Our Bible Reading Plan is available to help you grow in the knowledge of God's Word.
Click here for the Children's Bible Reading Plan
We do not know the outcome of all of the encounters people had with Jesus, some invitations were left open-ended. Ten lepers were healed, while only one returns to give thanks. What of the other nine? Some who wanted to follow Jesus but had pressing business to attend to first were told no business was more important. Did they follow? These encounters with Jesus produce open-ended rather than conclusive finales. Have you been invited by Jesus to follow Him into something new?
Through an encounter with Jesus we may find ourselves empowered for discipleship. We read that a woman whose illness prevented her from exercising hospitality is able to resume her role when Jesus heals her. A man whom Jesus freed from a hopeless past finds the wherewithal to accept a challenging call. One group who was nurtured by Jesus’ ministry becomes a source of ministry for their community. Encounters like these have the potential to give us the means to act as disciples in callings both familiar and new.
A body bent over to the point of breaking becomes straight. One shunned, without place in community, has place restored. Another finds her desperation met, not with rejection and judgment, but with healing and peace. A mourning mother receives her son back while a mourning community moves from lament to praise. Encounters with Jesus, then as now, seeks life’s transformation for the good.
From the outset of His ministry, Jesus’ message and person are turned down. The reasons for the rejection vary. Some say no because Jesus does not fit into a mold based on how things used to be. One man turns away because Jesus asks too much, while others reject Him because He threatens their positions or for political reasons. Lives may go unchanged because God gives us the freedom to follow or reject. It is important for us to understand the reasons people choose to reject Christ so that we may know how to pray and what to say when the opportunity presents itself.
The Gospels describe a variety of people whose encounters with Jesus result in challenge, and we experience many of the same challenges in our own lives. He challenges them, and us, regarding social norms, how we treat family, neighbors, strangers. He confronts them, and us, to consider our motives: are we self-yielding or self-serving? He challenges them, and us, to consider our priorities and expectations, how we respond to authority, and our reactions in the midst of conflict and pain. Encounters with Jesus brings challenges to adopt new ways of trusting, welcoming and serving.
To be called is to be singled out for the purpose of a response. In the case of Jesus, that call and its desired response need not always take an exact form. The call may be an invitation to follow. It may be to carry another’s burden or evoke an admission of need for grace. Jesus’ call may require taking a huge risk that requires a huge faith. Call, like faith, has everything to do with response. How we respond to His call has the potential to profoundly affect our lives, especially our relationship with Christ Himself.
Although many of us came to Christ by hearing about Him from another person, the way of salvation is clearly revealed by simply reading the Bible. We are all saved by believing the truth of Scripture whether we read it ourselves or are taught it by someone else. We study the Bible to seek God Himself. The Word of God brings us into spiritual life and sustains us in that life when our hearts grow cold. Since God is the author of life itself, His Word has life-giving power, both to bring the spiritually dead person to life and to renew the believer.
Perhaps the most desired possession in the world is peace, but it can only be found in the Lord. A word often translated “peace” in the Bible actually means “to tie together as a whole, when all essential parts are joined together.” So peace means to be bound to something, and when that something is the Word of God, we are bound to Him and experience the peace Jesus promised to His disciples. Peace is the inward indicator that God is fully involved on your behalf.
There are times when the burdens of life are overwhelming. Jesus does not promise us that our lives will be exempt from trials. Because the Lord is interested in every aspect of our lives, we can run to His Word in our pain, grief, loneliness, or sickness and receive help in our time of trouble. Reading the Bible and abiding in God’s presence can help us tap into the power that only God can provide to help us. And God promises to orchestrate everything — including every pain, sorrow, and trial — to bring us even more joy in Him.
We all have to make hundreds of decisions that determine the outcome of our lives. Some are minor, some are major, but they all clump together to shape our lives for good or for bad. In the complex world in which we live, we desperately need God’s wisdom for making sound decisions. Scripture is our greatest protection and source of wisdom. It’s like a shield before us, guarding our way and warning of danger. But if we neglect reading and studying the Word, we won’t be able to distinguish right from wrong.