, the words of Daniel 7 can get you in trouble.  For the words of Daniel 7 are still revolutionary and they still challenge the current world order.  They are dangerous and threatening words for those who would defy the will of God.

     Jesus, as He appeared before the high priest, quoted in part from Daniel 7:13: “….and behold with the clouds of heaven one like a Son of Man was coming…..”  Daniel 7:14 continues to describe the Son of Man, “…and to Him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve Him.  His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed.”   The early Christians thought this was an important verse.  It was directly quoted or referenced several times in the New Testament (Revelation 1:7, Matthew 24:30).  Even before the birth of Jesus, Daniel 7 was thought to be a prophecy of the coming Messiah.   Jesus even used the term “Son of Man” to speak about Himself throughout the Gospels.  Daniel chapter 7 describes a series of empires that will rise and fall.  Some of what Daniel described is now history for us.  However, there is yet to arise another terrifying empire in the time of the end.  This is the empire which the Son of Man will vanquish at His second coming in glory.  Even the mightiest of empires will fail, but the kingdom of God and of His Messiah will stand forever.  

As we enter this Advent season, we see Daniel 7 as evidence that God keeps His promises.  Jesus was born.  He lived.  He taught us the good word of God.  He died for our sins.  He was raised to immortality.  He sits at God’s right hand. He is coming again to reward those who believe in Him and to punish the wicked.

-Scott Deane

Today’s Bible reading plan passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Daniel 7 & 8 and Psalm 145-147

The United States of Gomorrah

Jeremiah 23-24 and Hebrews 3

After all of the doom and gloom we’ve read so far in Jeremiah, in 23: 5-6 we read a promise of the coming messiah,  “The days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land.  In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety.  This is the name by which he will be called:  The Lord our Righteousness.”

This is clearly a promise of Jesus, the heir to David’s throne.  Notice in particular the name attributed to the messiah here, “The Lord our Righteousness.”  This was especially important because the people of Judah were wicked.  They needed some external righteousness, because they weren’t righteous themselves.

In fact, in Jeremiah 23: 14 we read, “And among the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen something horrible.  They commit adultery and live a lie.  They strengthen the hands of evildoers so that no one turns from his wickedness.  They are all like Sodom to me, the people of Jerusalem are like Gamorrah.”

The very people who were supposed to be the most righteous, and who were supposed to be pointing others to God, were living a lie.  I don’t know if the adultery was physical adultery or spiritual adultery, but either way, they weren’t living the Godly lives they tried to portray.  They were living a lie.  We would call them hypocrites.  And not only that, they were promoting sin in the land so that the people were as bad as Gomorrah in God’s eyes.

When I look around at churches in our country, I see whole denominations who claim to be Christian, actively promoting wickedness.  As I look at our country as a whole, I can’t help but see many parallels to Judah in Jeremiah’s day.  We seem to be the United States of Gomorrah.  In fact, our wickedness is getting so bad that it seems like God either has to punish our nation or He will need to apologize to Judah for punishing them.  Because it seems like we are just as bad.

Today’s reading in Hebrews ties right in.  In Hebrews 3:12-13, we read, “See to it brothers that none of you has a sinful unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.  But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”

Hebrews 3 goes on to give the example of the Israelites whom Moses led out of Egypt.  When they rebelled against God, their bodies were strewn across the desert.  (They couldn’t rest on their laurels.)

And this brings us to our application for today.  

Fortunately, we aren’t justified before God because of our own righteousness – because we could never measure up on our own.  It is by grace we are saved, through faith.  Faith in “The Lord, our Righteousness.”  And that faith will produce works.

Just like Jeremiah was grieved by the sin that surrounded him, if we are in tune with God, we will be grieved by the sin that surrounds us.  It is imperative that we turn wholeheartedly to God.  And it is critical that we don’t turn away.  And because we are surrounded by such wickedness, we must actively encourage fellow believers to seek God wholeheartedly too.  And if we have lived a God-centered life so far, we can’t rest on our laurels.

“Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts…”

-Steve Mattison

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Jeremiah 23-24 and Hebrews 3

What will it take for you to believe?

John 7

In John chapter 7 you find an interesting story about Jesus’ brothers who question his authority. Jesus’ brothers try to get Jesus to go up to Jerusalem, so that the miraculous works that he had been doing ( 2:1–11; 4:46–54; 5:2–12; 6:4–14, 19, 21) would be more visible: “No man works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” His brothers are very excited that Jesus can do such wonders as heal the sick and turn water into wine and feed 5,000 people; so they want him to get on with the business of showing himself to the world. In one sense Jesus’ brothers have a lot of confidence in Jesus: they really believe he can do miracles. They have seen him. Verse 5, then, is a shock: John says that the reason they urged Jesus on in his miraculous demonstration of power was “because even his brothers did not believe in him.” You can believe Jesus is a great miracle worker and yet still lack the faith Jesus wanted. His miracle-working is insufficient for saving faith.

Are we sometimes like Jesus’ brothers? Taking bits and pieces of Jesus but not fully believing everything he has done. Maybe believing he is a great teacher, but not accepting him as our savior. Maybe we believe that he did those miracles all those years ago, but he could never do a miracle for you today. What will it take for you to believe? Read John chapter 7 and Judges chapters 7&8 and try to find the principles for true belief. The goal is to have saving faith and believing fully in Jesus Christ in everything.  Jesus says in John chapter 7:37-38, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. The one who believes in me, as the Scriptures said, will have streams of living water flow from deep within him.”

Do you believe this? Make it your prayer today.

-Andy Cisneros

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Judges 7-8 and John 7

Funhouse Mirrors

Luke 23:1-25

Have you ever looked at yourself through the mirrors in a funhouse? Maybe they made your legs appear shorter or your figure much rounder. Of course, just because the mirror makes you look one way doesn’t mean that you actually look like that. Sometimes people seem to see us through funhouse mirrors; they get a distorted image of who we actually are. 

Jesus, too, was often seen through funhouse mirrors. Many people perceived him to be a traitor and criminal. Yet, standing in front of the mirror was actually the begotten Son of God, the promised Messiah. 

After Jesus’s arrest, he stood before government and religious officers, as was customary. Jesus was beaten by the guards, accused by the leaders, and ridiculed by the crowds. It’s a disgustingly difficult chapter to read because of the undeserved nastiness towards Jesus.  

So Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

“You have said so,” Jesus replied. (Luke 23:3)

Jesus didn’t deny Pilate’s allegations. If I were Jesus, I would probably burst into tears shouting, “It’s not fair!” After all, he had never sinned, nonetheless committed a crime worthy of death on a cross. Yet, he continued to refrain from defending himself. 

He (Herod) plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer. (Luke 23:9)

Jesus’ goal wasn’t to appease man but to please God. God already saw the real Jesus, the one standing in front of the mirror. Let us learn from Jesus’ example: You don’t have to get the last word. It’s okay to be misunderstood. There’s no need to get even. You have nothing to prove. 

Because God sees you—the real you. 

I’m an open book to you; even from a distance, you know what I’m thinking. You know when I leave and when I get back; I’m never out of your sight. You know everything I’m going to say before I start the first sentence. I look behind me and you’re there, then up ahead and you’re there, too—your reassuring presence, coming and going. This is too much, too wonderful—I can’t take it all in! (Psalm 139 from The Message)

-Mackenzie McClain

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGatewayDeuteronomy 31-32 and Luke 23:1-25

Don’t Be Deceived

Matthew 24

Today’s devotion comes from Matthew’s account of what you read in Mark 13 yesterday. In the twenty fourth and twenty fifth verse Jesus says “For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. Behold, I have told you in advance”. 

There is a huge difference between a good tested quality product and a cheap knockoff version. The same is with Christ but even more so. Jesus warns his disciples and us that there will be people who claim to be God’s real messiah and savior. Jesus is telling all of us don’t be fooled. I want to highlight 2 aspects of Jesus’ warning.

The first is notice the plurality of “Christs” and “prophets”. There have been and will be multiple people who seek to deceive people and other Christians. This had a very real meaning to the first century church. Before the time of Jesus and after him there were multiple Jewish men who claimed to be God’s real messiah. And even in our time there have been many who have claimed to be God’s special prophet or savior. 

The second aspect of this warning I want to highlight is that Jesus says that signs and wonders will accompany these false prophets and Christs. It’s easy to dismiss someone as crazy if they claim to be a prophet or Christ but what if miraculous events accompany their claims? What are we supposed to think!? Remember that there is a supernatural enemy that opposes God, Jesus, and Christians. For every miracle God performs a counterfeit miracle can be performed by Satan and spiritual darkness. An example of this can be found in Exodus 7.8-13. There must be other factors we must take into consideration such as – does what the person say align with scripture? Is God glorified? 

Though we probably will not encounter someone who will say, “Follow me, I’m the savior of the world” it doesn’t mean that there aren’t false teachers who teach false doctrine. We must always be critical of the teaching that we allow into our lives. Remember to test EVERYTHING against the scriptures. Whether it comes from your friends, your pastor, or even your parents. The best way to avoid deception is a two step process: one, know what the scriptures teach, and two, test everything against the scriptures. If it conforms with scripture receive it. If it doesn’t conform with scripture, reject it. 

-Jacob Rohrer

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Matthew 24

Tomorrow we will read Matthew 25

The Birth of the Messiah

Matthew 1 and Luke 2:1-38

The coming of the Messiah is one of the greatest desires of pious Jewish people. The desire for the Messiah to come is encapsulated in modern times by a statement of the 12th century Jewish teacher, Moses ben Maimon (Rambam): “I believe in perfect faith in the coming of the Messiah”. By the promise of God, the Messiah would be a descendant of King David.

Two Gospels, Matthew and Luke, record the birth of the Messiah (in Greek translation, “Christ”). As we saw in Luke 1, the birth of Messiah was proceeded by a visit from the angel Gabriel to a Jewish maiden, Mary (Miriam in Hebrew) in the Galilean town of Nazareth. Gabriel announced to Mary that her child would be the one to inherit the throne of David. Like Solomon, he would be called the Son of God. After the child was born, Mary was to name him Jesus, which is in Hebrew, Yeshua or Joshua, which means “Yahweh saves”.

The child was given this name on the day of his circumcision, the eighth day after his birth. The name Jesus is the name of the human being, the “man Christ Jesus”. “Jesus” is never the name of a pre-human divine being.

Matthew begins his Gospel by describing the genealogy, or in Greek the genesis or beginning or origin of Jesus the Messiah. Matthew traces Jesus’s origin especially to David and Abraham.

God had promised to Abraham that he would have many descendants, and that his descendants would inherit the Land of Canaan, that kings would come from him, and that he and his descendant(s) would be a blessing to all peoples on earth. God’s plan of redemption for the world was to come through a physical descendant of Abraham.

Some 800 years after Abraham, and 1000 years before Jesus was born, God chose a descendant of Abraham, David, and established the only perpetual divinely ordained monarchy on earth. God promised that one of David’s descendants would rule forever over God’s ordained monarchy. The genealogy of Jesus as recorded in Matthew’s Gospel declares that Jesus is descendent of Abraham and David in whom God fulfills His promise.

The birth of the Messiah Jesus was accompanied with miraculous signs that were evidence that Jesus is indeed the Messiah of God. Somewhat parallel to the first man Adam, who had no earthly father but whom God formed from the dust, the “second Adam” Jesus was formed by direct divine activity. Angelic beings appeared both before and after Jesus’s birth, to announce the coming of this divinely appointed human king.

Jesus’ mother came to the temple 40 days after Jesus’ birth for purification according to the Law of Moses (Luke 2:22, Lev. 12:2-6). His parents brought the baby Jesus along. There was a righteous man in Jerusalem, Simeon, to whom God revealed that he “would not see death until he had seen the LORD’s Messiah. Simeon took Jesus up in his arms and uttered a blessing and praise. He knew the child Jesus was the fulfillment of God’s promise to both Abraham and David:

“A light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel” (Luke 2:32).

-Bill Schlegel

Bill Schlegel is the author of the Satellite Bible Atlas and general editor of the One God Report podcast.

Bethlehem in Judah

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Matthew 1 & Luke 2:1-38

Tomorrow we will read the rest of Luke 2 and Matthew 2 as we SeekGrowLove and follow along on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan. Print your own copy, read along and finish out the year 2020 strong!

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