40 Days of Discipline


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40 Days of Discipline: Day 39 – Passion Week

29 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, 30 come down from the cross and save yourself!” 31 In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! 32 Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.

The Death of Jesus

33 At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34 And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).  35 When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.”  36 Someone ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said.  37 With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.  38 The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”  (Mark 15:29 – 39)

Theme:  If not You, then Who?

Today we celebrate one of the most important days in the Christian calendar, Good Friday.  As we have examined Jesus’ final week of earthly ministry over the last four days, we have considered His identity, integrity,  investments, and intimacy.  Today, as we look to the cross, we can only conclude that Jesus is incomparable.  Along so many dimensions, what Jesus did for humanity by dying on the cross is matchless.  The grace, mercy, and love He demonstrated changed the course of human existence.  Because of His sacrifice, we now have access to the Kingdom of God, our sins can be forgiven, and eternal life secured.   “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”  (Acts 4:12).  There is nobody like Jesus! 

Please prayerfully read the passage above and respond to the request below.

Request

Please spend some quality time today reflecting on all that Jesus has done for you, and share any reflections that others could benefit from.


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40 Days of Discipline: Day 38 – Passion Week

While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.  Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.  “Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”  (Mark 14:3 – 9)

Theme:  If not You, then Who?

Over the last three days we have considered Jesus’ identity, integrity, and investments in the lives of others.  Today we will examine the heart beat of Jesus’ activities – His love for people. We will see examples of His love through powerful displays of intimacy.  Jesus has a tremendous impact on people because he cares deeply for them.  He is not distant.  He is truly Immanuel – “God is with us”! 

Our passage today captures one example of the kind of deep care Jesus practiced.  There are also other stories worth noting.  Starting with the raising of Lazarus just before the triumphal entry and ending with the Lord’s supper, here are 5 powerful summary examples:  

ReferenceOccasionAct of Intimacy
John 11:17 – 43Jesus raises LazarusWhen Jesus saw the grief of Mary and Martha caused by the death of their brother Lazarus, He felt their pain and wept.
Luke 19:41 – 44Triumphal entry to JerusalemWhen Jesus contemplated the calamity that would befall Jerusalem, He weeps for the people of the city.
Mark 14:3 – 9 (Today’s passage)A woman anoints Jesus with expensive perfumeWhen a woman performing an act of worship is abused, Jesus rises to her defense and tells those who rebuked her to “Leave her alone”.
John 13:1 – 17Jesus washes the disciples’ feetJesus intimately taught powerful kingdom principles with a towel and basin of water.
Mark 14:12 – 26The Lord’s supperJesus hosted a special final dinner with His disciples and brought them into the loop on key events to come. 

We are left with no doubt that Jesus loved deeply and established deep relationships. Please prayerfully read the passage above and answer the question below.

Question

What lessons do we learn from Jesus about developing deep relationships to advance God’s kingdom?


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40 Days of Discipline: Day 37 – Passion Week

28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”  29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”  32 “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 33 To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.  (Mark 12:28-34)

Theme:  If not You, then Who?

Over the last two days we have considered Jesus’ identity and integrity.  Today we will examine His investments in lives. 

In Mark chapters 11 and 12 there are multiple accounts of Jesus explaining vital concepts for life. Just scan the two chapters and you will get a sense of the premium Jesus put on providing vital instructions during the final week of His earthly ministry.  His audiences included his disciples, religious leaders, and the broader public.  When compared to investments in financial assets, investments in people are far more important.  Jesus takes investments in lives to the highest level because He does it with an eternal perspective. 

Our passage for today captures just one of Jesus’ many “investments”.  On this occasion, He invests in the life of one of the teachers of the law, and what a master class it is.  For Jesus, this is not about demonstrating His mental prowess. It is obvious that He has a more eternal purpose. Note Jesus’ parting words to the teacher – “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” You can tell what Jesus is focused on.

Please prayerfully read the passage above and answer the question below.

Question

In your sphere of influence, how are you investing in lives with eternity in mind?


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40 Days of Discipline: Day 36 – Passion Week

12 The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 13 Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. 14 Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.  15 On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, 16 and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. 17 And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’” 18 The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.  19 When evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city.  (Mark 11:12-19)

Theme:  If not You, then Who?

Yesterday we examined the significance of Jesus declaring His identity during the triumphal entry.  Today we will consider Jesus’ commitment to integrity.  The Latin root of integrity is integer, meaning whole or complete and not divided.  When our thoughts and actions are entirely consistent with our God-given purpose and identity we are living lives of integrity.  Of course, Jesus epitomizes integrity, and Mark chapter 11 records two encounters that demonstrate the priority Jesus places on integrity.

In the first encounter, Jesus sees a fig tree with the kind of foliage that promised fruit even though  it was not the season for figs.  On close inspection, the tree didn’t live up to what the foliage promised.  There were no figs and Jesus cursed the tree.  In the second encounter, Jesus shows his displeasure with people in the temple who were distorting the purpose of God’s house and the purpose of God’s people.  I find Jesus’ decision to confront the lack of integrity on the part of the people in the temple particularly interesting.  Jesus had just experienced the adulation of the crowds shouting Hosanna. He could have just played it safe and not upset the apple cart.  Many leaders would have been focused on maintaining a positive image (what do the polls say?).  Jesus was focused on the harmony of life with God’s purpose and identity.  He was focused on integrity.    How about us? Are we more concerned about leaves (appearance) than fruit? Do we distort God’s purpose or abandon our identity for personal gain like participants in a “den of robbers”?

Please prayerfully read the passage above and answer the question below.

Question

What are your reflections on Jesus’ commitment to integrity? 


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40 Days of Discipline: Day 35 – Passion Week

1As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’”  They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” 10 “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!” 11 Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.(Mark 11:1-11)

Theme:  If not You, then Who?

As we have done in prior years, this final week of our journey is dedicated to a close inspection of Jesus during the final days of his earthly mission.  Even after years of performing this close inspection, we have only scratched the surface of the lessons available from Jesus.  I hope you are as excited as I am to see what God has in store for us. 

We will start with the popular story of Jesus entering Jerusalem on the Sunday before Good Friday.  One of the special aspects of the triumphal entry is the public declaration of Jesus’ identity.  Jesus actively orchestrates this declaration by instructing two of His disciples to bring Him the colt on which He will enter Jerusalem as the messiah.  There had been notable declarations of Jesus’ identity before this occasion.  For example, God the Father declared, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”  Also, when Jesus asked Peter, “Who do you say I am?”, Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” However, before Palm Sunday there is no recording of a mass declaration of Jesus’ identity.  In fact, after Peter’s response, Jesus admonished the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the messiah.  No such prohibition occurred on Palm Sunday though and Jesus’ identity as the messiah was on full display.  

Our God is intentional.  It is not an accident that this momentous week starts with Jesus revealing to the masses that He is the messiah and the lamb of God.  As we seek to advance God’s kingdom, we must stay true to the identity of Jesus described in the Bible.  We must vigorously guard against the kind of misidentification that occurs when we create a Jesus to suit our needs, as the crowd in Jerusalem did.  In addition, we must confidently declare our identity in Christ.  

Please prayerfully read the passage above and answer the question below.

Question

What are your reflections on the power of Jesus’s identity and our identity in Him? 


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40 Days of Discipline: Day 39 – Passion Week

26 As the soldiers led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus.  27 A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him.  28 Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children.  29 For the time will come when you will say, ‘Blessed are the childless women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’  30 Then “‘they will say to the mountains, “Fall on us!”  and to the hills, “Cover us!”’  31 For if people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?”  32 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed.  33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left.  34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”  And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.  35 The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him.  They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.”  36 The soldiers also came up and mocked him.  They offered him wine vinegar 37 and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”  38 There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the jews.  39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”  40 But the other criminal rebuked him.  “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence?  41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve.  But this man has done nothing wrong.”  42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:26 – 43)

 

And so, we come to the crux of the matter, as some would say.  “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21).  As we think about current world events, a pandemic cure would be great, the eradication of poverty would be spectacular, and the end of all wars and conflicts would be phenomenal.  If all these global problems were permanently solved the world would still need the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross to satisfy man’s essential need.  Ultimately, what the world needs is the complete payment for sin so that a right relationship with God can be restored.  Just like the Jewish rulers who sneered, the Roman soldiers who mocked, and the criminal on the cross who doubted, the world doesn’t see that Jesus is the answer to their existential problem.  Praise God, we know that He is and that makes today a Good Friday!

We are God’s ambassadors and through the power of the Holy Spirit we are empowered to let the world know that Jesus saves.

Please prayerfully read the passage above consider the suggestions below.

 

Suggestions

  • Publicly share on our blog your gratitude for what Jesus did for you on the cross.
  • Recommit to sharing the good news with your corner of the world.


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40 Days of Discipline: Day 38 – Passion Week

24 A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest.  25 Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors.  26 But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.  27 For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves?  Is it not the one who is at the table?  But I am among you as one who serves. (Luke 22:24 – 27)

 

There are many memorable events associated with the Thursday of Passover week.  The Last Supper, Jesus washing the disciples’ feet, and Jesus praying in Gethsemane come to mind.  A common theme in these events is the selfless love Jesus displays.  Sometimes this love is displayed through service and in the passage we will consider today, Jesus emphasizes the importance of service.  The story from the Gospel of Luke highlights one of the reasons why I love Jesus with a passion.  He embodies humble service in a way that is so inspirational and counter-cultural that it is a constant source of conviction.

While the world is hooked on social hierarchy, special privileges for the rich, and deferential treatment for the powerful, Jesus who by right should be the most exalted, chooses to wait tables and wash feet (John 13).  Jesus simply does not value people the way we typically do.  He doesn’t value people based on economic status, social status, political affiliation, titles or other typical forms of demographic distinctions.  He would care just as much for the poorest person afflicted with Covid-19 as he would for a prime minister.  As believers, we are expected to adopt His mindset (Philippians 2: 5 – 8).

The world is desperately in need of humble service and we are God’s delegates.

Please prayerfully read the passage above and consider the question and suggestion below.

Question/Suggestion

  • How are you inspired by the way Jesus demonstrated love through humble service?
  • Spend some time in prayer.  Examine your attitude towards service compared to Jesus’ attitude and seeks God’s direction and guidance.


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40 Days of Discipline: Day 37 – Passion Week

18 Early in the morning, as Jesus was on his way back to the city, he was hungry.  19 Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately the tree withered.  20 When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?” they asked.  21 Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done.  22 If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” (Matthew 21:18 – 22)

 

Approximately one month ago we reviewed the Discipline of Prayer and discussed how important it is that Believers pray for a world in need.  We know that faith is essential in prayer but for many of us, faith is a challenge.  In fact, often when our need is most pronounced, our doubt is most intense.  On the road to Jerusalem during Passion week, Jesus challenged His disciples to “believe” and “receive”.  It might be easy for us to rationalize away this passage of scripture, but the encouragement from Jesus is clear – God can move mountains for us if we completely trust Him.

The world is desperately in need of the kind of hope that can only come from us praying.

Please prayerfully read the passage above and consider the question and request below.

 

Question/Request

  • What encouragement do you find in the words of Jesus to pray with more confidence?
  • Talk to God about your doubts and ask Him to help you deepen your faith in Him.