October 9 – King & Country

John 19: 12-16

They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” (John 19:15 ESV)

Who is your king? We all have one. For the Jews of Jesus’ day they identified their king as Caesar simply out of spite. But who is our king? For many of us, our king is the person we see in the mirror every day.

And the question is a question of kingdom. What do you pronounce ownership over? Do you owe allegiance to yourself? There are a lot of good questions stirred up by the example of a bunch of super religious Pharisees rejecting God himself as their king to proclaim false homage to a pagan dictator and conqueror they showed no true love for.

The reality is that under Caesar the corruption of the Jewish Temple greatly benefited the religious bureaucracy. With Jesus as king they would lose their power base while seeing equality, fairness, and justice brought to the common people.

Just to be clear, Jesus is King. In fact, he is the King of all kings. It’s not a matter of who actually is the king, rather it is a question of who we each proclaim as our king. Self-worship and humanism are the order of the day. Placing our pride upon the thrones of our own choosing are the trend. But acknowledging Jesus as your true King, and stepping into his Kingdom is the better future.

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October 2 – Antipas’ Anticipation

Luke 23:6-16

When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had long desired to see him, because he had heard about him, and he was hoping to see some sign done by him. (Luke 23:8 ESV)

The Herodian Dynasty was a puppet government established to keep the Jews in check during Roman rule. Herod Antipas was the king during the time of Jesus’ public ministry. And, having heard much about the mysterious Galilean teacher, Herod was very interested in seeing Jesus for himself.

Herod even asked the right questions. Was Jesus a king? Did Jesus have the power perform the supernatural? The tragic truth of Herod’s investigation lies in the reality that he asked all of the right questions without any of the right motivations. Herod was not interested in finding God. Herod was concerned with finding out if this self-proclaimed “Son of God” could help Herod. Much like the Pharisees and scribes before, Herod wanted to see a sign. He wanted a magic trick. He wanted proof laid before his eyes that Jesus’ claims were legit.

I have talked with a number of people in recent years who’s views are eerily similar to Herod Antipas’. They are interested in Jesus as a kind of intellectual discovery. They want to know if he can prove himself to them. I believe he can, and often does, but typically only when one is willing to remove their pride and look at the world with some humility and objectivity.

It is pretty safe to say that Herod’s anticipation ended with disappointment. But Jesus is only disappointing to those who refuse to see him for who he is.

August 2 – Jesus Stumps the Elite

Luke 20:9-26

And they were not able in the presence of the people to catch him in what he said, but marveling at his answer they became silent. (Luke 20:26 ESV)

Have you ever tried to argue a point only to have someone say something so incredibly superior to your view that you have to shut up and remain silent in deference to their superior rhetoric? That is exactly what happened to the Jewish religious elite one day when they tried to argue with Jesus. The simple truth is that lost people don’t think like Jesus.

It takes a work of God for the human mind to begin to think in a different way. It takes the infusing of a new perspective, and a life-giving transformation. Many of the Pharisees wethe incapable of this, and so they thought their petty squabbles over inconsequential religious triflings would stump Jesus. No, he always had a superior stance.

When I think about this story it gives me pause to stop and look and my own ridiculously religious nature. It is something I have to fight against. It is a challenge.

God is taking me in new directions in my pursuit of Him. Christ has called me to abandon the petty arrogance and wayward assumptions of things that don’t matter. And the Holy Spirit is leading me into a place of a reinvigorated emphasis on what is important—namely loving people and exalting Jesus.

Does that mean I won’t feel elite or superior? Of course not, I know my ridiculous inclinations. But I pray that he will help. And on those days that I feel truly stumped I will have to stop and acknowledge that Christ is at work in me to change or teach me.

July 30 – Whoever Hates Life

John 12:20-33

Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. (John 12:25 ESV)

We hoard. We gather. We save. We are trained, and intrinsically inclined, to get as much as we can of something we deem valuable and keep it close to us. So, when we fall into that age old pit of aggressively embellishing our own self-worth it becomes second nature to want to maintain our comfortable status quo, reduce any risk, and seek after people and pleasures that reinforce our false self-opinion.

Jesus set a different standard and humanity has spent the last two-thousand years missing the mark. I constantly miss it. It is hard for someone like me. The problem? I like myself too much. Because a lot of the time I think I am much more awesome than I actually am.

Don’t get me wrong, I definitely believe that we all have value, we all have worth, and we are all of us deeply loved by God. But the problem is that sometimes we love ourselves in all of the wrong ways. We love ourselves, but not enough to embrace truth. We love ourselves, but not enough to put God first. We love ourselves, but not enough to make the hard choices, even when they will be the better choices.

I am not one that thinks Jesus is looking to martyr every believer, but I do believe that every believer has to be willing to measure the potential cost of following Jesus. You can not live the fully devoted Christian life and love yourself more than you love your Savior. If and when you find yourself in that dangerous place you have become your own savior, and a poor one at that. Love life. Love it enough to hate it.

July 25 – Jesus’ Reputation

John 12:12-19

The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.” (John 12:18, 19 ESV)

For about three years Jesus had travelled the countryside. He was preaching, performing miracles, and turning the people toward the truth of the Kingdom of God. The sick, demoniacs, outcasts, crippled, and even the dead—all kinds of people were dramatically impacted forever by the ministry of Jesus. As he made his way to Jerusalem, the final destination of his public ministry, his reputation preceded him.

The religious elite didn’t know what to do with him. He operated from an authority they refused to acknowledge, and failed to comprehend. He performed miracles that both baffled and humbled them. Their pride, their wallets, and their power were in trouble.

The reputation of Jesus still precedes him. To the hurting, the outcast, and the needy Jesus is still the answer. Those who hear and comprehend the full measure of his work are irrevocably changed by it. There is no going back. Jesus’ impact on lives initiates a passionate focus for the Kingdom of God that religion cannot contain, mankind cannot fathom, and the forces of hell cannot deter.

It is the reputation of God who became a man by virgin birth. A lowly carpenter who became an authoritative teacher and preacher. A perfectly holy life lived in selflessness. A man who was crucified for the sins of others. A death that was temporary. A resurrection that was real. A reign that is eternal. Jesus’ reputation is reputable, it is rare, it is reality. And it will change your life if you let it.

June 22 – Who Says?

Read: Luke 9:18-22

Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered, “The Christ of God.” (Luke 9:20 ESV)

What do others say about you? Is it good? Is it bad? Do you even want to know?

There are certainly times when it is better just not to know what it is that people are saying about you. Reputation can be a toxic trap for good or for bad. Even Jesus used his reputation as a teaching point for his disciples when he asked them the questions, “Who do the crowds say that I am” and “Who do you say that I Am?”

The disciples answered his similar questions with very different answers. The people viewed Jesus as a prophet of old returned to them somehow. The disciples themselves, and especially Peter, saw Jesus as the Christ of God, the Messiah that would save humanity from their sins.

Reputation can be ugly. Especially if you start trying to draw conclusions or make decisions based on the wrong people’s opinions. The reputation of Jesus has suffered in America over the last several decades, mostly because of the neglect of the Church. We have been distracted by other things, like our own reputation, and not always put our best foot forward. When the Church’s reputation hurts, so does Christ’s. We are, after all, his representation here.

What can you and I do to guard the reputation of Christ from slander and misrepresentation? At times we may not be able to do anything. But we each have our part to play in representing the King.

June 21 – Rebuking Jesus

Read: Mark 8: 31-33

And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. (Mark 8:32 ESV)

Jesus knew that he must suffer. He knew his identity, he knew his purpose, he knew the means and the end. I do not believe that he went into it without apprehension, heartache, or pain, but I know that he fully embraced the eternal implications and the necessity for the atrocities that would be committed against him.

After having confessed Jesus as the Christ, Peter was appalled upon learning the truth about what was to come for Christ. He started rebuking Jesus, declaring that these terrible things must not happen to the Messiah. It was Jesus’ turn to rebuke Peter. He put him in his proper place, explained the necessity for the horrors he would endure, and continued his mission.

Have you ever tried to tell God He was wrong? Have you ever thought you had a better idea or a better way to do something? I know have, on both accounts. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in ourselves and our desires that we chastise God for thinking of the bigger picture.

I encourage you today to stop and think about what you have planned for the day. Is there a way that you can use your day’s activities to point people to the bigger picture of God?