March 26 | Fearless

Text: Luke 21.9-19

Fear can stop us dead in our tracks. When terrible times hit, we imagine the worst, our emotions follow, and we can become like a “deer in the headlights.” But in Luke 21, Jesus commands his disciples not to be terrified in times like this, but to keep going and remain strong in their faith. No matter what happens, they will live on past the grave. The promise of everlasting life is a huge comfort.

Because the Bible tells us not to fear over 200 times (as God is in control), what we know and believe about God—and what he promises—determines how we handle fear.  Focusing on his character and promises keeps us strong in the middle of life’s storms. What we know about God matters!

As you begin your day, listen to the song “Always” by Kristian Stanfill as you focus on God’s character.

 

March 25 | Anxiety

Text: Luke 21.9-19

In Luke 21 Jesus gives his disciples a “heads up” on some frightening events to come: destruction, wars, tumult, and earthquakes. In the midst of this prophesy, he tells them to “make up your mind” beforehand not to worry (Luke 21.14). While we’re usually encouraged to not worry in the midst of suffering, here Jesus tells us to make up our minds ahead of time not to worry.

Jesus is telling us to decide now, before bad things happen, so we’re ready for the trials that are sure to come. We prepare by strengthening our faith and trusting in Jesus, who is with us in our difficulties, using them to make us like him.

One of the ways we can strengthen our faith is by learning God’s Word and taking to heart what he promises. As you lift your heart to God today, write out and memorize Matthew 6.33-34. Call these verses to mind when you find yourself beginning to worry or starting to feel anxious.

March 24 | Troubles

Text: James 1.2-8

You don’t live very long before realizing bad things happen: trials, pain, suffering, hardships, and disappointments all happen even without us looking for them. When they come, we tend to be surprised and ask, “Why me?”

When we encounter suffering, we tend to think it’s “just unfair.” But the Bible doesn’t promise “smooth sailing” in this world; along with the good times there will also be pain and suffering. Jesus says, “In this world you will have trouble, but I have overcome the world” (John 16.33). Pastor Manion says, “just because you pass through a trial doesn’t mean you have to become a trial.”

Even though we may think we’ve received an unfair amount of trouble, Jesus reminds us he’s overcome our suffering and will meet us through his Holy Spirit where we need his help.

The Apostle James tells us to consider it joy when we encounter different trials, because this testing of our faith builds endurance and character (James 1.2-8). We can move through pain, instead of wallowing in it, if we’re convinced God is using it to make us like his son (see Philippians 1.6).

As you welcome God into your day, ask him to show you an area of your life where you need to choose joy. Embracing your trials is not natural, but supernatural, as the Holy Spirit will meet you there, help you grow spiritually, and help you find joy in the middle of your difficult situation.

 

March 23 | Refined Faith

Text: Luke 21.5-36

No one likes gloom and doom. Yet, Jesus foretells some grim and frightening stuff on the fourth day of his last week in Jerusalem: a horrifying downfall of the city (which happens in 70AD), events some believe will also occur right before he returns to earth a second time.

Thankfully, he doesn’t just describe these horrible events, but also gives guidance to his immediate and future disciples to help them stand firm and avoid anxiety. In Luke 21.5-36 he gives five challenges: watch out, that you aren’t deceived (21.8); don’t be frightened (21.9); make up your mind beforehand not to worry (21.14); stand firm and you’ll win [everlasting] life (21.19); and be careful about carousing, drunkenness and anxiety (21.34).

Notice these aren’t suggestions, but commands given to his followers to refine their faith. This week we’ll delve deeper into these commands in the midst of our fear and worry.

Today, read slowly through the passage and consider the One Big Question . . . What current situations are surfacing the greatest anxiety in your life? Then discuss with someone in your circle how Jesus’ guidance can help you.

March 20 | Line in the Sand

Text: Colossians 1.15-20

A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic… or else he would be the Devil of Hell… Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. — C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

We can’t ignore this conclusion about Jesus: either he is a lunatic, a liar, or worthy to be called “Lord.” Jesus is drawing a line in the sand—for the religious leaders and for you. You must make your choice. Just don’t be fooled, thinking you’ve already made up your mind and know who Jesus is. Continue to let Jesus show you who he is as you reread Colossians 1.15-20 and allow these truths to change the way you approach the day.

March 19 | Messiah

Text: Luke 20.41-44

With the Sadducees stopped dead in their tracks, Jesus takes full control of the debate by proposing another question. Knowing his opponents await a human (not divine) Messiah to lead them in revolt against Rome, Jesus challenges this assumption when he quotes an Old Testament Psalm (written by King David) and essentially asks how David can call the Messiah, “Lord” (Psalm 110.1).

In American culture we rarely, if ever, use the term “Lord.” However, the Jews regularly used it as an expression of respect and honor for someone in power or authority. King David would never call his son “Lord” unless his descendant was also his God.

After Jesus forces the leaders to wrestle with the issue of his divinity, the story leaves us hanging: no account tells us if any religious leader turned and believed the Messiah to be divine or if any professed Jesus as the God-Man. Don’t let that be your story. Take a few moments today to praise Jesus’ Lordship as you listen to “Jesus Messiah” by Chris Tomlin.

March 18 | Resurrection

Text: Luke 20.27-40

Still reeling from the first debate, the Pharisees let the Sadducees attempt a different tactic. If they can get Jesus to teach heresy or look foolish, this “Jesus movement” may just fizzle out. So the Sadducees use an obscure part of the Old Testament Law to force Jesus to explain marriage after the resurrection.

Jesus reframes every part of their argument with great tact. He says marriage and death are things of this age and all who are worthy to take part in the age to come are already alive to him.

Obviously, the life to come is different from the life now, but we—like the Pharisees and Sadducees—live with “tunnel vision,” focused on this life.

Because much of the “life to come” is unfamiliar to us, it’s easier to live like there’s no tomorrow and “Carpe Diem” (“Seize the Day”). However, resurrection is real and it matters! When we come to Jesus, he shifts our focus from topics of this age to the reality of the resurrection and something settles in our hearts as we realize we can spend eternity with God.

Today, write out 2 Corinthians 4.16-18 in the New Living Translation, carry it with you, and use it to remind yourself of the reality of eternity.

March 17 | Ownership

Text: Luke 20.20-26

The first debate begins when the Pharisees ask Jesus if the Jews should pay taxes to Caesar. This seems like the perfect scheme. If Jesus answers, “Yes,” he’d appear to support Rome and lose credibility with his followers. If he answers, “No,” he’d set himself up to be charged with treason. Either way, Jesus’ influence would diminish.

However, Jesus wasn’t caught off guard. He beautifully turns the conversation toward the image of God and leaves everyone stunned. It’s no accident God imprints his stamp on us: God’s image woven into the fabric of our beings not only reveals our origin but our purpose. In one gentle sentence, Jesus reminds us we are created by God and for God; and when we realize we’re designed to belong to God, instinctively we realize he is our ultimate authority.

Just when the Pharisees thought they’d put Jesus in his place, Jesus graciously takes back his rightful authority and silences his foes.

As you welcome God into your day, let Jesus take his rightful place in your life. If you’re willing to submit to his authority, everything is his. Take a moment in silence to identify one aspect of your life you’re withholding from God and ask him to show you what true surrender looks like.

March 16 | Who is Jesus?

Text: Luke 9.18-20

Some people react negatively to the word “theology” and many more avoid conversations concerning the nature of Jesus. Perhaps the topic’s too uncomfortable or too controversial. Nevertheless, everyone who reads the Bible is a “theologian” because we all believe something about God and Jesus. In today’s reading, Jesus addresses this notion head-on when he asks, “Who do the crowds say I am” (Luke 9.18)?

The crowds obviously had strong opinions about Jesus. So did the religious leaders who later strike up heated debates with Jesus over taxes, life after death, and his divinity. The Pharisees (middle-class Jewish religious leaders) and Sadducees (wealthy Jewish aristocrats) believed Jesus to be a fraud. They conspired together against him with theological attacks in hopes he might “slip up,” thus discrediting him among his followers or getting arrested by the Roman authorities.

This week we’ll explore three debated questions and notice how Jesus responds to each.

You may not be as antagonistic toward Jesus as the religious leaders were; you may actually consider yourself a follower of Jesus. But that doesn’t exclude you from the conversation. The question Jesus asked his disciples, and asks us today, is “Who do you say I am” (Luke 9.20)?

As you meditate on this passage today, ask yourself this week’s One Big Question . . . Who do you believe Jesus is and how is this belief displayed in your life? Discuss with your small group, your family during dinner, or a trusted friend.

March 13 | Patience

Text: 2 Peter 3.1-10

One of the scariest words in Christianity is judgment. It’s often associated only with anger, burning, and suffering. It’s not usually associated with things like hope and peace, even though it is talked about exactly that way in the Bible.

The Day of Judgment, when Christ returns to the earth, ought to fill Christians with hope as we expectantly look for it. God’s judgment will set everything right in the world as he removes injustice and pain and places everything back under his authority, the way it was in the beginning.

But God’s judgment is not yet here. His desire is for “everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3.9). God displayed his love, grace, and mercy through his son’s sacrifice on our behalf. Because of this, we can be made new in the same way he will one day make the whole earth new.

As a reminder of God’s transforming power over our hearts, and eventually the whole earth, listen to the song “All Things New” by Elevation Worship. Reflect on how God has, and can, transform your heart.