Monthly Archives: September 2017

Today’s Scripture – September 29, 2017

Luke 9:1-6 (NIV) When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. He told them: “Take nothing for the journey–no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town. If people do not welcome you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave their town, as a testimony against them.” So they set out and went from village to village, preaching the gospel and healing people everywhere.

There was much work to be done .Many people still had not heard the good news of the kingdom, and seen the positive signs of its arrival. Jesus could only be in one place at a time, and time was passing quickly.

So He called His closest disciples together, empowered them, gave them authority, and sent them out to proclaim the coming of the kingdom of God, and to demonstrate its reality through miracles and casting out demons. It is important to note that these twelve men were given this power and authority by Jesus. Without these gifts, they would not have been effective as witnesses of the kingdom. A powerless Christianity does not show the reality of God’s kingdom to non-believers.

Far from being merely a test run for their future ministry, this assignment was the real deal. The apostles (“sent ones”) were to go as Jesus Himself was going, taking nothing for the journey but the clothes on their backs. This would make them completely dependent on God, not just for the power and authority that they would need, but for their sustenance as well. Jesus told them that, in every place that He was sending them, they were to look for a person who would welcome them into his or her home and provide for them. If they could not find anyone in a town who would welcome them, they were to simply leave, shaking the dust of the town off of their feet as a sign of God’s own judgment against them.

The amazing thing is that the disciples obeyed Jesus to the letter. They went from village to village, proclaiming the reality of God’s kingdom in each place, freeing people from demons and diseases, and experiencing God’s abundant provision everyplace that they went. They were faithful to God’s call on their lives, and in return, God was faithful to provide everything that they needed, both physically and spiritually.

Father, this is so clear, so simple: You provided everything that those sent by Jesus needed. But it is also clear that You didn’t provide first, before they started. It was only as they were in the midst of the mission that You had assigned to them that You provided all that they needed. Help me to be faithful as well, actively about the work to which You have called me, so that I, too, can experience all of Your provision for me. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – September 28, 2017

Luke 8:51-56 (NIV) When he arrived at the house of Jairus, he did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John and James, and the child’s father and mother. Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. “Stop wailing,” Jesus said. “She is not dead but asleep.” They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead.
But he took her by the hand and said, “My child, get up!” Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened.

Jesus often made pronouncements based on spiritual reality that seemed like foolishness to those whose eyes were only focused on physical realities. In this case, when Jesus and His party neared Jairus’ house, they could hear the wailing and sobbing of those mourning the death of this twelve-year-old girl. That was the physical reality.

But Jesus knew what He was going to do for this girl. He saw a reality that was hidden from the tear-blurred eyes of the family and friends. So He told them “She is not dead but asleep.” That was the spiritual reality. He was not telling them that she wasn’t really physically dead – she was, and the evidence of her death was so incontrovertible that everyone laughed at Him in response. He was trying to tell them that the girl’s current state was only temporary, that she would soon be “awakened” to life. (He used this same figure of speech when He talked to His disciples about Lazarus – that he had “fallen asleep,” and that Jesus was going to “wake Him up” (John 11:11). He then had to explain that He had meant that Lazarus had died (verse 14).)

But the people in Jairus’ house were blind to the spiritual reality. Their blindness didn’t discourage Jesus – they would all see the truth soon enough. He simply walked over to the bed where the girl lay, took her by the hand, and shouted, as if to one in deep sleep, “My child, get up!” Immediately, the girl took a deep breath and opened her eyes. Jesus helped her to sit up, and ordered her family to give her something to eat.

The family was obviously flabbergasted. They were sure that she had died. But they couldn’t deny the fact that she was now alive, and, as far as they could see, she had no trace of the fever that had killed her; she was completely healthy and strong.

Jesus swore them all to secrecy, not to keep the Father from getting glory, but to prevent Him from being mobbed in the future by crowds of people bringing corpses to Him to be resurrected. Physical death is the normal end for all mankind, and Jesus did very few resurrections. Those He did do were done as specific signs, and they were temporary; all of those raised to life would die again. Only Jesus rose from the dead never to die again, the first fruits of all those who will rise at the last day, incorruptible forever.

Father, spiritual reality always trumps physical reality. If You make a pronouncement, whether it is that a disease is healed, a sin is forgiven, or even that a death is temporary, that is the reality, and we need to take You at Your word, and move forward in faith. Help me, Lord, to keep my eyes and ears open to You and Your word as You speak wonders to me, that I can then share with others. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – September 27, 2017

Luke 8:49-50 (NIV) While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. “Your daughter is dead,” he said. “Don’t bother the teacher any more.”
Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.”

In any other circumstance, the words, “Your daughter is dead” would signal the end of all hope. Jairus knew and trusted that Jesus could heal any disease that was brought to Him. He had come to fetch Jesus back to his house in the hope that He would get there before the life had gone out of his daughter. But once she died, he figured that there was no hope left for a healing.

Jesus watched Jairus’ whole frame sag in despair as he heard the news. But Jesus knew that, at least as far as He was concerned, death was not the end of hope. Death did not put the insuperable barrier in front of Jesus that it might have put in front of others. Just a few weeks earlier, He had called back to life the son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7:11-17), and this situation was no more challenging than that one had been.

Jesu’s words to Jairus were carefully chosen: “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.” Don’t let doubt squash out your faith. You came to Me believing that I can help, and I still can. Keep hold of your faith, your belief in Me. The opportunity for healing has not passed yet, because I am going with you.

In all of this, Jesus was listening to the Father, and the Father was telling Him to keep moving forward in this mission. There was much more that He wanted to do. So, with Jesus’ hand on his shoulder, a very troubled and confused Jairus started again toward home, holding tightly to both his faith in Jesus, and the ray of hope that He was holding out.

Father, how easy it is to lose hope when news comes in that says that things aren’t going as we had hoped. But in those times, we, as Your people, need to turn again to You, and listen to what You have to say. How often we have given up halfway there, because of a change in the situation, when the whole time You were saying, “Don’t be afraid; just believe!” But we didn’t listen to You, because we had heard “the news.” Lord, help me to always listen intently to You, both before I make my plans, and as I work to accomplish them. Let Your word always be the last word, so that I not only stay in step with You, but so that I never lose hope while You are still working. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – September 26, 2017

Luke 8:42-48 (NIV) As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.
“Who touched me?” Jesus asked.
When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.”
But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.” Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”

This woman’s faith in Jesus’ ability to heal her was as strong as Jairus’ faith that Jesus could heal his daughter, but it manifested itself differently. Jairus’ faith led him boldly into Jesus’ presence to ask Him to come and heal the girl. This woman’s faith led her to touch just the edge of Jesus’ robe, believing that that touch would be enough to heal her (Mark 5:28).

The thing that caused her to touch Jesus secretly was the reason that she needed the healing: her twelve-year-long battle with hemorrhage. The constant flow of blood made her ceremonially unclean. And anything and anyone she touched became ceremonially unclean as well, and had to undergo a cleansing ritual to be made clean again.

If the woman had asked Jesus publicly to cleanse her, everyone in the crowd who had stood next to her or jostled her would have suddenly realized that this woman had made them unclean. And she didn’t want to face that kind of scorn and rejection.

In her mind, the plan was simple: creep up in the crowd, touch Jesus’ robe – He wouldn’t even notice – receive the healing, and go home whole. And everything went just as she planned, up to a point. As soon as she touched Jesus’ robe, she felt a rush of power that told her the healing had happened. But before she could move away from Jesus, He suddenly stopped and looked around asking, “Who touched Me?”

The woman froze, terrified that an accusing finger would be thrust into her face. But Jesus was still looking around. The crowd was still jostling Jesus, and Peter pointed out that dozens of people were pushing against Him and touching Him.

But Jesus said no, that the touch He was talking about was different. All of the people jostling around Jesus weren’t receiving anything in the process. But one touch, done in faith, had received a burst of power through Him. A healing had been done.

Jesus continued to look around, and the woman knew that it was only a matter of seconds before His eyes fell on her. So she took a breath, stepped forward, and declared, “It was me.”

All eyes focused on her as she briefly told her story, a story of twelve years of isolation and fear that had been transformed in an instant when she had touched Jesus. All eyes then turned to Jesus. This woman had intentionally touched Him when she knew that she was unclean! How would He react?

But Jesus’ face broke into a gentle smile as He said, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.” Then He moved forward again to continue His journey to Jairus’ house.

Father, this woman’s desire was to receive a secret, private miracle that nobody would ever know about. But You don’t work that way. The miracles You choose to do are designed to bring You glory, and to reveal Your power and Your grace. But none of that can happen if the recipients of the miracle don’t tell anyone, but just keep it to themselves. It’s significant that Luke points out that the woman testified to the healing “in the presence of all the people.” All who heard could thus give You appropriate praise for the wonders You had done. Help me, Lord, to testify freely about all that You have done and continue to do in my life, so that Your name is glorified through me every day. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – September 25, 2017

Luke 8:40-42 (NIV) Now when Jesus returned, a crowd welcomed him, for they were all expecting him. Then a man named Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, came and fell at Jesus’ feet, pleading with him to come to his house because his only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying.
As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him.

Jesus had returned from the eventful trip to the region of the Gerasenes, and was immediately mobbed by the people of Capernaum, who wanted to see more miracles. But one man, Jairus, the synagogue ruler, came to Jesus on a special mission.

Jairus was no gawker or spectator. And he didn’t bring with him anyone for Jesus to heal. His twelve-year-old daughter was far too sick to leave the house. In fact, the doctors had told the whole family that she was dying, and that they could do no more for her. The signs of death were clearly on the girl, and the family had lost all hope and had begun the mourning process.

But then Jairus heard the news that Jesus had come back to town and, without a word of explanation, he headed out the door to the waterfront. If Jesus would only come before his daughter died, surely He could heal her and save her life.

Jesus was surrounded by a huge crowd, but Jairus’ desperation propelled him through the throng, right into Jesus’ presence, where he fell to his knees. His plea was simple: “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” (Mark 5:23 NIV)

That plea demonstrated a huge amount of faith that did not rest merely on desperation, but on Jairus’ knowledge of what Jesus had done before, and what he knew that He could do now. And it was that strong faith that moved Jesus to start immediately for Jairus’ house, pushing through the crushing crowds.

Father, we need to maintain that same faith in Jesus’ ability that Jairus had. We have adequate testimony of His ability in the gospels and the book of Acts, as well as the testimony of multiplied millions of witnesses through the ages. Add to that what He has done in our own lives, and there is no rational reason to doubt Him. I know that He has already done so much in my own life, and those acts of transformation, restoration, healing, and empowerment should form the basis of a boundless faith in my heart. Help me to keep all of these before me every day, so that my faith never falters, but continually grows in strength as Jesus’ faithfulness to me continues to be demonstrated. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – September 21, 2017

Luke 8:38-39 (NIV) The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.

The most natural thing in the world would be for someone who had received such a great deliverance form Jesus to want to follow Him, to become His disciple. And some see Jesus as being a bit cruel for not allowing this man to do that.

But there were two issues that arose here. First, this man was a gentile, which would introduce some serious complications for Jesus’ ministry if he was brought into Jesus’ group of followers. It would actually close doors into the hearts of the Jewish people that were Jesus’ primary target group. Some may be dismayed or critical of that being the case, but it was the state of the hearts of the Jewish people, and Jesus was always extremely practical in how He worked to spread the good news among them.

The same kind of practicality is seen in Paul when he had Timothy circumcised before allowing him to accompany him in his missionary journeys (Acts 16:3). Paul, who had just fought strenuously in the Jerusalem Council to allow gentile believers to not undergo circumcision (Acts 15), insisted that Timothy be circumcised because he had a Jewish mother, and was therefore considered Jewish by birth, not a gentile. And, whether he liked it or not, for Timothy to be an uncircumcised Jew would get in the way of Paul’s whole group reaching the Jewish people with the gospel. The people of the kingdom must follow Jesus’ lead, and be eminently practical in how they reach out.

The second issue was that this man now had a story to tell, and telling that story would go far in planting seeds that would open the hearts of the gentiles in the area of the Gerasenes and the whole Decapolis to the gospel when it began to spread among the gentile population in just a few short years.

This man was given no teaching in evangelism. His only tool was to be his own story, his testimony of “all that God has done for you.” No theological argument can be more powerful than the personal testimony of a transformed life, and this man’s life had been transformed indeed, from the ground floor all the way to the top.

It is interesting that this man apparently made a connection that Jesus’ own disciples had not yet made, a connection that Luke takes great pains to emphasize. Jesus’ commission to the man was to “tell all that God has done for you.” The man’s actions in obedience to that commission was to tell “how much Jesus had done for him.” Somehow this man sensed that, at the very least, God was somehow present in Jesus in a way that identified Him with God.

Father, these two lessons, the need for practicality in how we spread the gospel, and the centrality of our personal testimony in how we share with others, are vital for all of us to remember. Lord, You have completely transformed my own life, and I never tire of sharing that story. Help me to be even more eager to share it freely among everyone I meet, so that the Holy Spirit can use it to prepare the hearts of the people who hear it to receive salvation. Amen.

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Today’s Scriptures – September 20, 2017

Luke 8:32-37 (NIV) A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into them, and he gave them permission. When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.
When those tending the pigs saw what had happened, they ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. Those who had seen it told the people how the demon-possessed man had been cured. Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear. So he got into the boat and left.

There are two groups that are terrified of Jesus in this event: the legion of demons, and the people of the area.

The demons knew who Jesus was, that He was the eternal Son of God who was destined to one day hurl them all into the abyss to be imprisoned forever. Not being omniscient, they were shocked to see Jesus suddenly come ashore and walk purposefully toward them. They believed that their time had come, and pleaded with Him not to utterly destroy them.

They saw the herd of pigs nearby, and begged Jesus to let them leave the man and go into them instead, which Jesus gave them permission to do, fully knowing what would happen. As soon as the demons went into the pigs, the pigs panicked, stampeded down the hill into the sea, and all of them drowned, leaving the demons to wander in search of other victims.

The people did not know who Jesus was. All that they knew was that He seemed to be at the center of the pig panic. Two thousand pigs (Mark 5:13) was a sizeable loss, but the mystery of why all of them should simultaneously lose their minds and drown themselves was frightening. The people of the area moved as a body to where Jesus and His disicples were on the shore of the lake, ready to demand an explanation, and even reparations.

But what they found when they got there moved them from righteous anger to full terror in a single step. There was that crazy, demon-possessed man, clothed and quiet, sitting and listening to Jesus like a school boy. They had tried everything to tame this wild man, including chaining him up. But he had simply broken the chains and run howling back to his shelter among the tombs.

In an instant, they decided as a body that someone who could cast out demons, destroy a whole herd of pigs in one fell swoop, and tame a wild man was not someone that they wanted around. But all of the “demand” had left them. This was someone to be reckoned with. Who knew what He was capable of if they made Him mad? So they politely “requested” that He leave the area. And Jesus, never one to stay where He wasn’t wanted, simply nodded and headed for the boat, followed by His disciples.

Father, being that close to that kind of power is kind of scary. Even among Christians, a real miracle can cause as much fear as rejoicing! We are uncomfortable with the supernatural, with things that we can’t explain and understand. But Your power unleashed in our world will always be beyond explanation, beyond understanding. Help me, Lord, to never be afraid of Your power, but to be a channel of it so that, as I do the things that Jesus did, and even greater things (John 14:12), the people of the world will see Your hand at work, and turn to You for salvation. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – September 18, 2017

Luke 8:26-31 (NIV) They sailed to the region of the Gerasenes, which is across the lake from Galilee. When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!” For Jesus had commanded the evil spirit to come out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places.
Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”
“Legion,” he replied, because many demons had gone into him. And they begged him repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss.

The area of the Gerasenes was inhabited mostly by gentiles. But Jesus had been sent on a mission there.

When they had landed onshore, the mission actually came running to Jesus! It was a poor man who had been taken captive by a large number of demons. Very little of the man’s backstory is given by the gospel writers, but he had been possessed by demons, apparently in increasing numbers, for many years. He lived among the tombs (Mark 5:2-4), and even though the people of the area had tried to restrain him, he was given supernatural strength by the demons that enabled him to simply break the chains and shackles.

When Jesus came ashore, a tremendous battle raged inside the man. The demons that controlled him knew who Jesus was, and that He could send them into the abyss forever. They wanted to stay far away from Him. On the other hand, the man didn’t know who Jesus was, but he sensed the fear that the demons had of Jesus, so he thought that He might be able to deliver him from them.

So the man overcame the demonic control long enough to run to Jesus and throw himself at His feet. But it was the demons who spoke to Jesus, pleading for their very existence. Jesus asked the demon’s name not because of some formula for exorcism that He was following, but because He couldn’t believe what He was seeing when He looked at the man; He had never seen so many demons in a single person!

The man was at the end of his rope. But he had sized up the situation correctly, and had fought into the presence of the only one who could deliver him from his overwhelming oppressor.

Father, it is amazing to see how demons responded to Jesus’ presence. They were always terrified. There was never any fight against Him, just pleading for their existence. The demons were never cocky with Him, but trembled in terror at His very presence. And that is the same Jesus who lives in me! With Jesus in my heart, I never need to be afraid of demons, no matter how scary or powerful they seem, or how many there are. Help me to always walk fearlessly in the world, knowing that the light of Christ lives in my heart, and is able to banish any darkness that I come across. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – September 17, 2017

Luke 8:22-25 (NIV) One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s go over to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and set out. As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger.
The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!”
He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples.
I
n fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.”

This event came fairly early in Jesus’ ministry. His followers were still being surprised daily by what He could do, and were still trying to put the pieces together in their minds as to exactly who He was.

When Jesus told them to make for the far side of the lake, they obeyed without argument. They knew that Jesus never made an idle suggestion; He always had a reason for what He did. But they didn’t expect the storm.

Several of Jesus’ followers were seasoned fishermen who made their living on this inland sea. They knew how dangerous the storms were that came down from the surrounding hills. They could be deadly. But these men had a lot of experience even with the storms.

When the storm rose up, the men employed their usual tactics to weather it, not concerned enough about their safety to disturb Jesus, who was asleep on cushions in the back of the boat (Mark 4:38). But the intensity of the storm quickly ratcheted up to the point that waves were crashing over them, and putting them in danger of being swamped and sunk. At that point they woke Jesus with the grim news that they were all going to die.

They didn’t really expect Jesus to do anything about the storm. They had seen Jesus take on sickness and demons, but the wind and the waves were outside of anyone’s control except for God Himself. They merely thought that He should be apprised of their dire situation.

Jesus looked around at the towering waves crashing over the boat with spray being blown off their tops by the shrieking wind. Then He stood up and simply yelled a command to the storm that it stop. A simple rebuke, as if disciplining a child throwing a tantrum. And in an instant the wind stopped and the waves dropped to their normal height.

The change happened so quickly that the disciples nearly fell over on the suddenly steady deck. Then Jesus looked at them all, soaking wet and shivering, with eyes as wide as saucers, and simply said, “Where is your faith?” before lying down again on the cushions and quickly falling back asleep.

If the storm had scared the disciples, the fact that the storm had obeyed Jesus terrified them. They had never seen anything like it in all of their collective years on the water. They knew that Jesus was an amazing person, a miracle worker, a prophet, probably even the Messiah. But this was far beyond what any mere mortal could do. So they asked each other in hushed voices, “Who is this guy?”

Father, Jesus kept on demonstrating who He was, God in the flesh, to anyone who had eyes to see. But even His own closest disciples were slow to believe. Today there are many who will accept Jesus as a good man or a great teacher. But they stop short of accepting Him as truly God. He has proved that to me by the changes in my life that He brought when He came into my heart. Help me to show others that same great truth through my life every day. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – September 16, 2017

Luke 8:19-21 (NIV) Now Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see him, but they were not able to get near him because of the crowd. Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.”
He replied, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.”

Jesus was not rejecting His family in this event, but making an important point. With the coming of the kingdom of God, the world would be forever and decisively split into two, and only two, kinds of people: not Jews and Gentiles, but the people of the kingdom, and the people of the world.

This division depends not on denomination, or tradition, or doctrine, but on whether or not a person is actively living in the kingdom, connected to Jesus in a vital and active relationship. Thus there are even many who attend our churches week after week who are not actively living in the kingdom, and are thus people of the world, with worldly values, worldly actions, and worldly viewpoints and attitudes.

Jesus’ point was that, from a kingdom viewpoint, family relations become less important than the relationships that exist among those who live in and are actively involved in the work of the kingdom. Blood may be thicker than water, but the bond of the Holy Spirit is thicker than either.

That does not mean that we are to cease caring about or caring for our family members once we come into the kingdom, although it is entirely possible that God may call us away from them to do kingdom work elsewhere. Indeed, family members may actually become our first mission field. But, just as the four fishermen left their families and livelihoods behind to follow Jesus and to make a new family with each other and with those who also made the decision to leave all and follow Jesus, many today quickly discover that, as a member of the kingdom of God, they have much more in common with others of the kingdom than they do with blood family.

It is important to note that at least a part of Jesus’ statement was based on the fact that most of those wanting to see Him, specifically His brothers, had not yet come to believe in Him, and thus really were outside of the kingdom of God, and far less close to Him than those who were already hearing God’s word and putting it into practice in their own lives.

Father, I have discovered this truth in my own life. Those I live with and work with in the kingdom life quickly become a “family” in a way that goes far beyond mere blood relation. I also have discovered that there arises in me a powerful desire to reach my blood relatives with the good news, so that I can have the same kind of amazing depth in our relationship. Thank You for this truth today. Amen.

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