E100: 057 | God's Standard is Too High

"Today we continue our reading of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapter 6 verse 5 to chapter 7 verse 29. In this reading Jesus provides his disciples with a model prayer and encourages them to express their reliance upon God through persistent prayer and fasting. There is no room for anxiety in the life of a disciple for they know that the Lord will take care of their needs. Jesus encouraged his disciples to attentively listen to what he said and build their lives upon the Word of God." (New Zealand's Rhema Radio)

Read Matthew 6:5-7:29 | (ESV)

We ended the previous passage reading with this challenging verse.
Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)
And started this passage with this strong warning.
"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others.
Today's passage is the second half of what is referred to as the Sermon on the Mount. I find his teaching here pretty intense and extremely challenging. We go from his opening words of "blessed are the poor in spirit" to "fell with a great crash" and right in the middle "be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect". Woe! Wow!

Sometimes I try to imagine living during the days Jesus lived. Here I imagine that I am in this crowd and know only of the Old Testament writings. Imagining I know nothing of the death of Jesus and his resurrection. The crowd that I am apart of is sitting all around Jesus and some in the crowd are even referring to him as a great prophet from God. Jesus is sitting and teaching us about blessings, God's commandments, the world, and life. What would be my reaction to this message given by Jesus on these rolling hills not too far from Capernaum. To be honest I am not sure I would have

E100: 056 | Who Am I

"Today’s reading in Matthew chapter 5 verse 1 to chapter 6 verse 4 comes from a section of Matthew’s gospel known as the Sermon on the Mount. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus sets forth the priorities, standards and values of his Kingdom. Jesus’ teaching calls his followers to live a lifestyle of discipleship. A lifestyle in which his followers receive blessing as they learn to center their lives on expressing love to God and others." (New Zealand's Rhema Radio)

Read Matthew 5:1-6:4 | (ESV)

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
What does this mean - "Poor in spirit"? Our spirit is low? Down in the dumps? Depressed? Not exactly.

The first thing I like to do when I am not sure I fully understand the meaning of a verse is to look it up in other translations. In the modern translation known as The Message it is written as "at the end of your rope". The Amplified Bible includes "the humble, who rate themselves insignificant" in parentheses after poor in spirit. Here are some other translations for poor in spirit:
"who realize their spiritual poverty" (New Century Version)
"who are spiritually needy" (New International Reader's Version)
"who know there is nothing good in themselves" (New Life Version)
"who know that they need him [God]" (Worldwide English)
"who recognize they are spiritually helpless" (God's Word Translation)
"who are poor and realize their need for him" (New Living Translation)
At the start of his first great message Jesus lays out what has become known as the Beatitudes. To me these 8 sayings speak both about the present and the future. But there is more than that here. I think they also reverse our natural priorities and present a contrast of this world with the Kingdom of God. But there is more. I believe they give the secret to

E100: 055 | Perfect Realism

"In today’s reading, in Matthew Chapter 3 versus 13 – to chapter 4 verse 17, Jesus begins his ministry on earth by being baptized. As he rose from the waters, a voice was heard declaring that Jesus was the beloved Son of God in whom the father delighted. After his baptism Jesus faced a series of temptations. Jesus overcame each of these temptations by quoting the Word of God." (New Zealand's Rhema Radio)

Read Matthew 3:13-4:17 | (ESV)

The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the desert. There the devil tempted him.
... Jesus said to him, "Get away from me, Satan!
... Then the devil left Jesus. (New International Reader's Version)
Temptation is real. Temptation is strong. Temptation is a daily battle.

Am I a realist?

In this passage we see Jesus as the perfect realist. A realist is a person who sees things as they truly are. They are not living in the land of make believe.

A temptation is something that attracts or lures us with the promise of pleasure or reward but ultimately is bad for us. Temptation plays on our emotions, feelings, and weaknesses and can distort reality.

I like the way Bruce Carter put it at Valley View Community Church back in his teaching series The End of Evil. In one of the messages he said "We are meant to be a blessing to this world. And part of being a blessing is pushing hard against evil." In another he said "the line of good evil runs right down the center of each one of us and because of that our hearts are often divided as well. We want to serve God. We want to be light in the darkness, but all too often we find ourselves overcome by the darkness and our light flickers at best."

I have been thinking about all of this and trying to really understand what this may look like in my life? Something clicked when I read this passage about Jesus face to face with Satan, pushing back hard against evil.

Temptation is our very own personal

E100: 054 | Room for Doubt

"Today we read in Luke chapter Luke 3 versus 1 – 20 a brief account of the ministry of John the Baptist. John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus’ ministry. John faithfully proclaimed the coming of God’s salvation and called the people to repent of their wrongdoing. As a consequence of his faithfulness to God he was imprisoned and ultimately beheaded." (New Zealand's Rhema Radio)

Read Luke 3:1-20 | (ESV)

The people were waiting. They were expecting something. They were all wondering in their hearts if John might be the Christ. ...John answered them all, "I baptize you with water. But One who is more powerful than I am will come. I'm not good enough to untie the straps of his sandals. ... But John found fault with Herod, the ruler of Galilee ... Herod locked him up in prison. (New International Reader's Version)
We know from the other written accounts about Jesus (Matthew, Mark, & John) that before John the Baptist is put in prison he has an encounter with Jesus and Jesus asks him to baptize him. We will read about that tomorrow in the next passage reading. Today I find myself reading a little ahead in the Word to learn about John the Baptist.

Sometime after John baptizes Jesus the following takes place:
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him. John said, "Look! The Lamb of God! He takes away the sin of the world! This is the One I was talking about. ... (Part of John 1:29-30, New International Reader's Version)

Then John told them, "... I give witness that this is the Son of God." (Part of John 1:32-34, New International Reader's Version)
Later John the Baptist is put in prison. His disciples were keeping him informed about all the incredible things Jesus was doing and how many people were recognizing him as a great prophet from God. John sent two of his disciples to Jesus to ask him a question.
The men came to Jesus. They said, "John the Baptist sent us to ask you, 'Are you the one who was supposed to come? Or should we look for someone else?' "

At that very time Jesus healed many people. They had illnesses, sicknesses and evil spirits. He also gave sight to many who were blind. So Jesus replied to the messengers, "Go back to John. Tell him what you have seen and heard. Blind people receive sight. Disabled people walk. Those who have skin diseases are healed. Deaf people hear. Those who are dead are raised to life. And the good news is preached to those who are poor. Blessed are those who do not give up their faith because of me."

So John's messengers left. Then Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John. He said, ... "I tell you, no one more important than John has ever been born. But the least important person in God's kingdom is more important than he is." (Part of Luke 7:20-28, New International Reader's Version)
It is recorded that John believed Jesus was the Son of God, the Messiah. After this public confession a little while later when he was in prison it appears that John was wrestling with some questions about who Jesus was and

E100: 053 | God Came Near

"Today’s selected reading’s in Luke chapter Luke 2 versus 1 – 40 focus is on the birth of Jesus. Jesus was born in a specific place and time in fulfillment of prophecy that had been spoken centuries before his miraculous birth. Jesus was not only born to rule but to save. As a child, Jesus experienced the favor of his heavenly father as he grew in strength and wisdom." (New Zealand's Rhema Radio)

Read Luke 2:1-40 | (ESV)

In his book titled God Came Near Max Lucado used his vivid imagination to bring to life the account and surrounding circumstance of God coming to earth. Amazon lets you read the first chapter online. Here is Chapter 1 called the Arrival.
The noise and bustle began earlier than usual in the village. As night gave way to dawn, people were already on the streets. Vendors were positioning themselves on the corners of the most heavily traveled avenues. Store owners were unlocking the doors to their shops. Children were awakened by the excited barking of the street dogs and the complaints of donkeys pulling carts.

The owner of the inn had awakened earlier than most in the town. After all, the inn was full, all the beds taken. Every available mat or blanket had been put to use. Soon all the customers would be stirring and there would be a lot of work to do.

One's imagination is kindled thinking about the conversation of the innkeeper and his family at the breakfast table. Did anyone mention

E100: 052 | WITH God

"In our passage today, Luke Chapter 1 versus 1 – 80 we read how the angel Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary. Gabriel announced to Mary that she had been chosen by God to miraculously conceive a child. That child was to be given the name Jesus. Jesus would receive an everlasting kingdom from his heavenly Father over which he would rule forever." (New Zealand's Rhema Radio)

Read Luke 1:1-1:80 | (ESV)

The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you. ...For nothing is impossible with God."
Sometimes I find it encouraging to dwell on a verse and really think about the actual words used. Sometimes it can be interesting and informative to think of other ways the sentence could be formulated. Here, the question came to my mind why doesn't this sentence read

E100: 051 | The Word

"In today’s reading, in John chapter 1, versus 1-18, we learn something about the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. John refers to Jesus as the Word who was in the beginning in intimate fellowship with God. The Word was himself divine. In due course something wonderful happened and the divine word became human. After the Word had become incarnate we were able to see the glory of God displayed in human form, full of grace and truth. Now all who receive the Word can become just like Jesus." (New Zealand's Rhema Radio)

Read John 1:1-1:18 | (ESV)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

... The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only [Son], who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

... to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.

... For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
This is one of those passages that shows the big picture of God's plan. The mystery of the Trinity is made known, in part, with the first verse of this Gospel account of Jesus. This passage connects everything together, both Testaments, from the creation of the world in the first chapter, the law and Moses, and right into the message of grace found in Christ.

The Law came to man

E100: 050 | No Reward in Following God?

"Following the exile, the Israelites had become insincere in their worship. Today in Malachi chapter 1 to chapter 4 verse 6 Malachi talks about Israel’s privileged status, but he also catalogues the long list of sins committed by Israel . But those who fear the Lord will be remembered." (New Zealand's Rhema Radio)

Read Malachi 1:1-4:6 | (ESV)

"Israel, I have loved you," says the Lord.
"But you ask, 'How have you loved us?'

... "You have worn the Lord out by what you keep saying.
"How have we worn him out?" you ask.
You have done it by saying, "All those who do evil things are good in the Lord's sight. And he is pleased with them." Or you ask, "Is God really fair?"

... "You have turned away from my rules. You have not obeyed them. ... Return to me. Then I will return to you," says the Lord who rules over all."

"But you ask, 'How can we return?'"

"Will a man dare to steal from me? But you rob me!"
"You ask, 'How do we rob you?'"
"By holding back your offerings. You also steal from me when you do not bring me a tenth of everything you produce. So you are under my curse. In fact, your whole nation is under it. That is because you are robbing me."
"Bring the entire tenth to the storerooms in my temple. Then there will be plenty of food. Put me to the test," says the Lord. "Then you will see that I will throw open the windows of heaven. I will pour out so many blessings that you will not have enough room for them. ..." says the Lord.

"Then all of the nations will call you blessed. Your land will be delightful," says the Lord who rules over all.

... "You have spoken bad things against me," says the Lord.
"But you ask, 'What have we spoken against you?'"
"You have said, 'It is useless to serve God. What did we gain by obeying his laws? And what did we get by pretending to be sad in front of the Lord? But now we call proud people blessed. Things go well with those who do what is evil. And God doesn't even punish those who argue with him.' "

... "But here is what will happen for you who have respect for me. The sun that brings life will rise. Its rays will bring healing to my people. You will go out and leap like calves that have just been let out of the barn." (Selected excerpts from the Book of Malachi, New International Reader's Version)
This is a book about the Judgment of God but also hope for those who turn to God. This is a tough book for me and I am struggling to

E100: 049 | Slow to Anger

"Today’s reading, Jonah chapter 1 to chapter 4 verse 11, reads like a four act play. When God commands Jonah to go to Nineveh, Jonah protests; and learns his lesson. After being swallowed by a big fish, he prays for deliverance. Revival breaks out and Jonah responds with a temper tantrum. But the story is really about God’s patience and love." (New Zealand's Rhema Radio)

Read Jonah 1:1-4:11 | (ESV)

The Lord gave this message to Jonah son of Amittai: “Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh. Announce my judgment against it because I have seen how wicked its people are.”

...But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from the Lord. He went down to the port of Joppa, where he found a ship leaving for Tarshish. He bought a ticket and went on board, hoping to escape from the Lord by sailing to Tarshish.

...“Throw me into the sea,” Jonah said, “and it will become calm again. I know that this terrible storm is all my fault.”

...This time Jonah obeyed the Lord’s command and went to Nineveh, a city so large that it took three days to see it all. On the day Jonah entered the city, he shouted to the crowds: “Forty days from now Nineveh will be destroyed!” The people of Nineveh believed God’s message, and from the greatest to the least, they declared a fast and put on burlap to show their sorrow.

...When God saw what they had done and how they had put a stop to their evil ways, he changed his mind and did not carry out the destruction he had threatened. This change of plans greatly upset Jonah, and he became very angry. So he complained to the Lord about it: “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, Lord? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people. Just kill me now, Lord! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen.” (Selected verses from the book of Jonah in the New Living Translation)
Let's put the account of Jonah in a little context. From the historical view we again must back up in time a little. Jonah lived about 200 years before the Babylonian exile and just before Isaiah lived. The Assyrian empire is at the peak of it's power in the Middle East and Israel's great enemy. Nineveh is the capital of the Assyrian Empire. Geographically, Nineveh was "on the eastern bank of the Tigris near the modern-day major city of Mosul, Iraq which lies across the river."

So God tells Jonah to go to Nineveh the capital city of Israel's enemy. He probably hated these people and wanted

E100: 048 | Ripple Effect of Faith

"Today’s reading in Daniel Chapter 6 versus 1 to 28 tells of Daniel who became the victim of a deceitful decree punishing anyone who prayed to any god except the king. But Daniel refused to play the part of a victim and continues to do what he believes is right." (New Zealand's Rhema Radio)

Read Daniel 6:1–28 | (ESV)

Then King Darius wrote to the people from every nation and language in the whole world. He said, "May you have great success! I order people in every part of my kingdom to respect and honor Daniel's God. He is the living God. He will live forever. His kingdom will not be destroyed. His rule will never end. He sets people free and saves them. He does miraculous signs and wonders. He does them in the heavens and on the earth. He has saved Daniel from the power of the lions."

So Daniel had success while Darius was king. Things went well with him during the rule of Cyrus, the Persian. (New International Reader's Version)
At this point in history God's people are living in exile in Babylon and will spend about 70 years there before they can return to Jerusalem. The center of their faith, the Temple, had been destroyed and now they are about 800 miles away from Jerusalem living in a foreign land among foreign people and customs. This was a culture based on idols. God had taken everything away and given them what they were going after. Their collective identity in their God was gone. It is during this time in exile that this account of Daniel takes place.

For the Jews living in exile now the law of God conflicted many times with the law of the land. For Daniel after about 60 years of service much of his Jewish heritage was gone, he had even taken on a Babylonian name, but his devotion to God was still with him. He couldn't worship God in the way he wanted to at the temple in Jerusalem but he could point himself towards Jerusalem three times each day in prayer. Now in this account there is a new law that would not let him worship and pray to anyone other than the current King, Darius.

Obviously, an incredible miracle is witnessed in this account of Daniel in the Lions' den, but perhaps the greater miracle is what happens in the people around him. Daniel's act of faith

E100: 047 | Jealous God

"Who would be an Old Testament prophet? In Jeremiah chapter 1 to chapter 3 verse 5 we read about Jeremiah who had the difficult task of telling his people that God was about to unleash a terrible punishment for their idolatry. He uses a very graphic image - a bride who becomes a prostitute. But God’s love is great and he is willing to forgive and “re-marry” his wayward people." (New Zealand's Rhema Radio)

Read Jeremiah 1:1–3:5 | (ESV)

As we discovered earlier after the Israelites escape from Egypt God made a covenant with his people. In part he told them
"Do not put any other gods in place of me. "Do not make statues of gods that look like anything in the sky or on the earth or in the waters. Do not bow down to them or worship them. I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God. (Exodus 20:3-4, New International Reader's Version)
God refers to himself as a jealous God. At first I found the choice of this word difficult to understand. I view the word jealous as

E100: 046 | God's Plan

"We have read before about how Israel’s cycle of idolatry and sin brought a terrible punishment. In today’s reading Isaiah chapter 51 to Chapter 53 verse 12 we begin to hear the message of hope God gave to the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah pointed to what God had done for them in the past and emphasized God’s willingness and power to save. The good news is that God will send a Savior. He will be known as the suffering servant." (New Zealand's Rhema Radio)

Read Isaiah 51:1-53:12 | (ESV)

OK, back to a little more world history. As I pointed out before, at the end of the second book of Kings the second of the two kingdoms (in the south) had fallen and the exile of Israel had begun. We are actually going to take a couple steps back from this point in history to a time after the northern kingdom had fallen and before the southern kingdom falls to Babylon. Remember there was about 130 years between the fall of the kingdoms. We are at a point of about 700 years before Christ.

During this stormy period

E100: 045 | Character of Wisdom

"Today in Proverbs Chapter 16 to chapter 18 verse 24 we see themes of Wisdom and Folly. Using our words for positive ends is one of the most significant wise things we can do. A humble, content life is far more satisfying than grabbing for all the glory we can get. Don’t forget God’s will and human action. God expects us to use our talents and abilities, but to trust the final results to him." (New Zealand's Rhema Radio)

Read Proverbs 16:1-18:24 | (ESV)

Some characteristics of those who are wise according to the book of Proverbs:

When pride comes, shame follows.
But wisdom comes to those who are not proud. (11:2)
Know & Respect God
If you really want to become wise, you must begin by having respect for the Lord. To know the Holy One is to gain understanding. (9:10)
Delight in

E100: 044 | The Cross is the Wisdom of God.

"Today’s readings in Proverbs Chapter 1 to chapter 2 verse 47 contains the writings of Israel’s King Solomon, to whom God gave a unique gift of wisdom. Solomon understood that true wisdom begins with “the fear of the Lord” and is the foundation for godly living." (New Zealand's Rhema Radio)

Read Proverbs 1:1-4:27 | (ESV)

"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. ... For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. ... Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight." (Proverbs 1:7, 2:6, 3:5)
James the brother of Jesus contrasts two kinds of wisdom writing:
Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such "wisdom" does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. (James 3:13-17, Today's New International Version)
Have you ever thought about wisdom? How would you define it?

Wisdom is defined in American Heritage Dictionary as "The ability to discern or judge what is true, right, or lasting," and further defines it as "The sum of learning through the ages" or "knowledge". The Merriam-Webster dictionary starts off the definition of wisdom as "accumulated philosophic or scientific learning: knowledge".

Maurice Meredith writes this in trying to define wisdom.
"Wisdom ... enables one to turn every good thing in life to its rightful purpose. It is something more than wit, shrewd common-sense, or even worldly prudence. It is something more than intellectual excellence, in that it implies a spiritual and moral quality of heart, will and life; and is the practical application of knowledge to its best ends."
A. W. Tozer says

E100: 043 | It Begins and Ends with Praise

"Todays reading in Psalm 103 chapters 1 to 22 catalogues the benefits of God towards humanity.. One of the main ones is forgiveness of our sins, removing them as far away as the east is from the west.. The Psalm also reminds us the right response to God, it begins and ends with praise, simply in light of who God is, and all he’s done." (New Zealand's Rhema Radio)

Read Psalm 103:1-22 | (ESV)

I will praise the Lord. Deep down inside me, I will praise him. I will praise him, because his name is holy.

... The Lord does what is right and fair for all who are beaten down. He told Moses all about his plans. He let the people of Israel see his mighty acts. The Lord is tender and kind. He is gracious. He is slow to get angry. He is full of love. He won't keep bringing charges against us. He won't stay angry with us forever.

... Let everything the Lord has made praise him everywhere in his kingdom. I will praise the Lord.
David speaks from experience here. He knew the righteous anger of God, but he also knew God's love, mercy, and grace. He understood this for his people, Israel, and he understood this personally. Israel turned away from God many times and lived many years without the presence of God as a result of their sin and inability to keep his laws. But David knew that Israel would not be separated from God forever. David knew God's forgiveness. He knew how it changed his life.

In fact, God

E100: 042 | God Desires Honesty over Religiosity

"The depths of despair that David reached after a low point in his life are expressed forcefully in today’s reading in Psalm 51 Verses 1 to 19. In his brokenness David asks God to straighten out his inner motives so he’d avoid future sin. But none of that is possible without the merciful God whom he throws himself on and declares unconditional confidence in." (New Zealand's Rhema Radio)

Read Psalm 51:1-19 | (ESV)

A poem written by David sometime after the prophet Nathan came to him and called him out on his adultery with Bathsheba.
Have mercy on me, O God,
because of your unfailing love.
... For I was born a sinner—
yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.
But you desire honesty from the womb [heart],
teaching me wisdom even there.
... You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one.
You do not want a burnt offering.
The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.
You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.
(New Living Translation)
Jesus liked to tell this story.
Jesus told a story to some people who were sure they were right with God. They looked down on everybody else. He said to them, "Two men went up to the temple to pray. One was a Pharisee. The other was a tax collector.

"The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself. 'God, I thank you that I am not like other people,' he said. 'I am not like robbers or those who do other evil things. I am not like those who commit adultery. I am not even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week. And I give a tenth of all I get.'

"But the tax collector stood not very far away. He would not even look up to heaven. He beat his chest and said, 'God, have mercy on me. I am a sinner.'

"I tell you, the tax collector went home accepted by God. But not the Pharisee. Everyone who lifts himself up will be brought down. And anyone who is brought down will be lifted up." (Luke 18:9-14, New International Reader's Version)
God is not looking for

Let Everything That Breathes Praise the LORD

Praise: To extol or exalt; worship.
Worship: To honor, love, and regard with ardent or adoring esteem or devotion.

Read Psalm 150:1-6 | (ESV)

What is worship?
"Our response both personal and corporate to God - for who he is and for what he has done! Expressed in and by the things we say and the way we live." | Louie Giglio

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