Tax collectors were considered to be a criminal element in the Jewish community. They were employed by the Roman government and were typically corrupt and heartless. They lined their pockets with the livelihood of the people they were supposed to serve.
Jesus no doubt turned a lot of heads when he called out Levi (Matthew), a tax collector, as one of his disciples. Jesus was not afraid of what others thought, nor was he a respecter of persons. His heart was and still is, to make disciples of all who would simply follow him. That’s exactly what Levi did. He left everything to follow Jesus.
What does this say about those that we reach out to with the good news? Do we tend to stick to people like us? Are you willing to break out of your circle of friends and share the good news of Jesus with everyone, no matter their social or economic station in life? That is exactly what Jesus would do.
Prayer:Abba Father, it is our privilege to share the good news of Jesus with all that you send us to. Would You give me grace to go beyond my social group and all that’s familiar in order to reach the lost, broken and forgotten? In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
There was something about the words that Jesus spoke. He ministered with authority and the word on the street was this man could literally heal the sick, work miracles and drive out demons. One man in the crowd needed a touch from Jesus, but it didn’t look like he could even get to him because of the multitude.
Desperation will drive you to do what you would not normally do. So four friends had the vision and passion to bypass protocol and courtesy because their friend needed to be close to this man who was known to heal the sick and restore the broken.
So, off came the roof. Whatever it might take, they were determined to get their friend into the presence of the One who gave hope to so many. They must have looked ridiculous scaling the roof and tearing it off piece by piece in a flurry of hope, promise and expectation.
Then their out of the box exercise caught the attention of Jesus. Something amazing was about to happen and I’m sure the friends held their breath as they laid it all on the line. Jesus responded to their belief and saw their faith. Their friend walked out of the house with the hole in the roof. The roof was destroyed but the man was now whole.
Prayer:Abba Father, thank you for including out-of-the-box stories like this in the scriptures. You teach us that the call to follow Jesus is a call to an unusual and extraordinary life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
My wife and I were asked to serve on the prayer ministry team at our church. We were honored to do so. One Sunday morning during a particularly powerful worship service, a married couple approached us for prayer. They did not have to announce themselves, but we knew they were influential people.
Real authority never has to be announced, heralded or declared. It just shows up and all know there is someone packing heat in their midst. Real authority does not require drama or theatrics. Jesus walked in authentic authority and never felt compelled to announce his arrival.
He stepped onto the shore and two men who were teeming with demonic activity immediately reacted to his presence. Did these demonic personalities react to Jesus’ disciples? No. To his impressive boat? No. To his amazing fashion sense? No. To the tone and volume of his voice? No.
They were arrested by the authority that Jesus walked in. When you understand your identity in Christ and the authority that resides in you, all of hell will tremble when you wake up in the morning. No need for a show, just show up armed with the word of God and presence of God. They will run from you too.
Prayer:Abba Father, thank you for conferring your authority upon us and giving us Jesus’ example of how to exercise your authority with wisdom an integrity. Thank you for trusting us with your power, strength, ability and favor. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
I always thought the popular children’s story, Chicken Little, said much more about me as an adult than as a child. We are prone to react at the first hint that something isn’t working out quite like we planned. Our first move is to cry out, “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!”
The disciples of Jesus weren’t any different. As water began to come over the sides of their boat, their first reaction was to cry out, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” A clever translator might say this is greek for, “The sky is falling!” The point is they forgot who was in the boat with them. How quickly we forget that Jesus is in our boat too.
It is then that we default to life-before-Jesus i.e. panic mode. We assume that Jesus is asleep and we hear in our head, “Ladies and gentlemen, Jesus has left the building.” We recoil in fear and mentally run a hundred worst case scenarios.
The good news is Jesus is still in your boat and he’s asleep because he has no fear of what’s to come. He knows the end from the beginning. Like the bumper sticker says, “IGBOK… It’s Gonna Be Okay.” The lesson is simple. Trust that Jesus is in your boat and has your situation under control. There’s no need to wake him up.
Prayer: Abba Father, I am prone to panic. Would you gently remind me the next time I am tempted to react in the moment that Jesus is occupying space in my boat? May I grow in the truth that Jesus is abiding in me and if he’s asleep that’s a good sign that it’s all gonna be okay. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
It’s common in the world of social media to “follow” another person. There’s no real commitment required, just the click of a mouse and now you are virtual “friends.” This is not what Jesus was alluding to when he said, “Follow me.” The cost would be high. However, the reward even higher.
Have you stopped to count the cost of what it really means to follow Jesus? It may mean that friends, co-workers and even family may not understand that you are willing to lay everything down in order to live for Jesus. It’s not uncommon for those closest to you to be the most critical or “concerned” about your commitment to Christ.
Jesus drew a line in the sand when he responded to the wishes of one disciple to take care of some unfinished business, “And Jesus said to him, ‘Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.'” Shocking? Demanding? Defining. Jesus left no room for a person to remain invested in the affairs of their old life. Will you take the next step to become a fully devoted follower of Jesus?
Prayer: Abba Father, it is clear to me that what You require is all of me and not just a part of me. I commit to come closer to you and give my utmost for Your highest. I am all in with Jesus, whatever that means and whatever it may cost me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
All of us have been faced with uncertainty, indecision and confusion. It was no different in the first century. This man, a government official, was devastated by the fact that his young son was dying. It’s the greatest fear any parent will ever face. He was desperate and he knew who to call upon for help.
There are several places throughout the Bible that indicate the power of movement. James 4:8 tells us that when we draw near to God, he responds by coming close to us. It was no different in this case. This man sought out Jesus and brought his need to the One who could potentially rise above the natural realm and touch heaven and bring the miraculous.
Jesus responded to man’s plea to come and help his son by simply saying “Go home. Your son will live.” That’s all it took. Just a word from Jesus that changed everything for this man, his son and ultimately his whole family. One word from Jesus can change your life forever.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Phil 4:6-7 NIV
Prayer: Abba Father, thank you for inviting us to come to you in our time of need and by drawing near to you, we find hope, mercy and help. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
It’s sobering to think that after demonstrating piety and religious acts Jesus could still utter these devastating words, “I never knew you.” It’s easy to give this passage a cursory reading and surmise that God is just waiting for us to miss the mark.
But the spirit of this passage has more to do with relationship and fellowship than it does missing heaven due to a bad decision. Don’t get me wrong, Jesus is serious about our commitment to His will and ways, but He’s not watching and waiting for you to blow it.
There’s much more to walking with Jesus than just doing acts of service. We have the privilege of knowing Him and exploring a relationship that is dynamic, exciting and life-changing. Our acts of service actually flow out of the overflow of our relationship with Christ.
Prayer: Father, my heart is to know you more. Thank you for making a way for me to grow closer to You on a daily basis. Lead me. Teach me. Guide me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
It’s commonplace to hear people say, “Hey, don’t judge me!” I understand our reluctance to pass unrighteous judgement on others. On the other hand, we can overreact and not walk in wisdom when it comes to those we allow into our relational orbit.
Jesus was giving us a baseline on how to determine if those that are speaking into our lives are good or bad. He gives us the wisdom and grace to become fruit inspectors. We have a “Helper” who assists us in discerning good or bad fruit in the person of the Holy Spirit.
Don’t give in to our culture calling “foul” whenever you choose to walk in godly biblical wisdom. Simply be a fruit inspector and weed out those who do not bear godly fruit through their words and actions.
Prayer:Abba Father, thank you for giving me the ability to judge rightly concerning who I allow to speak into and influence my life. I’m grateful that I have a Helper who gives me wisdom, insight and discernment as I continue my journey in faith. In Jesus’ Name, Amen!
I remember a time as a kid that I became fixated on a lime green Schwinn Stingray bicycle. I was consumed. I imagined that bike taking me on adventures all over our community. I went to bed thinking about it and woke up seeing myself riding it.
I approached both of my parents on different occasions and was met with little enthusiasm on their part. I approached my Dad many times with information and specifics about “my” bike.
Weeks and months passed with little to no hint regarding my obsession from my parents. I’ll never forget getting up early on Christmas morning and running into our living room. There it was in all it’s glory! A lime green Schwinn Stingray! That bike brought me years of delight and took me on many adventures.
My parents never said, “No.” It was just not the right time. In this passage, Jesus is teaching us about persistence in prayer and about the Father’s good nature to bring what is needed. The key is timing. Trust that God loves you enough to answer your requests in His own good timing. He is a God of timing, sequence and order… and He is a good Father.
Prayer:Abba Father, thank you for loving me enough to give me what I request at the right time. Your timing is perfect. Mine is not. I trust Your timing over mine and rest in Your wisdom and goodness toward me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
One day my wife was driving our car and she ran over a curb while pulling into a shopping center driveway. I was short with her and barked out my disapproval. It was not one of my finer moments.
About a week after my “moment,” I was driving and was going too fast to make a turn into a store parking lot. You guessed it, I skidded over the curb and bounced our car into the lot. Again, not one of my finer moments.
I was quick to show my disapproval over her small infraction while on the way to destroying the front end of my own car. Isn’t that just like us? We’re quick to fire off criticism, judgement and disapproval and completely miss the fact that we are fully human and capable of colossal failures.
In today’s passage we read that we will be judged with the measure we use toward others. Ouch! It is imperative that we extend the same grace to others that God has given to us. Be quick to encourage and provide lift for others when you’re tempted to judge.
Prayer: Father, thank you for extending grace, mercy and forgiveness to me over and over. I’m humbled and blessed beyond what my mind can comprehend. Holy Spirit, would you help me to be quick to bless and not quick to judge? I’m submitted to your leading and direction in this matter. My heart is to love others well. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Worry. Stress. Anxiety. Fear. These are all to real in our world today. Some reactions are legitimate and are God-given as protection, such as an appropriate fear of fire or falling. Others are illegitimate and the source of emotional, physical and spiritual health crises.
Jesus goes straight to the issue in this passage. He speaks to the heart of the matter: lack of trust. We really don’t trust God to do what He says He will do. We perceive that He does not hear our cries, that He doesn’t really care. Or worse, that He is not even real.
How is your “Trust Factor” right now? You can test it by the level of worry, stress, anxiety and fear that you are walking in at this time. If trusting God is your issue. Repent. Turn. Allow His Spirit to come alongside you and change the way you think on this matter. He’s waiting to hear from you.
Prayer: Father, it is clear to me that I have allowed worry, stress, anxiety and fear to dictate and impact my relationship with You. Will You forgive me and help me to change the way I think regarding this issue of trust? This is my first step in letting go of worry and embracing Your grace to help. Thank You for hearing my prayer today! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
There is something about genuine spiritual hunger and thirst that seem to attract God’s attention. I have said it this way for years, “Nothing moves the hand of God like spiritual hunger.”
Food and water were a big deal for those living in Israel in the first century. They were vital not only for a quality of life, but for survival itself. It’s in this context that Jesus offers the kind of water that not only sustains life, but creates an abundant and overflowing life.
Jesus’ could have easily condemned this woman for her string of disasterous failed marriages and for her current living arrangement, but he doesn’t. Instead Jesus helps her to see her need and provides the answer to the hole in her soul. He is, himself, the answer to the hole in every soul.
Prayer: Father, Thank You for providing the living water of Your Spirit to dwell and abide in me. I am grateful for Your love, mercy and grace. Even as I continue to receive more of this Living Water, may I also be quick to give it away so that others may drink and receive life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
There have been times in my life where I have found myself wallowing in envy over those who had great wealth. It was easy to feel slighted or that I had somehow missed out by not walking in their shoes.
However, while in high school, my best friend’s family was extremely wealthy and I quickly realized that dysfunction is no respecter of socio-economic standing. While my family had less, monetarily speaking, we had great wealth when it came to love, joy, respect and connection.
Jesus refers to this rich man who spent his life accumulating more and more as foolish. Not because he had great wealth but because he was emotionally and spiritually bankrupt. His focus was on himself instead of others and ultimately God. True riches have nothing to do with your bank account and everything to do with your heart.
Jesus teaches us that true wealth is a matter of focus and perspective. And for your information, I no longer envy those who have great material wealth as I have found the greatest treasure in Jesus as my Savior and Lord.
Jim Elliot, missionary and martyr, put it this way, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”
Prayer: Father, thank you for the person of Jesus and His teachings. Thank you for preserving these stories through the centuries so that we might continue to learn and grow in grace. Would You grant me the grace to see with true spiritual sight just how wealthy I am in Christ. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Our tendency, if left to ourselves, is to drift toward complexity. In other words, if you’re anything like me, we tend to complicate most everything. However, a person can only handle so much information and stimuli at one time. Jesus carried and exemplified the spirit of simplicity into everything he touched and taught.
When the disciples approached Jesus with the request, “Lord, teach us to pray,” they did not get a lengthy lecture on the finer details of saying everything just right. Instead, they received a simple, basic and broad prayer that a child could easily pray.
Author, Max Lucado, sums up Jesus’ prayer like this, “Father, you are good. I need help. Heal me and forgive me. They need help. Thank you. In Jesus’ name, amen.”
There’s no need to ramble on about every single detail. Keep it brief. Keep it to the point. Do it often. God is not impressed with our ability to craft our words and go on and on. Why? Because he already knows what you need before you ever ask. He just wants to hear from you.
Prayer: Father, You are good. I need help. Heal me and forgive me. They need help. Thank You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
If you have a pulse and breathe oxygen you have been busy, anxious and distracted. Probably today. Martha was being a good host by actively taking care of her guests. After all, Jesus was in the house.
Mary was more concerned about listening and learning than hosting at this time and It was enough to frustrate Martha. So much so that she appealed to Jesus to correct her “lazy” sister. But Jesus saw something different. He saw spiritual hunger and a teachable heart.
Jesus brought clarity to what the real priority was. Mary would be praised for posturing herself at the feet of Jesus as a disciple and Martha would be taught a valuable lesson on priorities. Reject the tyranny of the urgent today and take time to sit at Jesus feet and you too will have chosen the best part.
Prayer: Father, it is my heart to spend time with You today. Even now, I choose to pause and say, “Thank You for allowing me to sit at Jesus’ feet and take on the posture and position of a disciple.” Teach me Your ways. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
M.V.P. Typically stands for “Most Valuable Player.” However, it can also stand for “Mission, Vision and Purpose.” When your Purpose is defined, your Vision will be clear and your Mission will be focused.
For clarity: Purpose is “why we take the hill.” Vision is “see the hill.” Mission is “take the hill.”
As in our text today, many who consider themselves “religious” are knowledgeable regarding their Purpose and Vision, but lack the desire and passion to do the Mission.
The Samaritan was faithful to fulfill the Mission of serving another person well and it resulted in a life saved. He successfully represented the Gospel through action. How will you express and fulfill your Mission to glorify God and touch your world today?
Prayer: Father, it is my desire to put action to the Gospel that has so redeemed and changed my life. Show me where You are working today so that I may join You in Your work and fulfill Your Mission. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Our prayers need not be long and eloquent in order to touch heaven and move mountains. How often have I uttered Peter’s cry, “Lord, help me!” and then rested in confidence that God heard and would respond.
Many grow weary in the exercise of endless devotions and long prayer lists when Jesus’ own model prayer consisted of only a few brief direct statements.
Today, don’t try so hard. Be direct, specific and expectant. It worked for Jesus. It worked for Peter. It will work for you. I use Max Lucado’s simplification of Jesus’ prayer many times throughout my day. Give it a try right now.
Prayer: Father, You are good. I need help. Heal me and forgive me. They need help. Thank you. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
My Dad was in the military. He told me stories about boot camp and the concept of turning a “me” into a “we.” It is arduous, intense and life altering, but necessary in order to turn an average man or woman into a great soldier who would willingly lay down their life for the mission.
It’s not a stretch to see this passage as Jesus’ boot camp for his closest disciples. He was preparing them to go out and preach the good news of the kingdom. It was no small assignment and the preparation was necessary for what they were about to face on the journey.
As you read this passage keep in mind that Jesus was qualifying them to face persecution, betrayal, hostility and demonic forces set against any attempt to advance the gospel. Jesus’ words are strong and sobering. Are you prepared to face resistance regarding your faith in Jesus? Perhaps boot camp is necessary for you too.
Prayer: Father, as You prepare me for my mission on this earth, grant me the grace needed to absorb all I need to know in order to fulfill Your assignment and Your mandate for my life. I willingly submit to the process, trusting You as You teach and prepare me to declare and live out the kingdom in a resistant culture. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Jesus gathered his disciples because he had an assignment for them. He was sending them out to share the good news that the kingdom was near. The kingdom i.e. the rule and reign of God. It was time to apply what they were learning.
Jesus knew if he was to send out this rag tag group of normals, they would need power and authority. Therefore Jesus deputized them by conferring His authority to execute the task.
Jesus never gives an assignment without providing the needed resources to fulfill it. He supplies what he calls you to do. As you continue on your journey with Jesus, be confident that what he calls you to, he will equip you for.
Prayer: Father, thank you for the assignments, big and small, that You give along the way. I embrace Your authority to fulfill each mission you bring my way. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
A prominent theme is, “You have heard that it was said… but I say to you…” Jesus has a way of flipping things on their head. Jesus stated that He did come to abolish the Law, He took it to a whole new level.
It is a pointed reminder that I cannot do anything of Kingdom significance apart from Him. That is why His grace is needed on a daily basis. I cannot in my own strength fulfill His mission. I need Him.
There comes a moment of truth in your journey in Christ that you realize that you need Him… period. No “ifs, ands or buts.” Apart from Jesus you can’t do anything regarding the Kingdom of God. You need Him. I need Him. They need Him.
Prayer: Father, I simply acknowledge that I need You. It’s not deep. It’s not complicated. I need You’re strength, You’re power and You’re ability to do what I cannot do. Thank You for helping me to live this life in a way that authentically honors You. In Jesus’ Name.
Salt and light. One preserves and extends the usefulness of a product and the other drives out darkness and illuminates everything it touches. That is who we are in Christ. It is not who we are becoming, it is who we already are if we have embraced Jesus as Savior and Lord.
If you have ever found yourself in a dark place with no sense of direction, then you know what it’s like to be disoriented and confused. It is in those moments when all you are looking for is the smallest hint of light. Light brings hope and gives guidance for safe passage out of a dark place.
The light we carry guides the way for those who are lost, hopeless and without direction. As we let our light shine, others will see and give glory to God. Hope finds its expression through the light of Jesus Christ.
Prayer: Father, may I live in such a way that others see your light shining through me so that You are glorified and they are transformed by Your presence. May your fire burn so bright in me that I cannot contain it. Thank You for allowing me to shine and burn bright for Your honor! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Contrast. It’s a setting on my smart phone and it allows me to increase or decrease the light and dark elements to enhance and bring greater definition to my view. Just as contrast is a common theme in technology, contrast is also a common theme in the Scriptures.
In this encounter between Jesus, a Pharisee and a “sinful” woman, we see a sharp contrast between the heart and motivation of two very different people. The Pharisee, a pious and religious man, whose convictions and commitment to religion run deep, and a woman, broken and marked by failure and poor life choices.
It is from the place of honest and authentic brokenness that she demonstrates genuine love and humble affection. The pious religious person is indignant and arrogant in his thoughts regarding her selfless act. We have all done it. We have judged. We have handed down a sentence in our minds. We have been the Pharisee.
What are we to do? We must remember what it was like before Jesus transformed our lives. We are all one decision away from missing the mark. Be honest before Jesus about your pain, your failures, your lack of understanding and your blatant sin. There is enough grace for us all. Never forget who Jesus forgave in this encounter.
Prayer: Father, I confess my tendency to be more like the Pharisee in this encounter than the broken woman. As I grow in grace, never let me forget what I was and who I was before I was reconciled to You through Jesus. May I consistently exend the same grace to others that I myself require. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Her hope was not only deferred, it was completely decimated. Not only had she lost her husband, but now her only son is dead. It was both emotional and practical. She was destitute on every level. It looked impossible to see a brighter tomorrow.
Have you ever been in that place? No hope? No apparent solution? You stood frozen in your fear and inability to face the future. This woman was stuck. Maybe you’re stuck too. But then Jesus saw her and was moved with compassion. He knew she had no hope and he decided to act.
Jesus makes the impossible possible. He shows up on the scene and what was hopeless before now becomes hope-full. What are you facing today that needs the touch of Jesus? Bring it to him in prayer. Place your hope and trust in him today and see what he will do.
Prayer: Father, when all hope is lost and I can’t see what lies before me, I will place my future in Your hands. What you did for one, I believe you will do for all. I need Your help and the touch of Jesus on my situation. I thank You in advance for how this is going to turn for Your glory. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Jesus was a master teacher who often used objects and landmarks that were present to teach lessons about life and the kingdom of God. This moment was no exception. Jesus was teaching a large crowd and he stepped onto Peter’s boat, creating a natural amphitheater so all could hear.
Jesus turned what had been a long and frustrating night on the lake into a teachable moment. What Jesus told Peter to do defied what was the normal protocol for bringing in a catch of fish. It was the wrong time of day, they had been out all night and were beyond exhausted.
Peter’s simple obedient response to Jesus’ directive made all of the difference. The result was nothing short of supernatural. The haul of fish was so large that their nets could barely contain it and started break. One act of plain simple obedience opened the door for a miracle.
When Jesus is in your boat and you are quick to obey even the smallest promptings of his voice, the atmosphere is primed for the miraculous. Will you be quick to obey when he speaks? It could mean the difference between what you can do in your own effort and what Jesus can do above and beyond all that is normal and natural.
Prayer: Father, it is my desire to be quick to obey when You speak. As I read Your word, would you grant me the grace to step out in faith to carry out Your will, Your purpose and Your plan? In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
There were three of us in the car. We drove through the dark early morning hours and were the first up the winding mountain road. Full of adrenaline, coffee and anticipation, we rounded a curve and caught the sunrise. We stopped the car.
The view took our breath away and we were speechless as we looked out from 10,000 feet to see the early morning sun rising over a cloud bank. It was stunning. Words cannot do it justice. You had to be there and see it yourself to fully appreciate it.
There are moments when it’s not enough to merely describe a place; you have to see it for yourself. Jesus could have taken time to describe his accomodations, but it would be more meaningful to take them there so they could see it for themselves. “Come and see.”
You have been influenced by places, people and events; some of which defy description. They must be seen and experienced to be fully appreciated. Employ a “Come and see” strategy so that others might come to know Jesus.
Prayer: Father, would You create opportunities for me to invite others to “Come and see” that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life? Would You grant favor as I interact with my family, friends and others that I encounter so that I can invite them to “Come and see?” I will obey as You open the doors this week on my behalf. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Your home town. It’s a place where people know most everything about you; the good, the bad and the ugly. My mom worked at the bank in our community. In other words, she knew everything I did before I walked into the house. Let’s just say I found my share of trouble as a teenager.
I was transformed when I met Jesus in my senior year of high school. I was given a new heart and new view of the world. I was told by one of my friends, “You’re no different! I have known you for years!” He said that after I attempted to tell him about my new found relationship with Jesus.
One day Jesus made an announcement in the synagogue in his hometown. He let them know that he was the long awaited Messiah, the Son of God who would take away the sins of the world and provide a way of redemption for mankind. Their response? “Wait a second, we know your parents! You’re one of us!”
As a devoted follower of Jesus, prepare yourself for a not so favorable response when you share your faith with others. Their response is not personal, it’s spiritual. There is a war going on for the eternity of every person. There will be some who knew you before your spiritual rebirth. Give them great grace and model the Christ life before them.
Prayer: Father, as I share Jesus with others, grant me grace to love them well in spite of their response. They need to hear the good news and I am willing to share the Gospel no matter what they may say or think about me. I choose to love them beyond my reputation for the sake of their eternity. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
I grew up in a region where cotton farming was the main industry. Year after year I watched farmers work their land. I never once saw a cotton farmer plant his seed one day and then harvest his crop the next day. I learned that farming was a process that took time.
We live in a microwave-instant-access culture. We are conditioned to expect immediate results; from cell phone data plans to shorter wait times at the drive up. However, this is not typical of God’s method of producing change that is long lasting.
As a citizen of the Kingdom of God, there are things about your life that will take time to develop. Seeds must be planted and time must pass before you get the privilege of reaping the harvest. The law of sowing and reaping is seen throughout the Bible as a basic principle of the Kingdom.
The kind of seed you plant determines the kind of harvest you will reap. Do you need mercy? Sow mercy into others. Do you need grace? Sow grace. Do you need love? Sow love. Do you need hope? Sow hope. Do you need encouragement? Sow encouragement. What kind of seeds have you sown lately?
Prayer: Father, thank you for the consistent principles of Your Kindom. I understand that the seeds I sow will be the harvest I will reap. Grant me grace to sow the seeds that will bring about eternal and lasting change for Your glory. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
It’s one thing for a police officer to attempt to direct traffic in his street clothes and a whole other thing for that same officer to step into a busy intersection with his uniform on, badge exposed and gun on his belt.
The difference is conferred and revealed authority. He has been given authority by the state and his badge and uniform announce to all that he carries power to govern, keep the peace and act as needed.
In like manner, Jesus came to this earth with the full backing of the kingdom of heaven and God himself to exercise authority over all of the power of the demonic realm. Jesus understood who He was and the authority He carried.
What does this mean for you? If you are “in Christ,” you have been given authority over all the power of the demonic realm. You are deputized to walk in power, strength and authority. Let this truth inspire you to walk in peace and confidence today.
Prayer: Father, thank you for the privilege of receiving the same authority that Jesus displayed. Because I have been given power over demonic spirits, I need not live in fear. Therefore, I embrace the gift of authority and I choose to dwell in continual peace, trust and confidence. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Nicodemus was not playing dumb when he asked Jesus about being born again. He was asking an honest question. Jesus never reacted negatively to an honest question.
All of us have questions regarding matters of faith and the kingdom of God. His shoulders are big enough to handle those questions. Don’t hesitate to ask, just be ready to hear His answer.
In v16-17 we are given the purpose for Jesus coming to our neighborhood in an earth suit. He came and gave His life so we could be reunited with God for eternity. It’s not complicated. He came to reconnect with us.
Jesus answered Nicodemus’ question with this statement, “You must be born again.” Have you received and believed the good news that Jesus came to set you free from the grip of sin and reconcile you to God? If not, now is a good time to take this life-changing step of faith.
Prayer: Father, thank you for Jesus’ sacrifice for me by laying His life down so that I could have a relationship with God. I acknowledge that Jesus came for me and I turn from doing life my way, to learning what it means to do life Your way. Recreate my heart. Change the way I think. Give me a new start. I commit my life to you for eternity. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
For Jesus, playing it safe and conforming to current cultural norms was never a consideration. When you know who you are and understand that you are a citizen of another “Kingdom,” fitting in and trying to be accepted are not on your radar screen.
Jesus’ understanding of His mission resulted in behaviors that were scandalous. You might think that His reaction at the Temple was out of character. Remember, authentic love is never passive in nature. His response emerged out of love, honor and respect for His Father.
As a follower of Jesus, you will be pushed beyond what’s considered safe and normal. Will you follow the call of Christ into unfamiliar and uncomfortable territory? Decide now that you will be quick to obey his voice in the face of a culture that has lost it’s way.
Prayer: Father, it is not my desire to live a safe and conformative life. I have decided to follow Jesus wherever He may lead no matter what it may look like to those who are watching. I am listening for Your voice. Lead, guide and direct me as we continue on this journey. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
All of us will have our season, or more likely, seasons in the wilderness. No one wakes up one day and decides that they would like to spend time in a dry barren place, full of temptations, lack and pitfalls. However, world changers and culture shifters are crafted and forged in the wilderness.
Note that Jesus did not stumble into this barren land by accident, He was “…led by the Spirit into the wilderness…” Wait? You mean God placed Him there? Yes! Just as God used the wilderness to shape and form Jesus, He will use the wilderness to shape and form you. The exciting news is that it is not permanent and you will come out “…in the power of the Spirit!” (ref. vs 14)
Are you in a wilderness right now? Good! This is your opportunity to stretch, grow and be empowered to fulfill God’s purpose for your life. Lean into Jesus more than ever because He’s “been there and done that.” Keep on reading, learning and growing. The wilderness is only a temporary season.
Prayer: Father, thank you for wilderness opportunities. I trust that You are using these barren seasons to shape, craft and form me into the kind of person that shines bright for Your glory. Thank you for sustaining grace to not only endure, but to overcome and break through in the power of the Spirit. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Jesus was quick to clarify his reason for being baptized; “…it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” As it was with Jesus, so it is with us. We are to follow him in baptism as a declaration that we have chosen to identify our lives with him.
Jesus’ baptism was his announcement that he was beginning a new chapter in his mission. Have you followed Jesus’ example of baptism? If not, perhaps now is your time. There is no need to wait. Let’s begin our partnership with Jesus and become catalysts for change in the world.
Prayer: Father, my desire is to identify with Jesus as my Savior and my Lord at every level in obedience to Your written word. I commit to be quick to obey as You lead, guide and direct me on a daily basis. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
In the E3 App you will find the following content;
Key Scriptures: The key scripture in each section follows along the life of Jesus through his ministry, teachings, fulfillment of the OT scriptures, death, burial, and resurrection. The stories are broken into 20 story blocks. The scriptures follow a chronological harmony of all four gospel accounts including Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Sometimes, to understand the context for a particular story you may need to read a bit before and a bit after. Our groups will be going through one story a week, but you could easily do this as a daily study as well with your group, family, or at work with a few friends.
Group Questions: The Group questions are designed for any small group fellowship from your Church. The first question every week is about what everyone is learning and applying from the sermon they most recently heard. This is a great way to answer questions, clarify meanings, and gather applications that you never thought of. You may find that some weeks this will take the entire night. That is ok! Next week, just go right back to the # you were on and go from there. You do not have to hold strictly to any timeline to finish the materials. If your group includes people that do not attend your Church (depending on the topic) you may choose to skip the first question about what you learned from the sermon. After you finish discussing the sermon have everyone get out their Bibles (or their App) and follow along. The rest of the questions are going to dig into the life and teaching of Jesus. The questions follow a methodology that assumes that every member in the group is sharing Christ with someone. Periodically the question will be asked; “who did you share this story with?” It is very important that you not “shame” everyone that has not shared it. However, there also needs to be a clear expectation that this is normal for a Christian to do. When most people hear this they will assume that you mean “get people to put their faith in Christ.” That is not the intention. How can someone trust and follow someone they do not really know about? Your role as leader is to help people listen to each other, apply the ministry and teachings of Jesus to themselves, but also share what God is doing in their hearts with others. This is the essence of the word “testimony.” It is sharing with others about the hope that we have in Christ Jesus. It may sound like; “can I tell you something that I learned this week?” Or, “that reminds me of something I just learned about Jesus…” It should be as natural as talking about your kids. Remember, Jesus has authorized all his disciples to go into the entire world to share about Christ, baptize, and teach them to obey everything that he did. (Matthew 28) There are many things about Jesus you will never understand until you begin to teach them to someone else.
Family Questions: The family questions are designed to include all different age groups. The questions follow the particular stages of classical learning. (What, Why, How) These questions would also work well in any setting because they are general questions that teach us how to think. I recommend sticking to a shorter timeline than you would with an adult group between 15-30 minutes max. You could plan to have your family group meet over a meal once a week, or choose a different time or format. (Bedtime, Drive to School, Breakfast) The important thing is that you remain consistent when you do it. If you get off track- just go back to whatever # you are on- and get back on track! Remember, a little bit of something is better than a whole lot of nothing.
In the App you will see 5 Tabs: Don’t miss the 5 tabs at the bottom of the App!
There is a complete ESV Bible built in. The reading plan feature does not correspond with the E3 Challenge.
There is a BLOG where various trainings, encouragements, and devotionals will be written by a variety of different authors.
There is a Podcast where we will take each story, and discuss it for about 15 minutes. This is meant to help you prepare for your group so that you can think about the various aspects of a story.
The is an ABOUT tab where you can link to the E3 Facebook page, the E3 website, etc. Please share testimonials from your group on the E3 Facebook page!
#1. Matthew 3:13-17
13Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”
15Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.”Then John consented.16As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.
17And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
Life Group Questions
1. What did Jesus teach you during the sermon this week?
2. What is Jesus teaching you in this passage?
3. Why did Jesus get baptized?
4. What is the purpose of God’s response?
5. Has anyone in this group been baptized? Tell your story. Why were you baptized?
6. What does this story teach us about baptism?
7. How are you planning to follow Jesus this week?
8. Who do you know that is curious to learn more about Jesus?