Bind the strong man!

Scripture reading for January 20th: Mark 3

Key Scriptures: Mark 3:22-27 “And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and” by the prince of demons He casts out demons.” And He called them to Him and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house.”

A big part of Jesus’ ministry was casting out demons and healing those oppressed by Satan. So much so, that even His own family thought Jesus to be “out of His mind.” (Mark 3:21) The scribes came down from the religious rulers in Jerusalem and accused Jesus of using demonic power to cast out the devils. Jesus patiently called them to listen to Him and in a rabbinic posture, asked them a question: “How can Satan cast out Satan? . . .” He pointed out that a house divided against itself would not stand. He stated that in order to cast out demons (the strongman), they must be bound first. The rope or chain Jesus had used was His authority–authority from God the Father in the kingdom of heaven. He went on to warn these religious people about blasphemy of the Holy Spirit and the unforgivable sin!

Luke 11:19-20 “And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.”

Faith confession and prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for demonstrating Your authority over the devil and demons, binding them with Your powerful Word. Give me greater discernment when I confront the forces of darkness and patience with those who lack understanding about spiritual authority.

2nd Corinthians 10:4 “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.”

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Physician to the sinner!

Scripture reading for January 19th: Mark 2

Key Scriptures: Mark 2:14-17 “And as He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow Me.” And he rose and followed Him. And as He reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and His disciples, for there were many who followed Him. And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that He was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to His disciples, “Why does He eat with tax collectors and sinners?” And when Jesus heard it, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.””

Jesus knew all men and saw potential that the world and religious community missed. As He passed by the tax station of Levi (Matthew), Jesus called out to him to follow as a disciple. Levi was quick to obey and invited Jesus to a party as his house with other tax collectors. These tax collectors were considered the “unredeemable” of Jesus time in the Jewish culture and Jesus was questioned about why He would stoop to eat with them. Jesus explained that He came for those who were sick with sin and would recognize their need of healing and forgiveness. Those who judged themselves to be righteous would miss His call and judged those who did respond.

Psalm 32:5 “I acknowledged my sin to You, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and You forgave the iniquity of my sin.” Selah

Faith confession and prayer: Thank You for calling me. Lord, keep me from self-righteousness. I confess my need for Your forgiveness and healing as a sinner. Use me to bring others to You who need healing from their brokenness.

Isaiah 61:1 The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; . . .”

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The time is fulfilled!

Scripture reading for January 18th: Mark 1

Key Scriptures: Mark 1:9-11, 14-15 “In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when He came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on Him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are My beloved Son; with You I am well pleased.”. . . .”Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the Gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel.””

Mark wrote this Gospel account of Jesus’ life with much of the eye-witness information gotten from the Apostle Peter, one of the original twelve disciples. He wrote this for the believers in Rome, many who were Gentiles and not acquainted with Jewish history or customs. He records the story of Jesus beginning with John the Baptist and Jesus’ baptism. John baptized in water and called all Jews to repent for the forgiveness of their sins in preparation for the kingdom of God. Jesus was baptized, not because He had sin, but to identify with all sinful men that He might offer Himself on their behalf. Jesus was baptized and heaven opened with God’s voice declaring, “You are My beloved Son, with You I am well pleased.” God confirmed Jesus’ Sonship with the Holy Spirit descending and resting on Him! After this, Jesus was tempted for forty days and then after the temptation and John the Baptist’s arrest, He began His ministry with John’s message of repentance and a call to believe the Gospel. The kingdom of heaven was at hand and the King was inviting all!

Isaiah 40:3 “A voice cries; “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.””

Faith confession and prayer: Lord Jesus, I believe You are God’s beloved Son and I have repented of my sins. Thank You for the gift of the Holy Spirit and the mission to testify and preach the Gospel of the King Jesus to the world. Let Your voice be heard through me today!

Matthew 24:14 “And this Gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

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Reward from the Lord!

Scripture reading for January 15th: 2nd Timothy 4

Key Scriptures: 2nd Timothy 4:5-8, 22 “As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved His appearing.” . . . .”The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.”

Paul’s final words to his son in ministry calls him to a reminder of the eternal reward that will come on the Day of Christ when at the Judgment Seat of Christ we will all be rewarded for the deeds done in the body. Paul knew his race was at the end here on earth. He was soon to be beheaded–poured out as a ‘drink offering’! He had maintained his faith and fought a good fight to stay true to Jesus Christ, suffering for the Gospel but anticipating the reward! This reward would also be for Timothy and all others who faithfully followed and endured! God is with us and His grace will bring us through to reward! We will cast our crowns at Christ’s feet!

Daniel 12:18 “But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, forever and ever.”

Faith confession and prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for the promise of reward from You for faithfulness and endurance through the trials here on earth. Help me to maintain my testimony and finish the good fight in Your grace filled with Your Holy Spirit.

1st Corinthians 3:13-15 “. . .each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.”

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Profit from Scripture!

Scripture reading for January 14th: 2nd Timothy 3

Key Scriptures: 2nd Timothy 3:12-17 “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

Paul reminded Timothy over and over that those following Jesus and applying God’s Word to their lives would not be universally loved and accepted. The world was full of evil and people under evil’s influence and deception. This would increase as the world population increased but should not affect how believers lived. They must hold on firmly to the basic truths of Scripture. God breathed out the Scriptures and through them man can become wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Scripture is profitable for reproof–addressing wrong-doing and sin, for correction–changing course, and for illumination of our path through this increasingly evil world. God’s Word will equip believers for every good work and brings eternal profit!

Psalm 119:14-15 In the way of Your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. I will meditate on Your precepts and fix my eyes on Your ways.”

Faith confession and prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for enduring suffering and teaching Your followers that suffering would come to them in an increasingly evil world. I will study Your Word and faithfully remind my brothers and sisters how profitable it is to become equipped and complete. Help me to rejoice when persecutions come.

Luke 6:22-23 “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.”

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A workman approved!

Scripture reading for January 13th: 2nd Timothy 2
Key Scriptures: 2nd Timothy 2:8-10;14-15 “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my Gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the Word of God is not bound! Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.” . . .”Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the Word of truth.”

Paul’s reminder to Timothy continues as he wrote to him from prison in Rome and would soon suffer martyrdom. He calls to his remembrance Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, son of David, Son of God. Paul had unashamedly preached Jesus Christ and was now suffering and bound by chains. But Paul reminded Timothy not to be ashamed of his imprisonment or to fear his own. The Word of God was not chained and was producing the fruit of salvation and eternal glory in those who would receive. Paul encouraged Timothy to preach clearly the Word of God to his hearers and to continually present himself to God as His workman. God’s grace would enable him to rightly preach the whole truth and not be ashamed at Christ’s appearing. He wanted Timothy to hear “Well done, faithful servant!”

Psalm 126:5-6 “Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy. He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.”

Faith confession and prayer: Lord Jesus, I will endure suffering for the sake of sharing the Seed of Your Word bringing salvation and eternal glory to those lost and in darkness. Keep my mind and heart focused on You alone! May the “unchained” Word go forth from me turning many to You!

Daniel 12:3 “And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.”

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Fanning the flame!

Scripture reading for January 12th: 2nd Timothy 1

Key Scriptures: 2nd Timothy 1:6-10 “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear, but of power and love and self-control. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share in the suffering for the Gospel by the power of God, Who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of His own purpose and grace, which He gave us in Christ Jesus before the world began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, Who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel, . . .”

In his last letter before leaving this world, Paul affectionately addressed his son in the faith, Timothy with a reminder. Timothy had come from a line of people who were marked by their faith in God. Timothy also had come to faith and had been ordained by Paul through the laying on of his hands and had received the gift of the Holy Spirit and a holy calling to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit enabled Timothy to be bold and powerful in loving God and sharing God’s love with a hurting and sometimes hateful world. Paul reminded him of this Gift and encouraged him to fan the flames of God’s passionate love and power through the exercise of this Gift. Suffering would result, but life and immortality would flow for Timothy and those who received the Gospel message and God’s purpose would be fulfilled.

Deuteronomy 6:4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

Faith confession and prayer: Lord Jesus, Thank You for the Gift of Your Holy Spirit to give me boldness, power, and passionate love for You and for Your people. I want to fan into flames the Gift You have provided and that is in me. Give me more grace and power to live a holy life and reach the lost!

Leviticus 19:18 “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.”

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Holding fast to Life Eternal

Scripture reading for January 11th: 1st Timothy 6

Key Scriptures: 1st Timothy 6:12-16 “Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you in the presence of God, Who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, Who in His testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which He will display at the proper time–He Who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, Who alone has immortality, Who dwells in unapproachable light, Whom no one has ever seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.”

Paul ends his letter to Timothy where it began in the first chapter. He encouraged Timothy to hold fast to eternal life by living by faith. He encouraged him to live a holy life in expectation of Jesus’ promised return and ended with worship of the King of kings and Lord of lords! Honor and eternal dominion are found in Him alone! He dwells in unapproachable light and is without beginning or end! What a blessed Lord we serve!

Leviticus 11:44 “For I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy for I am holy.”

Faith confession and prayer: Lord Jesus, I believe You are the Son of God, crucified for my sins, buried in a tomb, raised on the third day to eternal glory at God’s right hand. I praise and worship You as King and Lord! Give me grace to hold fast to eternal Life and enjoy eternal pleasure with You!

Psalm 16:11 “You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

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Elders and the Church

Scripture reading for January 8th: 1st Timothy 5

Key Scriptures: 1st Timothy 5:17-22 “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.” Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear. In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without prejudicing, doing nothing from partiality. Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor take part in the sins of others; keep yourself pure.”

Paul gave instructions to the Church concerning the care and discipline of their elders. Elders were charged with teaching and preaching God’s Word and prayer. Those who labored–worked hard and consistently–were to be taken care of financially from the offerings brought in. If there was any charge of sin in an elder’s life, it must be brought by two or three witnesses and all facts established. The offender was to be publicly rebuked if they persisted in sin. Those who repented would humbly ask for forgiveness and mercy. These things were to be done without respect for persons or any partiality. A warning was given to be careful in ordaining elders or laying hands on them prematurely. Careful inquiry and purity of life must be ascertained before setting them in leadership.

Deuteronomy 19:15 “A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established.”

Faith confession and prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for clearly giving care to elders through instructions to Your people. Thank you for financial care and spiritual care and discipline. Help Your Church to do these things without partiality or prejudice.

Matthew 10:9-10 “Acquire no gold or silver or copper for your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics or sandals or a staff, for the laborer deserves his food.”

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Live and preach the Word

Scripture reading for January 7th: 1st Timothy 4

Key Scriptures: 1st Timothy 4:7-12 “Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness: for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for this present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially those who believe. Command and teach these things. Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I come devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.”

Leadership in Christ’s Church requires discipline, focused living and preaching. First, there are the things to avoid: false teachers and false doctrine summed up by Paul as “silly myths”. Our heart is Christ’s home and there is constant vigilance needed to maintain purity of thinking, Then Paul lists things to cultivate: training and discipline in applying God’s Word to our own lives and families. This is made visible by how we live and act and speak in faith and love and purity. It has been said, we are the only “Bible” many people will read. A primary focus of public ministry is the public reading and declaration of Scripture. We use it to teach and exhort others to godly living and fruitfulness in Christ’s kingdom, hopefully while living it out in the Holy Spirit’s grace.

Psalm 119:105 Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

Faith confession and prayer: Lord Jesus, help me today by the Holy Spirit to first apply Your Word to my life and guide my feet in Your ways. I choose to serve the Lord and obey His Word. I will publicly declare the Word of God by reading Scripture, teaching it and living as a godly example.

Joshua 24:15 “And if it is evil in your sight to serve the Lord, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

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