Day 139: A woman of excellence

Proverbs 30-31; John 4:1-30

Key Verses

Proverbs 31:30
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

John 4:13-14
Jesus said to [the Samaritan woman], “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

The Proverbs 31 woman. Just the thought of her makes me feel stressed. She is kind to the needy, makes fine clothes, prepares nutritious meals, doesn’t get much sleep and has a real estate business on the side!

I have to remind myself every time I read this chapter, that she is the ideal embodiment of wisdom. This description is actually an acrostic poem – describing her entire life. It is NOT “a day in the life of the perfect woman!”

If I’m honest, I have more in common with the Samaritan woman found in John 4. I’m not referring to her promiscuity – but to her imperfections in general. Her life was scarred by a cruel world – yet she still had hope for the Messiah.

Little did she know she would meet her Messiah in the most mundane of ways. Here was the King of all creation, sitting beside a well, tired from traveling. I imagine he was dusty and thirsty. He used this ordinary moment to teach an ordinary woman that He is the living water. She listened because she was thirsty – and she needed some of that living water!

I’m thirsty… oh so thirsty. And that’s the first step to becoming the woman of excellence described in Proverbs 31. She is full – filled with the living water of the Spirit of God – which has overflowed into all areas of her life – bringing peace and joy to her and to others.

I need to go find myself some of that living water :)

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Day 138: Increasing & Decreasing

Proverbs 28-29; John 3:22-36

Key Verses

Proverbs 29:23
One’s pride will bring him low,
but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor.

John 3:36
“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”

John the Baptist was not a prideful man. He didn’t aspire to greatness. He didn’t want accolades. He lived in the wilderness, dressed strangely, and ate a poor man’s diet. He understood his role. He was to prepare the way for the King.

When Jesus came, John knew. He must decrease so that the Son might increase. His role was complete. He fulfilled his mission, and God was honored.

John the Baptist was honored because of his place in the redemptive story of Jesus. He had no idea that millions of people would learn of his humble obedience through the gospels. In the same way, we have a place in God’s redemptive story. We have been adopted as His children. We are part of His family.

This is the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is where we find the strength to decrease so that He might increase… This is our hope. This is our life!

Day 137: Hope for the Sinner

Proverbs 26-27; John 3:1-21

Key Verses

Proverbs 26:12
Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes?
There is more hope for a fool than for him.

John 3:16
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Nicodemus. If any man were to be wise in his own eyes, it could have been him. Firstly, he was a Pharisee. Pharisees were the respected religious leaders of the Jews. They were notoriously pious. Jesus was constantly berating them for their hypocrisy.

If being a Pharisee wasn’t enough, Nicodemus was also a member of the Sanhedrin… the elite ruling body of the Jews. In other words, he was the elite of the elite.

But Nicodemus wasn’t a fool. He was smart enough to recognize that Jesus possessed power and knowledge that he did not have. Nicodemus humbled himself and sought Jesus by night.

It is in this context that we find the most famous verse in the Bible, John 3:16. It is one of the clearest statements of the gospel in all of Scripture. But to whom was Jesus speaking? He was speaking to a religious man who knew he didn’t have all the answers. He was speaking to a respected man who knew the darkness of his own heart. Nicodemus was not wise in his own eyes. He sought the Savior. In John 7:51, we read how he defended the Savior and at the end, Nicodemus helped to bury the Savior (19:39).

Jesus made it clear to Nicodemus, the Pharisee, what His purpose was… Whereas the Pharisees acted the role of a judge to the Jews – creating rules and handing out condemnation – “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17). Jesus came into the world to save a man like Nicodemus – not because he was religious – but in spite of it. He saved Nicodemus because Nicodemus knew he needed to be saved! 

John 3:16 is for the humble. John 3:16 is for the lowly. John 3:16 is for the sinner.

Day 136: Jesus’ Kingly Acts

Proverbs 24-25; John 2

Key Verses

John 2:7; 9-11
Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

John 2-4 are fascinating chapters because these events happened before Jesus officially asked any of his disciples to be “disciples.” He hadn’t asked them to leave their nets, or homes or other jobs. A few men – we know of 5 for sure- just traveled with Jesus and watched. And John, the disciple, being one of those 5 – gave us details that none of the other gospel writers did…like Jesus’ first miracle (John 2:1-12). It was AMAZINGLY… ordinary. He made wine from water to save the host from embarrassment, and nobody saw the miracle except Jesus’ ragged companions and the servants. …This doesn’t sound very king-like to me.

Then John takes us to Jerusalem for the Passover (John 2:12-22). Jesus seems to act like a madman, making a whip out of chords, driving all the animals from the temple, and overturning tables. Money was literally scattered everywhere. Why? Even the Jews asked Him why; “Give us a miracle to show us you have the authority to do this,” they cried. And he speaks spiritually; “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it in three days.” The Jews take him literally, and they scoff, “It has taken 46 years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in 3 days?”

Why did he make such a public spectacle in the temple? I’ll tell you why – He. is. the. King. He’s not aiming to be King of just the land of Israel. His is a spiritual Kingdom – one that has no end, no limits. He comes into His place, and we watch as He overturns the spiritual leadership of the day.

John writes that later his disciples remembered what He had said and they believed. Later refers to… after the crucifixion, after the three agonizing days of despair, after the resurrection, and after the ascension to when the Spirit came – and gave understanding. When we believe, His Spirit comes down and gives us understanding and makes our heart a temple – and Jesus comes in… and becomes King, overturning and scattering. Why? The answer lies in John’s next paragraph…

Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name. But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men. He did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man (John 2:23-25).

He knows what is in me. It’s not always pretty. But He came anyway, while we were still sinners, and destroyed the old temple – and built a new one in three days. Jesus is building His Kingdom…

one lowly sinner,

one weak vessel, and

one sacrifice at a time.

Day 135: The Lamb of God

Proverbs 22-23; John 1:29-51

Key Verses

Proverbs 22:17-19
Incline your ear, and hear the words of the wise,
and apply your heart to my knowledge,
for it will be pleasant if you keep them within you,
if all of them are ready on your lips.
That your trust may be in the Lord,
I have made them known to you today, even to you.

John 1:32; 34
And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. …And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”

In today’s New Testament reading, John, the disciple, gives us gives us an insider’s view of Jesus’ first meeting with himself and the other future disciples, Andrew, Peter, Philip, and Nathanael.

When Nathanael first meets Jesus, he says to Him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” Nathanael’s calling Jesus “King” reveals his expectations that Jesus would overthrow the Roman government and make Israel the most powerful nation on earth. All of the disciples expected this.

But John the Baptist saw something different in Jesus. He says twice in this passage, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” This is an astonishing statement!  By calling Jesus, “The Lamb of God,” John the Baptist was connecting Jesus to the Passover Lamb, which automatically conjured up images of sacrifice and death. Somehow, John the Baptist knew Jesus would be sacrificed as the final Passover Lamb. How else would He “take away the sins of the world” (vs. 29)?

Jesus was not what the Jewish nation expected. We have the luxury of hindsight and know why the Messiah had to suffer and die. We know that He is both the Lion and the Lamb! He established his spiritual Kingdom on earth through his humble Sacrifice. And because He is our King, He deserves our worship and praise!

Day 134: The Word

Proverbs 20-21; John 1:1-28

Key Verses

John 1:1
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

John 1:14
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

How did God create the world? He spoke, and it came to be. John teaches us in the first verses of his gospel that it was Jesus, the Word, that made the world. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made (John 1:3). Doesn’t this make sense? God the Father created the world through Jesus – He created through the WORD.

The book of Proverbs teaches that even the words of men are powerful…

The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life,
but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence. 10:11

A gentle tongue is a tree of life,
but perverseness in it breaks the spirit. 15:4

Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
and those who love it will eat its fruits. 18:21

Our words are powerful because we are made in the image of our Creator!!

This is my favorite image of Jesus…The Word. Not just any word – but logos. The source of all things.

Think of words that describe Jesus… kind, humble, truthful, compassionate, gentle, just, powerful.

But Jesus isn’t just powerful – he is the source of all power. And he isn’t just compassionate – his life was the living definition of Compassion. And what about truthful? No, the adjectives are not sufficient – he is the very embodiment of Truth, Humility, Kindness, Justice and Power. He is the Word. He is the source.

As we study John, we see the Word squeeze himself into human form – and walk and live and embody every good word in this world.

Day 133: Disbelieving for Joy!

Proverbs 18-19; Luke 24:36-53

Key Verses

Luke 24:39-41
And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?”

Jesus appears to his disciples and proves to them that he is flesh and blood – not a spirit. They touch him. He eats. And they marvel.

“Disbelieved for joy.” Imagine if someone told you that you had just won $5 million? Or if you or your wife had been infertile for years, and at a regular checkup, she learns that she’s pregnant? You would wonder if it could really be true. It would just seem too good to be true! …Or if a man offered to take the punishment for your sins by dying in your place – and then rose from the dead??!!

Sometimes I think the gospel is too good to be true. And the idea that God will make a new heaven and a new earth and we will get to live in perfect communion with God and each other for all eternity. Well… that seems too good to be true, too! I understand how the disciples felt. I resonate with “Disbelieving for joy.”

But it is this hope that gives us the strength to persevere through this difficult world. And it is God’s grace that gives our hearts and minds understanding into the gospel – and all the joy that it contains…and we dare to hope that it’s true. And we marvel. :)

Day 132: Understanding

Proverbs 16-17; Luke 24:1-35

Key Verses

Luke 24:32
They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”

Proverbs 16:16
How much better to get wisdom than gold!
To get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.

Understanding. Jesus’ followers needed it. They needed it during the darkness of the Crucifixion and during the darkness of His burial. They needed understanding during the hours that passed – with all hope lost – in utter despair.

Understanding. The women didn’t understand when they came to the tomb Sunday morning. The angel asked, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” Could it be? They didn’t understand. Not yet…

And Jesus – walking with the men on the road to Emmaus. Luke tells us that He opened the Scriptures to them – revealing from the Law and the Prophets that the Christ had to suffer and die. And then – their eyes were opened. And they understood.

Understanding. True understanding of the Scriptures – how Jesus is the culmination of all redemptive history – is a gift from God. A gift that should be valued over all this world can offer!

Day 131: Among the Crowds

Proverbs 13-15; Luke 23:44-56

Key Verses

Luke 23:48-49 (The Message)
All who had come around as spectators to watch the show, when they saw what actually happened, were overcome with grief and headed home. Those who knew Jesus well, along with the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a respectful distance and kept vigil.

What did the crowds see that caused them so much grief? Wasn’t this the same man about whom the crowds were shouting, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” just a few hours before? It seems like they would have been pleased to see Him die. But instead, they went home, “beating their breasts (ESV).”

Imagine yourself there…in complete (inexplicable) darkness – with rumors circulating that the 4-inch-thick veil that guarded the Holy of Holies in the Temple had split in two. Impossible. That was impossible. And then your eyes would look on the man and you would know – just know that this man must have been innocent. And then the centurion said what you were thinking, “Certainly this man was innocent!” And hearing the words said aloud – you realize that they are absolutely, and horribly – true. And you think, “I have just killed an innocent man.”

I have just killed an innocent man. You don’t have to be a bystander in the crowd watching the crucifixion to relate to that statement. It’s true for all of us. Jesus died in the sinner’s place. Jesus died because of me. It’s a sobering fact. One that should be life changing…

Day 130: The Path of the Righteous

Proverbs 10-12; Luke 23:26-43

Key Verses

Luke 23:32, 40-43
Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. The [criminal said,] “…we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Two convicts hung on either side of Jesus – one mocked and the other was accepted. Why? Proverbs gives us the answers…

The wise of heart will receive commandments,
but a babbling fool will come to ruin. 10:8

Whoever heeds instruction is on the path to life,
but he who rejects reproof leads others astray. 10:17

What the wicked dreads will come upon him,
but the desire of the righteous will be granted. 10:24

When pride comes, then comes disgrace,
but with the humble is wisdom. 11:2

With his mouth the godless man would destroy his neighbor,
but by knowledge the righteous are delivered. 11:9

Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,
but he who hates reproof is stupid. 12:1

The thoughts of the righteous are just;
the counsels of the wicked are deceitful. 12:5

In the path of righteousness is life,
and in its pathway there is no death. 12:28

There were two men dying next to Jesus. But one took responsibility for his sins and accepted his punishment as just. He was humble and teachable of heart. This man was counted righteous – not because of his gleaming record (he was a criminal!) but because of the humble state of his heart and his trust in the person of Jesus. God declared him righteous by His GRACE. The righteous man would live with Jesus in Paradise.

The book of Proverbs consistently teaches that those who receive reproof with teachable hearts are considered righteous – but those who despise reproof are fools. And so it is with the gospel, you have to know you’re a sinner to recognize your need for a Savior. Those righteous in their own eyes will perish.

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:8-9).