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Mark 16; Luke 1

“The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.’” Luke 1:35-37 (NIV)

“Tonight’s Gonna Be a Good Night.”

It’s my girlfriend’s birthday tonight. For those of us time-worn and bleary-eyed moms awash in runny noses and a ubiquity of primary-colored cartoon characters, a night out with girlfriends has set off a hum of anticipation that’s precipitated no fewer than six emails between us today. We are geared up, keyed up, ready for what’s to come. We can feel it: tonight’s gonna be a good night.

This, to me, is how the beginning of Luke feels. Like no other Gospel author, Luke sets his telling of the events of Christ’s appearance against the roll of a literary timpani. A righteous priest and a terrified teenager are told they will be parents. Yet one is well beyond child bearing age. The other is a virgin. But there’s nothing like a story set against impossible odds to coax us to the edge of our seats.

The entire first chapter of Luke is full of surprises. This is a part of God’s nature that I love the best – the part that delights in catching us unaware, in showing us how very wonderful His plans for us can be. Here in Luke, Elizabeth’s unborn child recognizes the unborn Savior in his presence. A mute priest finally speaks. A virgin girl receives a message from the Most High and conceives the King of Kings. The neighbors are “filled with awe” (Luke 1:65). For truly, nothing is impossible with God. And the knowledge of His often-surprising power, the ultimate certainty of all His plans reminds us of how good things with Him will always be.

Lord, let me live every day with the excitement that comes from knowing you are near me. Make my life a reflection of your exhilarating designs and wonderful constructs.  Each hour of my life unfolds to reveal yet another step in the surprising and delightful path you’ve marked out for me – your most humble servant (Luke 1:48). It’s gonna be a good life.  Amen.

Sarah

From the archives. Originally published October 20, 2009.

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Mark 6-7

The Struggle of Discipleship.

  • Mark 6:7-12 Jesus sends out the disciples, He gives them authority over unclean spirits; they cast out demons and heal people. If I was given this ‘authority’ and it worked, I’d be sold!
  • Mark 6:14-29 John the Baptist loses his head at the whim of a contentious women and a weak man. If I had to bury the headless corpse of this zealous follower of Christ, I’d begin to doubt. Is it true? Is it worth it?
  • Mark 6:13-56 Jesus feeds a lot of folks with just a few fish and loaves and then follows it up with a stroll on the water. After witnessing the miraculous feeding you’d think I’d be sold! But when I see Jesus walking on water I’m frightened. There is something in me that sees and believes. There is also something in me that does not see clearly enough, is frightened and doubtful.

“I believe, Lord help my unbelief!” the prayer of the saved who are honest about their struggle in following Christ in Discipleship.

What really matters?

  • Mark 7:1-23 The Pharisees were in many ways good, religiously observant Jews. In fact, they were too good at keeping the letter of the Law while sacrificing the Spirit of the Law. Jesus shifts the focus to the heart, our heart. It is not what we do, but why we do it. Our motivation and our thoughts that drive our words and our actions reveal who we are. Who am I? One in desperate need of a Savior, in fact so needy, I’ll willingly eat the crumbs of salvation from under the table of Jehovah God. (Mark 7:24-30)
  • Mark 7:31-37 A deaf man is healed by Jesus. The people are, “astonished beyond measure.” Jesus charges them to “tell no one” – they tell everyone! No one can argue with our personal experience.

Lord, you are sufficient. One drop of your blood was enough to save us all, but you willingly shed it all… for each one of us, for me. As an act of worship, I offer back myself in obedience and discipleship. By the power of your Spirit, strengthen me for the cost of discipleship, and give me gracious words that flow from a pure heart to share my personal experience.  Amen.

Paul

From the archives. Originally published October 15, 2009.

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Mark 1-3

3:31-35, 31And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. 32And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.”33And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”(ESV)

Some scholars believe his mother and brothers came looking for him because he must have been fatigued.  When one reads these first three chapters no wonder they would have thought that. At any rate his family was making a demand on Jesus that He wasn’t ready to fulfill. As in most situations He is involved with He turns it into a teachable moment. Here He makes it clear that a new relationship was being forged. There was no longer going to be layer upon layer of separation between God and us. In fact we have a familiar relationship with God the Son. We are brothers and sisters with Him. We are fellow heirs with Him. We inherit His Kingdom.

One of my favorite songs is “I am a Friend of God” (Israel Houghton). I cry when I sing that song. Not only am I a friend of God, He calls me friend, but I am a brother of Jesus. Now I think anyone reading this post is trying to seek strong after God, so you would fit this designation. We are brothers and sisters of Jesus. I can’t get my arms around it! Many times I think of myself much less than that. I don’t treat myself with that kind of respect, let alone allowing Jesus to treat me in that manner. When I read passages like this it is a reminder to me, not only of my standing before God, but also the encouragement to act in that way as well. Today I need to remember my standing and act and think accordingly. What a difference that will make.

Father God I am blown away by your generosity and grace that you would include me in your family — that I would be considered a brother of Jesus. Thank you for this glorious standing in You. I pray that I would act and think in that manner. Help me to bring glory to You as your son and friend. I pray these things in Jesus Name, Amen.

dmbaldwin

From the archives. Originally published October 13, 2009.

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Matthew 17:14-20:34

And stopping, Jesus called them and said, “What do you want me to do for you?”

33They said to him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.”

34And Jesus in pity touched their eyes, and immediately they recovered their sight and followed him.

~Matthew 20:32-34

Throughout these chapters I sat dumbstruck at God’s unique perspective. Jesus put flesh and blood on this opposing viewpoint time and again.

Just some of the contrasts I observed:

  • Children are lowly, even annoyances — Children are treasures, and we all should learn the humility of a child
  • Physical beauty should be maintained at all cost — A crippled body is nothing in comparison to losing eternal reward
  • Pride in self, stand tall! — Lay down your “rights” and forgive again, and again, and again
  • Give me a list to check off, to show I’m good enough — Even when you check it all off, you could never repay all you owe
  • Push your way to the top — The first shall be last

Jesus Christ taught it and lived it. His ways fly high above our ways and His thoughts above our thoughts. He continually opened eyes during His earthly ministry, physically and spiritually.

God functions on an economy quite foreign in our modern society. I need to reevaluate my priorities and efforts based solely on His viewpoint.

Value life — what can I do to treasure life more? Protect the unborn, speak out for the terminally ill, hug and love on my family more

Keep physical appearance in its place — take care of my body, but do not obsess about imperfections, placing a great weight on them than the eternal service of that body part

Putting others first — Forgiveness needs to be habit, showering God’s grace unreservedly

Lay down my cross daily — not to earn salvation or repay a debt, but out of love for all He has done and continues to do in my life

Practice humility — Striving to raise God’s banner and name, not my own. It’s all about Him.

Dear Lord, thank you for these repeated reminders that Your thinking might not always seem natural to me. Help me to see and think and value the way You do. As I look at the creation, I want to see through Your eyes. Open my eyes and help me to follow with joyful surrender. ~Amen

5intow (Erin)

From the archives. Originally published October 8, 2009.

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Zechariah 8-13

9: Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Zechariah 9:9, ESV

The name of this blog is Sixty-six Books in a Year. Frankly we could have spent the whole year right here in these rich chapters of this great Minor Prophet Zechariah. However, having just one day, not 365, I need to look at just this one verse. If you wonder whether Jesus is who He said He is, here’s a verse that screams of His Messiahship.  Here 500+ years before the appearance of Jesus we have a detailed account of his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Jerusalem is commanded to shout aloud and so they did 500+ years later. What a profound foundation stone to the veracity of the gospel.

Do you ever doubt whether this whole God thing is true? I have. When I come across verses like this I am dumbfounded. This is one of hundreds of prophecies about Jesus and His ministry. Chapter 8 uses the phrase, “Lord of Hosts” seventeen times. This phrase refers to the fact that Jesus is the commander of the hosts of angels that are at His command. In Jesus’ first advent He didn’t beckon them, but rode on a meek donkey and gave Himself up for us all. Some day, and hopefully soon, He will return for us and His angels will be at His side. What a glorious day that will be.

What about that donkey? I’ve thought about that lowly animal that was used to fulfill biblical prophecy and who carried the King of the universe into Jerusalem that day. I want to be like that donkey. I want to be used by the King to bring glory to Himself, to further His Kingdom.  Just to be the donkey Jesus uses. That’s enough for me!

Father God I thank You for the veracity of the gospel message. Thank You that when I doubt there are great verses of Scripture that speak to the truthfulness of who You are. Help me to take great encouragement and strength from that. Also help me to be used by You — like that donkey was — to further Your Kingdom. I pray these things in the strong Name of Jesus, Amen.

dmbaldwin

From the archives. Originally published September 29, 2009.

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