40 Days of Discipline


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40 Days of Discipline:  Day 39 – Passion Week

44 It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45 for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last. (Luke 23:44 – 46)

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. (1 Peter 3:18)

Theme:  The Local Church

Context

Your passionate comments about prayer yesterday were greatly appreciated.  So far we have considered lessons the local church can learn from Jesus’ passion for people, God’s mission, servant leadership, and prayer.  We end with the life giving passion Jesus has for all of us.  His love for humanity is unparalleled and that has the most profound implications for us personally and for the local church.         

Bible Passage

Our passages today are from Luke 23:44 – 46, and 1 Peter 3:18 (presented above).  As we celebrate Good Friday, there should be no doubt why Jesus died.  He died because he loves us and seeks to restore the broken relationship between God and humanity – a relationship broken by sin.

This is good news that the local church must share with the highest priority! 

These words from a song by Andrae Crouch are fitting for our deliberation today:

The blood that Jesus shed for me
Way back on Calvary
The blood that gives me strength
From day to day
It will never lose its power
It reaches to the highest mountain
It flows to the lowest valley
The blood that gives me strength
From day to day
It will never lose its power

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

Question

As you reflect on the importance of Good Friday, how can you support your local church in ensuring the gospel message is a priority all year round?


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40 Days of Discipline:  Day 38 – Passion Week

39 Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. 40 On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” 41 He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. 45 When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. 46 “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” (Luke 22:39 – 46)

Theme:  The Local Church

Context

Thanks again for your impactful comments yesterday! 

So far, we have considered lessons the local church can learn from Jesus’ passion for people, God’s mission, and servant leadership. Today we will consider Jesus’ passion for prayer.         

Prayer was a vital part of Jesus’ life and it is clear that he wanted his disciples to emulate this practice.  In his early interactions with the disciples, they learned that he would steal away early in the morning to pray (Mark 1).  As he approached the end of his earthly mission, he passionately pleads with the disciples to pray. 

Bible Passage

Our passage today is from Luke 22:39 – 46 (presented above).  Jesus knew that he would die soon and that he wouldn’t have many more occasions to interact with his disciples before his death.  As we discussed earlier in this 40-days journey, prayer is of vital importance to the local church.  The interactions between Jesus and his disciples as his death approached really adds emphasis to this point.

Consider the following.  There would have been no better person to pray for the disciples than Jesus, and we know that he did (see John 17).  Further we know from Luke 22:32 that Jesus had already told Peter that he (Jesus) had prayed for him.  You might think with the assurance that Jesus was praying for them the disciples could focus on other things.  No, not in Jesus’ view.  He implored his disciples to pray and specifically to pray that they would not fall into temptation. 

The implication for the local church is clear – pray, pray, and then pray some more!

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

Question

Recognizing the passion Jesus had for prayer, what can you do to amplify the importance of prayer in your local church? 


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40 Days of Discipline:  Day 37 – Passion Week

12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. (John 13:12 – 17)

Theme:  The Local Church

Context

Thanks for the comments on yesterday’s post. There were some great exchanges! 

So far, we have considered lessons the local church can learn from Jesus’ passion for people and God’s mission. Today we will consider Jesus’ passion for servant leadership, and the implications for the local church.         

In most human institutions there are levels of authority.  Typically, those with higher rank and power enjoy prestige and superior privileges.  In today’s lesson we examine how Jesus discharged his legitimate authority as teacher and lord, and the implications for the local church.

Bible Passage

Our passage today is from John 13:12 – 17 (presented above).  In a powerful object lesson, Jesus teaches his disciples how authority should be exercised.  He doesn’t present a false utopia where there is no hierarchy.  He acknowledges his position of teacher and lord.  However, he elects a posture that has him positioned physically lower than the disciples to perform a humble act of service.   This object lesson would be somewhat hollow if it wasn’t consistent with how Jesus lived every day, but we realize with awe that despite all the power Jesus had at his disposal, his passion was always service, and his posture was always humble.

The clear message to local churches is that positions of authority should not be used to wield self-promoting power.  In a parallel passage in Luke 22, Jesus said, “the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.”  There is a popular quote which says, “power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  Jesus has demonstrated that this does not have to be the case. 

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

Question

Whether you are in church leadership or not, how can you encourage a commitment to humble service in your local church?    


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40 Days of Discipline:  Day 36 – Passion Week

45 When Jesus entered the temple courts, he began to drive out those who were selling. 46 “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be a house of prayer’; but you have made it ‘a den of robbers. (Luke 19:45 – 46)

Theme:  The Local Church

Context

A big thank you to those of you who commented yesterday as we reflected on the passion Jesus showed for people.  Today we will reflect on the passion Jesus displayed for God’s mission as performed in the house of God.      

Bible Passage

Our passage today is from Luke 19:45 – 46 (presented above).  This popular passage demonstrates how passionate Jesus was about God’s house being used for its intended purpose.  It is very evident that Jesus is not pleased with the distortion of God’s mission by the those who were selling in the temple courts. 

There are clear lessons here for the local church.  While this passage refers to the temple, we need look no further than the report on the churches in the book of Revelations 2 and 3 to see how important it is for local churches to live out God’s mission.  Evangelism and discipleship are certainly consistent with God’s mission, and over the last month, we have discussed many of the ways that the Disciplines affect these activities.  However, there are times when objectives become distorted in local churches.  For example, fellowship becomes distorted, and the local church becomes a social club.  Or worship becomes distorted, and the local church becomes a house of entertainment.  Or stewardship becomes distorted, and the local church becomes a house of commerce.  The list of possible distortions goes on and on.

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

Question

How can you contribute to your local church staying true to God’s mission? 


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40 Days of Discipline:  Day 35 – Passion Week

41 As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42 and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43 The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44 They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” (Luke 19:41 – 44)

Theme:  The Local Church

Context

As we have done in prior years, this final week of our journey is dedicated to an inspection of Jesus during the final days of his earthly mission.    

Consistent with our theme this year, we will focus on five key lessons for the local church and we will extract these lessons from five things that Jesus was passionate about during Passion Week. 

We will start with a lesson found in the Palm Sunday story.     

Bible Passage

Our passage today is from Luke 19:4 – 44 (presented above).  This narrative is presented directly after the triumphal entry but instead of basking in the adulation of the people, Jesus displays his heart through his tears.  He was passionate about people who most people would say deserve the horror coming their way because they did not recognize God’s revelation.

Unfortunately, the kind of compassion displayed by Jesus isn’t always evident in our local churches.  Some churches are more prone to criticism than compassion.  Some drown out the deep need of people with undue focus on power, prestige, and personalities. Below are partial lyrics from a song that seeks to direct our focus to where Jesus has his focus.

People Need the Lord by Steve Green

Everyday they pass me by

I can see it in their eyes

Empty people filled with care

Headed who knows where

On they go through private pain

Living fear to fear

Laughter hides their silent cries

Only Jesus hears

People need the Lord, people need the Lord

At the end of broken dreams, He’s the open door

People need the Lord, people need the Lord

When will we realize people need the Lord?   

By the way, one of our fellow participants (Gordon) does a beautiful rendition of this song.

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

Question

How can you contribute to your local church in its mission to show compassion? 


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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?