40 Days of Discipline


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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.

 


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40 Days of Discipline: Day 36 – Passion Week

12 Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there.  He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves.  13 “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’”  14 The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them.  15 But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple courts, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant.  16 “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him.  “Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read, “‘From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise’?”  17 And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night. (Matthew 21:12-17)

 

I hope you were encouraged yesterday to more deeply accept, declare and promote the sovereignty of God.  He alone is king. and when we commit our lives to Jesus, we find our intended identity in God’s kingdom (we become new creations) and we have an obligation to live like citizens of His kingdom.

But what happens when those professing to be servants of God practice disobedience?  On the day after the triumphal entry, Jesus confronts just that kind of situation in the temple courts.  He calls out the lack of integrity in very dramatic fashion.  He shuts down those who put commerce over worship and service and then He focusses on the needy.  Think about what is happening in our world today. The world is still desperately in need of integrity and care.

(Note the validation of the following Disciplines: Bible Study, Worship, Prayer, Stewardship and Service).

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

Questions

It is easy to criticize the money changers, dove sellers and religious leaders in the temple as villains, but:

  1. How do we guard our integrity and shun hypocrisy?
  2. Make this more personal.  When Jesus walks through your life are there things he overturns like the tables and benches?

Please share your answer to Question 1 and spend some time in prayer about Question 2.

 


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40 Days of Discipline: Day 35 – Passion Week

1As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me.  If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”  This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: “Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”  The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them.  They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on.  A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.  The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!”  10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”  11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.” (Matthew 21:1-11)

 

For the last five weeks, we have been exploring eleven Spiritual Disciplines through the lens of the theme: A World in Need.  Now, as we enter the last week of our 2020 journey (Passion week) we will intensify our focus on Jesus, the one person to have walked the face of the earth and not only completely understood the real needs of the world but made full provision for them.

Today, we consider the pivotal moment of Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem at the start of Passion week.  Through this triumphal entry, the world is compelled to consider the all-important matter of sovereignty.  In His entry, Jesus wasn’t looking for selfish recognition.  Instead, He demonstrated that our fundamental need is the spiritual need to give up our false claim to the throne of our life and declare Him as the legitimate sovereign.  The world keeps telling God, “we don’t need you as king.”  Jesus enters Jerusalem on the back of a donkey and powerfully responds, “yes you do!”  This lesson would likely not have been lost on some in the audience because it was reminiscent of what played out when king David had Solomon ride on a mule into Jerusalem to declare him as legitimate successor to the throne (1 Kings 1).  David did this in response to the action of one of his other sons.  Adonijah attempted to surreptitiously assume the throne but his plans were thwarted and the right king (Solomon) was eventually installed.  A similar battle plays out constantly for the throne of our lives.

(Note the validation of the following Disciplines: Bible Study, Worship and Spiritual Warfare).

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

 

Questions

  • Are you allowing God to reign in all areas of your life?
  • How can we more effectively communicate to the world that they need Jesus as king?

 

 


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40 Days of Discipline: Day 40 – Review

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

 

Today we conclude our 40 days of Discipline journey. It is a great day to consider what we have learned, make commitments, and share. We also look forward to a glorious Easter Sunday tomorrow.

This year we focused on the theme: God’s Glory.  We will never be able to fully comprehend God’s glory, but we have seen over and over again that it is revealed in His Son, Jesus.  We focus on the Disciplines during our 40-days journey because practicing them draws us closer to God’s revealed glory, Jesus.  As you review our journey together I would remind you that this study is not about the pursuit of information only.  We are much more interested in transformation.  In that regard, I will remind you of a verse we considered earlier in our study:

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

As we look forward to Resurrection Sunday and beyond, I pray that we will continue to pursue the Disciplines as evidence of our commitment to being “transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory”.

 

Question:

What will you take away from this year’s journey to aid your growth in Christ?