Thursday, July 2
Matthew 22:1-14 “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son.” (v.2)
In this parable we see three truths about the Christian life: It isn’t a funeral, but a feast—we’re meant to be happy; It isn’t expensive, but free—everything’s prepared by the Lord; and those invited aren’t superior types like the rich and talented—they’re ordinary people, the good with the bad.
How do we enter the kingdom? First, we have to accept the invitation. Some folk refuse. Either by point-blank rejection or by being too involved in other activities, they turn a deaf ear and shut themselves out.
Second, having come, we must accept what’s offered. It’s not enough just to make the journey outwardly. That’s like coming to church and thinking we’ve done enough. The Lord waits to clothe us with His “robe” of forgiveness. It covers our sins and makes us all equal.
Sadly, some of us do only the first thing. We come to the church and stop there. But the Lord waits for us to accept what we cannot provide for ourselves—His forgiveness. If we don’t, whatever else we’ve done won’t really matter. When we do accept the invitation and the gift, we enter fully into the kingdom of heaven.
Numbers 23:11-26; Psalms 131, 132, 133; Romans 8:1-11
Friday, July 3
Matthew 22:15-22 “Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” (v.17)
How do you react when someone asks you a question about your faith? Do you become angry or evasive, especially if you know your questioner is not sincere and simply wants to embarrass you?
Here some people approach Jesus with flattering words and ask him a question. But he perceives their insincerity and confronts them with it. It’s important to recognize the motive of our questioners. Rather than speak in general terms, Jesus asks for a specific object to represent their question. So, when people question us, we should enquire, “To what particular occasion or Bible verse are you referring?” Then, instead of giving them an answer, Jesus throws the ball back into their own court by posing a question to them. Don’t be afraid of asking questions when you are witnessing. Your questioner has to do some thinking, too. Finally, Jesus gives them a perfect answer: “Give unto Ceasar….”, that turns them away in amazement.
Our faith is not meant to be played with. It’s a matter of life and death. Let the Holy Spirit be your guide when you face a questioner. Pray for the right words and you will be led to them.
Numbers 24:1-13; Psalms 140, 142; Romans 8:12-17
Saturday, July 4
Matthew 22:23-40 “Love the Lord your God….” (v.37)
What is love? It’s a longing for the other person, an ache to be in their presence, a desire to make them happy, and a thrill to realize that they feel the same way about us.
That’s how we should feel about God. Jesus states that it should be with all our heart (gladly), with all our soul (fervently), and with all our mind (intelligently—and not leaving our brains outside).
Then Jesus goes further. He extends this command to include our neighbors and ourselves. But how can cold and empty people like us give this kind of love?
The secret is to let God’s love come into us first. Then, basking in it, we can share it with others. That’s why John wrote, “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
O Lord, You know that sometimes my love is cold and faint. Please help me to feel the warmth of Your love so that mine may grow to be more like Yours.
Numbers 24:12-25; Psalms 137, 144; Romans 8:18-25
Sunday, July 5
Numbers 27:12-23 Then Moses said to the Lord, “O Lord, you are the God who gives breath to all creatures. Please appoint a new man as leader for the community. Give them someone who will guide them wherever they go…” (vv.15-17 NLT)
Many of us have received the “call” to leadership. Sometimes we have sought leadership because we are aware of issues that need to be resolved and we have new and fresh ideas. I accepted leadership roles in several of my interest groups over the years without seeking them. I admit that I had a good deal of trepidation each time I said yes to the call. Yet, those positions turned out to be most fulfilling, as God revealed personal skills and talents that I never before identified or utilized. I prayed for and received creative resolutions to matters that presented themselves. He allowed me to grow in the assurance that I was helping others.
In today’s readings we have examples of calls to leadership. In Deuteronomy, Joshua is chosen by God to lead the people of Israel. In Mark’s passage, Jesus selects Simon Peter, Andrew, James, and John to lead people in the new covenant. And every day Jesus calls us to be leaders in our faith: to love God, to lead by example in our devotions and prayers, and to care for others.
Psalms 146, 147; Acts 19:11-20; Mark 1:14-20
Monday, July 6
Romans 8:26-30 And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. (v.27)
Early last year I received an invitation to attend an organizational meeting of the healing ministry in our church. I wondered why I was among those who received the letter, but I know that we are led by the Holy Spirit to be in the right place at the right time. I prayed about my decision and I attended that gathering. Over the next few months our group studied Jesus’ 26 healing miracles. We viewed video lessons that discussed in depth a more insightful understanding of Jesus’ actions and words He spoke that both cured and healed those who believed in him. We discussed forgiveness to open our hearts to healing. We benefited from diverse viewpoints and insights from group members. We shared fellowship and intercessory prayer. As I continue my study, I find that I now take time each day to slow down and listen to what the Holy Spirit is calling me to do. I pray for the right words to bring healing into the life of someone who asks for prayers.
Numbers 32:1-6, 16-27; Psalms 1, 2, 3; Matthew 23:1-12
Tuesday, July 7
Matthew 23:13-26 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence! You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too.” (vv.25-26)
Television talk shows, social media outlets, and celebrity tabloid magazines feature some interesting people. They are attractive, dressed in the latest garb, and groomed to sparkle in front of the camera. However, at times their condemnations and mean-spirited comments of other persons belie any trace of what we would consider “beauty.” All that glitters is not gold. Matthew’s analogy of the cup and dish that are clean on the outside but dirty on the inside is so apt. The poisons of fear, non-forgiveness, sorrow, and self-pity can be cleansed. We need to purify ourselves on the inside with prayer and fasting so that our outer appearance shines in joy and in giving glory to God.
Numbers 35:1-3, 9-15, 30-34; Psalms 5, 6; Romans 8:31-39
Wednesday, July 8
Psalm 119:1-24 Joyful are people of integrity, who follow the instructions of the Lord. (v.1)
This is a life lesson in honesty and integrity. There is a situation that I remember from my career as a high school Foreign Language teacher. I received an essay from a student that clearly was not his own work because the vocabulary and grammar that he used were way beyond the scope of this introductory class. His parent insisted that he did not receive help from his tutor on this essay. At the end of the school year the parent and student visited me and shared that the tutor did in fact write the essay and they came to apologize to me. I am sure this was hard for both the parent and the student. Being honest is painful at times. We are taught to confess our sins and ask for forgiveness. In receiving forgiveness, we are set free.
Deuteronomy 1:1-18; Romans 9:1-18; Matthew 23:27-39
Thursday, July 9
Romans 9:19-33 Even though the Gentiles were not trying to follow God’s standards, they were made right with God. And it was by faith that this took place. But the people of Israel, who tried so hard to get right with God by keeping the law, never succeeded. Why not? Because they were trying to get right with God by keeping the law instead of by trusting in him. (vv.30b-32b)
In our study of Jesus’ healing miracles, we read how he taught in the synagogues on the Sabbath and healed many, driving out evil spirits and restoring good health. He did not obey Jewish law on the Sabbath. This caused great distress and concern for the Pharisees. But the word spread about Jesus and many did whatever was necessary in order to get close to Jesus to receive his healing, even ignoring societal rules. They acted and were driven by their faith, not the law. They pushed past the rules to be healed. Jesus only requires that we trust and believe in him. We must have faith that he will bring wholeness to our lives.
Deuteronomy 3:18-28; Psalm 18:1-20; Matthew 24:1-14