Monday, April 30, 2012

He Must Increase - Day 120

I met with a couple last week and asked them to pray about something in their relationship. I asked them not to talk about their issue but to just pray and trust that the Spirit of God would lead them to the same conclusion. We met again yesterday to see what God had revealed. In this instance they came back with a breakthrough concerning a fairly serious issue. Whew!!! and Praise God.

Over the years in counseling and in our leadership team at church I've employed this tactic with great success. Asking the Holy Spirit to speak to us is certainly not ground breaking. But, agreeing not to discuss the matter with each other before discussing it with him might be for some people. So often we tell God what we are going to do and then expect him to bless it. Or, we build a case based on we assume he would say which usually flows from our agenda. How much better, when possible, to spend time listening separately to the one voice of the Spirit. I truly believe that when both people are surrendered to God in prayer, listening to what the Spirit says, they will find common ground. I'm reminded of Ephesians 4:4 which says, " 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all."

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 1 Chronicles 1-2


Sunday, April 29, 2012

He Must Increase - Day 119

Last night was one of those famous instances in Neilson family lore where I should have listened to my wife. We were heading out to visit some friends and hadn't been to their country home in quite a while. We got to a fork in the road and my wife said left while I was turning the car right. After driving many miles down a long a twisty road I consented that I'd been wrong and she dialed them up for directions. And...much to my dismay it turns out she was right...again! Darn the luck. The big surprise was this; 500 yards down the wrong road there was a connection to the right road. There was a place to turn off the wrong road just ahead, and a chance to get heading back toward our actual destination. Go figure!

Our spiritual lives are like that. We have these intersections along the way, crossroads if you will. Sometimes we take a wrong turn and it seems such a long way to go back. But grace is that side road that we can turn to anytime. Grace is the side road that leads to forgiveness. Grace is that side road that magically reappears again and again when we find ourselves lost again and again. God has paved a road to himself through his son Jesus. So when your pride is dashed, and you've been humbled, and you're ready to admit where you went wrong (or to admit your wife was right), ask the Father for grace...and get back to traveling in the right direction.

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 2 Kings 23-25


Saturday, April 28, 2012

He Must Increase - Day 118

Chew on some words from A.W. Tozer, “God knows instantly and effortlessly all matter and all matters, all mind and every mind, all spirit and all spirits, all being and every being, all creaturehood and all creatures, every plurality and all pluralities, all law and every law, all relations, all causes, all thoughts, all mysteries, all enigmas, all feeling, all desires, every unuttered secret, all thrones and dominions, all personalities, all things visible and invisible in heaven and in earth, motion, space, time, life, death, good, evil, heaven, and hell.”

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 2 Kings 20-22


Friday, April 27, 2012

He Must Increase - Day 117

Last night my little girl (who isn't so little) was feeling overwhelmed and out of time with a big homework assignment. She was tearful, tired, and in danger of not finishing. I took her in the back room, we took a lap top and some deep breaths and got to work. She was feeling like giving up (we all know that feeling) but a little encouragement, a couple of pointers, and 30 minutes later it was done. The truth of it is I mainly sat there and watched her type. But at the end she felt like I had pulled her through.

It's funny how crisis can overwhelm us. It makes little things seem big, simple things seem hard, and minor inconveniences appear to be the end of the world. There are some things that are big and won't go away fast. But sitting and weeping alone in isolation and despair rarely produces good results. Galatians 6:2 says, "Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." What does it mean to carry someone else's burden? Often times it as simple as asking, "What's wrong?" or "How can I help?" It's rare that we offer the hurting anything they couldn't do themselves, but the presence and reassurance of a brother/sister in Christ is often the most precious gift to a hurting person. Yes, sometimes a burdened person just needs another person to be there. And in that simple way, we fulfill the law of Christ.

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 2 Kings 18-19

Thursday, April 26, 2012

He Must Increase - Day 116

I had a revelation last night watching the movie "Nacho Libre." There is a line where a bumbling monk (Nacho) says that the other monks don't respect what he knows. I won't quote the exact line, which is jr. high boy hilarious, but the essence of it is golden. Sometimes people in the church feel marginalized and disrespected by pastors and church leaders. They want to know that their thoughts and convictions merit consideration. They want to be heard, respected, and made to feel that what they think counts too. The "experts" see errors in their doctrine and logic and often say so without much consideration. There is a balance here. While we don't want to affirm people's doctrinal mistakes; we don't want to crush their spirits either. It takes a steady hand to carefully operate on people's beliefs and convictions without severing a critical artery. It's helpful to remember that some wrong beliefs pertain to vital areas and should be addressed quickly. Other wrong beliefs are fairly harmless and can be gently changed over time. It's also helpful for church leaders to remember that they didn't start out "in the know." And...we have't arrived yet either. Realizing that you are further along in the process, but still in process can help keep things in perspective.

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 2 Kings 15-17

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

He Must Increase - 115

I talked to a friend yesterday who had just taken a test for promotion at work. He didn't feel like the test went that well and sounded pretty discouraged about it. Having just finished another bout of education I know a lot about tests. It's so easy to let your morale be affected by a test. It's tempting to gauge your self-worth by test results. We "pass or fail" tests but tests don't determine whether we are a success or failure; at least not paper tests. I told him that there are other tests in life that are more important and reminded him that he's passing the important ones. He is a man of God. He is a loving and devoted husband. His kids are being raised to know and love Jesus. He is passing the most important tests in life and that should offer some big picture perspective on the small picture promotion. Could I just point out to you that when we pass the important tests a promotion of epic proportions awaits us. We'll graduate from our lowly existence on earth to our heavenly existence in God's kingdom. And the greatest part about that heavenly entrance exam is that Jesus is the answer to all the questions!

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 2 Kings 12-14

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

He Must Increase - Day 114

I've run into a couple of people recently that have caused me to reflect on grace. There are many well meaning Christians who have bought into legalistic teachings that make performance more important than grace. They are under grace as people who follow Christ, but they operate like they are under the law. They work hard to earn what Christ has given freely. They punish themselves for failure though Christ paid for those failures on Calvary. They see themselves as a big disappointment to God, though God sees them as the objects of his love. How could we get this wrong!?

In John 1:17 it says, "For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." The law taught people that they could never be found righteous through rule keeping, but Christ taught people that they no longer had to try. It's switched around now. We are found righteous by the grace of Christ Jesus! We follow his teachings (yes, there are some rules) now because we want to, not to earn his favor.

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 2 Kings 9-11


Monday, April 23, 2012

He Must Increase - Day 113

Had a great discussion today with my staff regarding the issue of discipleship. There are times when people are being instructed, challenged and taught in large groups. Sometimes this sparks people to action, or they have a break through, or even a significant change. But here's the reality: many people have sat in large group settings (like Sunday worship)for a lifetime and shown very little progress in their faith. They've been discipled but it's more incidental than intentional. I wonder how many people go through the Christian life that way? Knowing, feeling, believing that they should grow to maturity...but not know how to do it, where to start, or who to ask for help. That alone is enough to dissuade many people from trying to disciple someone. I didn't have someone to disciple me so I don't know how. But if you've grown, and learned, you have things to share with others behind you. Think about how you've grown. Who were the influencers? What resources were helpful? What lessons have you learned. Could you share those with another person? More specifically, could you adopt someone that you will regularly meet with to share those things. In a very simple sense, that is discipleship. It may not sound like much, but it is much more than many have tried or received. Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 2 Kings 6-8 .

Sunday, April 22, 2012

He Must Increase - Day 112

Ran across this quote that I think frames the pressing question of our day quite nicely. Roll it around and I think you'll catch the multifaceted implications of this: J.I.Packer said, "Our business is to present the Christian faith clothed in modern terms, not to propagate modern thought clothed in Christian terms... Confusion here is fatal." Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 2 Kings 4-5 .

Saturday, April 21, 2012

He Must Increase - 111

The two ladies at my house have been abuzz about the arrival of Spring. When you've had weeks of Oregon rain and the weatherman says "75" we they got excited. My jr. high daughter has been wearing shorts and t-shirts all week, and my wife keeps saying, "I can't wait!" It's a bit silly to get that excited about sunshine I suppose; but I share their enthusiasm. It can be dreary in the grayness and relentless rain. Get out the sunscreen and clean off the barbecue; the sun is coming! I was thinking this morning that our hope of heaven is the same way, or maybe it should be. As people of faith we know that something better is on the horizon. We know that the dreariness of life will one day fade away. There is day when the Son is going to burst through the clouds radiating with light and power. And everything that is wrong will be set right that day. But our we excited? Are we eager? Are we preparing ourselves for the occasion? The Son is coming! Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 2 Kings 1-3 .

Friday, April 20, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 110

One of my favorite Bible books is Ecclesiastes. I'm often shocked to find out how many people dislike Solomon's final volume. "It's so boring; it's so depressing." It's a study in contrasts to me. When Solomon was young he wrote Proverbs. The Proverbs are a collection of sayings that are generally true. It's not so much doctrine as it is practical advice. Solomon's proverbs are accurate, insightful, and wise. The interesting thing about them is that he wrote them when he was very young. Near the end of his life he wrote Ecclesiastes. The things he said in Proverbs were still true, but he saw life through a different set of eyes. He realized near the end that wealth, belongings, entertainment, and status don't mean much in the end. He realized that non of the extravagance that his position afforded him can make a person happy. He realized that the simple things in life are often the best things; eating, drinking, and working are among those he mentions. He wasn't fatalistic (well maybe a bit)he was realistic; his life's experience allowed him to see thing for how they really are. So, if you haven't read Ecclesiastes recently...give it a try! Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 1 Kings 21-22 .

Thursday, April 19, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 109

In my men's group this morning we studied Acts 5 where the apostles made a miraculous escape from prison. I was studying with a retired prison guard and said he should be thankful that he never had to guard the apostles; they were a slippery bunch! The account goes like this:
-They were arrested for preaching about Jesus
-They were sprung from prison by an angel
-They escaped all the way back to the temple and began preaching about Jesus
-They were arrested again for preaching about Jesus
-They were beaten for preaching about Jesus

That's a story all by itself, but there is more. The part that rocked my world is 5:41 which says, "The apostles left the high council rejoicing that God had counted them worthy to suffer disgrace for the name of Jesus." When is the last time you rejoiced over suffering? When is the last time that you were thankful that you were found worthy of suffering? When was the last time you heard suffering presented in a spiritual or faith building way? How might the apostle's view of suffering change a perspective that you have on a past/current/future instant of suffering? Whatever your answer consider this: the apostles saw Jesus suffer first hand and realized that following him would lead to suffering. Do you have that same understanding as a follower of Christ?

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 1 Kings 18-20


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 108

I've been preparing for a message from 1 Corinthians 8 this week which deals with food sacrificed to least on first glance. The sacrificed food really just provided an occasion for Paul to expose an attitude problem in the church. People who were a bit stronger in their knowledge were tripping up people who weren't quite so strong. And they didn't seem to care.

There are matters of conscience like this in the fellowship all the time. Think about alcohol, R-rated movies, non-Christian music, and tattoos. Think about homeschooling, KJV Bibles, and vegetarianism. These are just a couple of things that people get fired up about. And they are all things that mature Christians might choose to set aside as "minor" issues. But sometimes we decide to make these minor issues into "major" issues. Sometimes we cause fights over this little stinkers! But when you encounter people who are deeply convicted over such things how should you act?

It's tempting to tell people they are stupid, wrong, or misinformed. It's tempting to try to talk them out of it, or flaunt our freedom from such legalism/superstition. But that's where the Corinthians had gotten off track. You don't use your freedom in Christ to taunt, shame, or humiliate fellow Christians. You don't encourage people to break their own consciences by doing something they're convinced they shouldn't do. You don't do things in front of people that might cause them to stumble. Because strong Christians, with accurate understanding, and strong knowledge, should lead the way in acting maturely. So at times the strong lay down their rights, freedoms, convictions for the sake of someone who is weak. And we do it so Christ might get the increase.

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 1 Kings 15-17


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 107

I seems that at least half of the road trips I go on someone gets sick. And no, not because of my driving! When we started the eight hour drive to Boise one of the girls was sniffling a bit. When we drove the eight hour drive home she was flat out sick. I've successfully avoided being sick this winter but sixteen hours in a car with a sickie made me sick. It stands to reason, the more time you spend with sick people the more likely you are to be sick.

In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul quotes an old saying, “bad company corrupts good character.” There is a delicate balance we must strike with the people in the world. We can't possibly show them the love of God, share our faith, or see them come to Jesus without spending time in their presence. Our Christian understanding sees them as sick people in need of healing. Their sickness is sin. And though we are not free from the sickness completely, we are in treatment! But as we befriend and hang out with people we must be realistic about who is affecting (or infecting) who.

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 1 Kings 12-14


Monday, April 16, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 106

This morning my co-workers and I were venting and sharing about some things that were not going right. You know...normal stuff. Sickness, discouragement, difficult people...the usual stuff. One of them suggested we have a time of thanksgiving and praise. So we just spent time only talking to God about what's going right and giving him all the praise for it. It's amazing how that kind of thing can turn a frown upside down (I know that's a cheesy saying but I like it). As the old song says, "Count your blessings/name them one by one/and it will surprise you what the Lord has done."

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 1 Kings 10-11

Sunday, April 15, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 105

“The way of Jesus cannot be imposed or mapped — it requires an active participation in following Jesus as he leads us through sometimes strange and unfamiliar terrritory, in circumstances that become clear only in the hesitations and questionings, in the pauses and reflections where we engage in prayerful conversation with one another and with him.”
― Eugene H. Peterson, The Jesus Way: A Conversation on the Ways That Jesus Is the Way

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 1 Kings 8-9


Saturday, April 14, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 104

Because I church is in between youth leaders I had the opportunity to take a suburban full of high school students to the Boise Bible College preview. (I must insert a bit of a disclaimer at this point; I realize that several of my recent blog posts have been about feeling older...I realize I'm not old, or senile (yet) or as decrepit as others....but I'm feeling how I'm feeling so give me some slack!) While there I noticed three things; the music seemed loud to me, the college students seemed like they were children to me, and my tolerance for late night adolescent behavior has diminished greatly. I also don't sleep well on love seats for two consecutive makes me cranky!

But here's my take away. I was the way too young youth pastor watching older volunteers struggle. And now it's my turn to be that guy. Life marches on. Things change. Kids become parents; parents become grandparents; and even the most devoted youth pastors turn into lead pastors! (I know; it sounds like heresy but it's true)

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 1 Kings 6-7

Friday, April 13, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 104

Yesterday I heard Chuck Faber deliver a fine message in a chapel service for teens. He suggested that people are not impressed with Jesus or the Scripture because they are not prepared to be impressed. In fact, he went on to say that man have decided ahead of time to prepare to be unimpressed...and then they are. As people of faith I wonder if there are time we enter into that type of dangerous thinking? May it never be so among us. May we ever be impressed with the greatness and glory of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 1 Kings 3-4


Thursday, April 12, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 103

I've been thinking about the resurrection since Sunday and it's cause me to ponder the resurrection of us. What will it be like when Jesus returns from heaven and the dead in Christ rise? There will be an appearance of Christ that no one on earth will miss. He will give a command, a trumpet will blow, and the bodies of every Christian who has ever died will come bursting out the ground. (1 Thess 4) That may seem disgusting, but it will only be for a second because in a flash those bodies will be transformed (1 Thess 15) into new glorious bodies.(Php 3:21) This all happens while we are joining Christ in the air by the way. After the dead in Christ, those Christians living at his return join the fun, except they get to skip the whole death and dying thing (not fair!). And when the bodies are transformed, it will be amazing! But you'll have to come to church Sunday to here that story!

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 1 Kings 1-2

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 102

Last night my small group was looking at John 8 where Jesus talks about people who are stumbling in the darkness. I asked my group to remember what is it was like to live in the darkness. They said things like this:
-They made up their own standards; they were the ultimate judge of right and wrong.
-They didn't see how ugly their sin was.
-They had a sense of despair because there was no higher power to turn to.
-They were enjoying their unchecked sin; for a time. Then they were caught in it.
-They felt spiritually adrift.

For you people who have surrendered your life to Jesus Christ, you may have forgotten. This is where many of the people you encounter reside. This is how they think. This is a snap shot of where they are spiritually. This is what you have to remember as you live, work, and interact with them. And never forget, that this is where you were at; before you walked into the light.

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 2 Samuel 22-24


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

He Must Increase 101

Have you ever thought about the power of the question? Questions are a tool that I've found invaluable over the years. If I'm doing counseling I ask questions. If I'm getting a couple ready for marriage I ask questions. If I want to check someone out for a leadership position I ask questions. When someone comes at me with accusations I ask questions. When I want to start a conversation with a complete stranger I ask questions. When I confront people I ask questions. When I pray, I'm learning to ask questions and not just make requests. I've often wondered why there aren't any great Bible verses regarding the question? Here are some insights regarding questions:

1. When you are asking a question you have to listen. James 1:19 says, "You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak..."
2. When you ask questions you reduce the risk of saying too much. Proverbs 10:19 says," Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth."
3. When we pray it's good to ask questions. John 6:45 says, "Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me."
4. When facing someone who is tense or combative ask questions. It keeps you from retaliating and forces them to think instead of shout. Proverbs 15:1 says,
"A gentle answer (or question!) deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare."

Post your thoughts on the question! Or ask some cool questions....

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 2 Samuel 19-21


Monday, April 9, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 100

Yesterday I was wiped out after church and Easter lunch so I took a nap, which led to TV, followed by a second little nap, followed by TV...I think they call that snoozing. Around 9pm I was feeling fairly pathetic so I decided to go for a jog. That sounds pretty routine but it's not because I don't jog! I noticed two things as I jogged a measly two miles: First, I noticed that it was 9pm and still warm out. It was a signal that spring (and hopefully warmer weather) are on the way. The season is changing...ya! I also noticed that there was barely a step when something in a knee, foot, ankle, or lower back didn't hurt. I'm not injured mind you, just old enough to feel it when I run. The season is changing. Boo.

Seasons are like that. Reading 1 Corinthians 7 last week reminded me that part of living a content and godly life is being happy with the season you are in. It's enjoying where you are at instead of wishing to be somewhere else. It's finding what is right with right now, instead of holding on till something better comes. I don't know where your season is but enjoy it friend.

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 2 Samuel 16-18


Sunday, April 8, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 99

Everything in Holy Week points to the resurrection of Christ. From the time he entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, every event/teaching/encounter was leading to the moment of his resurrection. Early this morning some faithful women made their way to the tomb only to discover that it was empty. We know the story of the resurrection but what does it mean? I'll hand you over to the apostle Paul for the explanation:

1 Corinthians 15
Let me now remind you, dear brothers and sisters, of the Good News I preached to you before. You welcomed it then, and you still stand firm in it. 2 It is this Good News that saves you if you continue to believe the message I told you—unless, of course, you believed something that was never true in the first place.

3 I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. 4 He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. 5 He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. 6 After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. 7 Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him. 9 For I am the least of all the apostles. In fact, I’m not even worthy to be called an apostle after the way I persecuted God’s church.

10 But whatever I am now, it is all because God poured out his special favor on me—and not without results. For I have worked harder than any of the other apostles; yet it was not I but God who was working through me by his grace. 11 So it makes no difference whether I preach or they preach, for we all preach the same message you have already believed.

12 But tell me this—since we preach that Christ rose from the dead, why are some of you saying there will be no resurrection of the dead? 13 For if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised either. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless. 15 And we apostles would all be lying about God—for we have said that God raised Christ from the grave. But that can’t be true if there is no resurrection of the dead. 16 And if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. 18 In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! 19 And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world. 20 But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died.

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 2 Samuel 13-15


Saturday, April 7, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 98

I've always wondered what the disciples were doing the day after Jesus were killed. I suppose they were hiding out and grieving. They probably had restless nights, little sleep, and total disillusionment. They had been told several times, by Jesus himself, exactly what would happen and yet...they still didn't see it coming.

This day in the Holy Week is a big question mark. We know that Jesus was with the Father because of what he said to the thief on the cross. The Jewish leaders were smug because they quelled another religious upstart who dared to oppose them. The Romans were back to business as usual. But Jesus wasn't finished. On Sunday Jesus will become the only man to ever raise himself back to life which means he was no mere man! He was God in the flesh. He was the one who had power over death and the grave. He was the one who made the way for our resurrection. Stay tuned...tomorrow it begins!

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 2 Samuel 8-12


Friday, April 6, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 97

The Seven Sayings of Christ on the Cross

“Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”
“I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
“Dear woman, here is your son.” “Here is your mother.”
“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”
“I am thirsty.”
“It is finished.”
“Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!”

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 2 Samuel 4-7


Thursday, April 5, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 96

Things are moving more quickly now. Thursday the plans of the wicked were set in full motion. They gathered that evening for the Last Supper. Jesus called out the betrayer who excused himself from the table and went to seal Christ's fate. So many important things happened that Thursday 2000 years ago:
-Jesus explained the New Covenant
-He instituted the Communion sacraments
-He washed the feet of the disciples to teach them about servanthood
-John 13-17 records his last teaching which have been labeled the "Upper Room Discourse"
-He prayed so earnestly in the garden that blood came out of his sweat glands

But things quickly turned from spiritual and profound to petty and evil. The mob came. Peter swung his sword. Mark lost his robe. Lies were told. Denials were made. Violence ensued. A series of five mock trials began. The plot to kill Jesus involved Sadduceess, Pharisees, Scribes, Elders, Romans officials, Roman guards, a fickle a crowd and Satan himself. Late Thursday evening Jesus began a series of beatings, mockery, and humiliations that did not end until the Son of God was found dead on a cross at 3pm on Friday. But that wasn't the end....stay tuned for Sunday.

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 2 Samuel 1-3


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 95

Silent Wednesday. It sounds mysterious or maybe even foreboding. But there is simply nothing recorded about Jesus' final Wednesday before the crucifixion. That's not to say that nothing was going on! Jesus had endured the pressing masses on Sunday. He'd had a fierce confrontation when he cleared the temple on Monday. Tuesday the religious leaders harassed him and then he taught all day. Wednesday Jesus probably rested in Bethany with his friends (Lazarus, Mary, and Martha) and the disciples. But, whatever the record might not say, I assure you his enemies weren't resting.

On Sunday they cried, “There’s nothing we can do. Look, everyone has gone after him!” (Jn 12:19)
On Monday "the leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the other leaders of the people began planning how to kill him." (Lk 19:47)
On Tuesday "They demanded, “By what authority are you doing all these things? Who gave you the right?” (Matt 21:23)
On Thursday they arrested him in the prayer garden.
So what was going on Wednesday in the enemy's camp? It wasn't silence. It was plotting, scheming, bribing, conniving, , and forming a plot to kill God's only Son.
Silent Wednesday? Assassination Wednesday! Deception Wednesday! War room Wednesday! Tomorrow the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 1 Samuel 28-31

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 94

On Tuesday Jesus was one day closer to his death. He'd road into town a celebrity on Sunday, but on Monday the tide was beginning to turn. Throwing money changers out of the temple and cutting into the Sadducees kickbacks probably didn't help his rating in the polls. He spent last night in Bethany and is once again in Jerusalem.

But on this Tuesday morning the religious leaders were waiting for him. "By what authority are you doing all these things? Who gave you the right?" (Matt 21:23) Jesus doesn't answer that question directly but goes on to teach several parables (Matt 21 & 22) and even gives a mini-lecture on taxes. There are two things that are certain in life; death and taxes. Taxes for Jesus on Tuesday and a cross on Friday. But what is not as certain, in many people's minds, is the resurrection.

Surprisingly, the Sadducees ask Jesus a question about the resurrection on Tuesday, not suspecting that he'll be raised himself on Sunday. The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection, so their question was not sincere: "Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies without children, his brother should marry the widow and have a child who will carry on the brother’s name.’Well, suppose there were seven brothers. The oldest one married and then died without children, so his brother married the widow. But the second brother also died, and the third brother married her. This continued with all seven of them. Last of all, the woman also died. So tell us, whose wife will she be in the resurrection?"

Jesus said, "“Your mistake is that you don’t know the Scriptures, and you don’t know the power of God. For when the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage. In this respect they will be like the angels in heaven." (Matt 22:29-30)

When the dead rise. Not "if they rise". Not "maybe they'll rise". WHEN THEY RISE. Jesus knew what he was talking about, because he was the first of many who will be resurrected from the dead...more on that this Sunday!

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 1 Samuel 25-27


Monday, April 2, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 93

Yesterday (2000 years ago) Jesus entered Jerusalem to the cheers of the adoring crowds. He was the man of the hour! He was heralded by the masses! If he had been a politician he'd have been glad handing, waving, and kissing babies. But that was yesterday. On Monday the crowds had gone home, the fanfare was over and Jesus was painfully aware of what awaited him on Friday.

Moving to the temple to teach and heal he discovered people once again making a mockery of that holy place. They were trading money, selling animals for sacrifice, and making a lot of noise! The sellers were not just kindhearted merchants, but predators preying on pilgrims who came to Jerusalem for worship. Unfair exchange rates were common. Exorbitant fees the norm. Jesus had had enough. He turned over those tables, and for the second time in his ministry, chased those people out shouting, "My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations'? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’ (see Mk 11, Mt 21, Lk 19).

Mark's gospel reports that at this point "the chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him..." (Mk 11:18) Some have suggested that the Sadducees, who were the ruling party of the day, were getting kickbacks on the business transactions in the temple courts. When Jesus chased the merchants from the temple he was threatening their bottom line. Whether that's true or not, Mark says "they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching." The words of Jesus are still shaking things up today.

It's Monday, and Jesus was clearing out the temple. The temple in his day was a building, in our day it's us. We are the temple of God's Holy Spirit. I wonder if there is anything that needs clearing out today? I wonder if there is anything that the Lord Jesus would chase out should you allow him access to your temple? (see 1 Cor 6:19-20)

It's Monday. On Friday Jesus will face the cross.

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 1 Samuel 21-24


Sunday, April 1, 2012

He Must Increase-Day 92

Today is Palm Sunday. It's the Sunday when many Christians remember the triumphant entry of the Messiah into the holy city of Jerusalem. This was probably the pinnacle of Jesus' popularity. People lined the streets to cheer for Jesus, most likely because he had just raised Lazarus from the dead. The crowds were pumped. People were smiling and cheering. They were throwing down their coats, and cutting palm branches to be laid out so that his donkey's feet wouldn't have to touch the dirt. Palm Sunday.

I was thinking this morning that it should be called "Hypocrite Sunday." I know it sounds over the top. But many of the people shouting "Hosanna!" (save us!) on Palm Sunday were shouting "crucify him" on Friday. Traitor Sunday. Fair weather fan Sunday. Bunch of lying bums Sunday. They killed the Lord Jesus. They unwittingly took their place in Satan's master plan. They murdered an innocent man, who just so happened to be God. But that's Friday and it wasn't the end of the story...more to come this Holy Week!

But what about us? It's easy to get indignant over what they did, but that would be hypocritical too. Our sins compelled Jesus to die on the cross. If we had been in that crowd many of us would have behaved the same way. All of us have claimed to follow Christ and yet betrayed him with doubts, distractions and faithless fears. We've sinned against the one who paid for our sins. But that's the point; Jesus came to die for sinners. We're all in the same boat. No one person is better than anyone else in his sight. While we might be compelled to judge that unruly crowd...perhaps a better notion is to join them and shout "Hosanna!" Lord, save us.

Read the Bible in One Year Plan: 1 Samuel 18-20