Do you have a Jesus that confronts you?

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    Day 1: Welcome to the World of a Prophet

    Prophets. Those strange, quirky, fiery, march-to-the-tune-of-a-different-drummer messengers of God.

    Prophets. Not people you tend to invite to your kid’s birthday party.

    Prophets. They make us uncomfortable … for a reason.

    Prophets. At times they are those with an uncanny ability to predict what will happen in the future. They see ahead, by God’s Spirit, to what is coming our way.

    Prophets. At times they are those who disclose things that are hidden. How did the prophet know that?! It is called a gift of knowledge, a revelation, a spiritual intuition, a discerning, a sensing of hidden things that are then made known! Secrets are secret no longer (Mark 4:22).

    Prophets. At times they are forth-tellers. Now they are not speaking about what is hidden or what is coming our way, they are speaking powerfully about what is wrong. About what is NOT the will and way of God. About the things that are displeasing to the Lord. About things that break the heart of God. In other words, about sin. Personal sin. And social sin.

    Prophets. They tend to get angry at sin. They are not mild mannered when it comes to sin. They are not timid, stick-their-head-in-the-sand-and-ignore-it personality types. They point it out. Sometimes they are compelled by God; other times it just comes pouring out of them.

    Prophets. Jesus was a prophet. And more than a prophet. But not less than a prophet.

    Prophets. We need them and we avoid them. We fear them. And we occasionally kill them (either figuratively or literally). You don’t crucify Mr. Rogers for telling everyone to be nice. You may turn off the TV program, but that’s about it. Prophets get a stronger reaction. They put Jesus on a cross. That was the only way they could turn off Jesus.

    REFLECT: This week, you will read some strong passages, stories, words, and encounters of Jesus the Prophet. Are you ready to encounter Jesus the prophet?

    I wonder what Jesus the Prophet will say about your future, your heart, and the Words of God for you? Be open to the prophetic words of Jesus as they come your way.

    Day 2: Luke 12:1-21

    My Bible has these two headings for this section: Warnings and Encouragements and then The Parable of the Rich Fool.

    First, read through the whole passage. Then go back and read it a second time with the following guidance.

    Make a short list of the “strong” words of Jesus in verses 1–11. Depending on how you read it, you may find five to eight distinct words from Jesus.

    REFLECT: Which words are most challenging for you to receive? What are the particular words in this section that create tension for you? Why do you think these words from Jesus create tension for you?

    Now read through verses 13–21. Here the theme moves to money, wealth, finances, and lifestyle. Jesus does not hesitate to say strong words about lifestyle.

    REFLECT: What is the essence of the message Jesus has about greed and true life? How are you doing on the matter of finances, accumulation, and where your trust and security lie? What personal words do you think Jesus would say to you about your finances? Would he say, “Well done, good and faithful steward?” If not, what words might the Prophet Jesus use?

    Day 3: Matthew 23

    There are three entire chapters in Matthew that are, well, let’s just say, intense. I am personally glad I was not on the receiving end of these particular words. Hmmm … maybe I am on the receiving end of those words.

    Jesus reserved some of his strongest words for the religious establishment of the day—those who had spiritual leadership over the lives of the Jewish people. In a phrase, Jesus was NOT happy with those spiritual leaders. Matthew 23 tells in great detail what makes Jesus unhappy.

    REFLECT: Verses 1–12 are about religious or spiritual hypocrisy. What is hypocrisy? When are the times you are most likely to be a hypocrite? What is going on in the hearts of the teachers and Pharisees that earn such stern (even harsh) language from Jesus?

    Verses 13–36 contain one of the harshest rebukes in all of the Bible. Remember, it is Jesus who says this. He holds nothing back. He just lays bare their heart condition. Here you learn fully what it means to be a Pharisee, a hypocrite, and to be self-deceived about your spiritual life.

    REFLECT: Make a list of the many things Jesus says. As you do, pray for eyes to be opened just in case there are even hints of these tendencies in your own life.

    Finally, there are concluding words from Jesus that are predictive about the consequences of living with spiritual deception and hypocrisy. In the end, the Prophet Jesus says hard, challenging, even harsh words to break through the stony hearts and perhaps, just perhaps, avoid a disastrous ending.

    The Prophet Jesus always has a shepherd’s heart to seek and to save the lost. It is just that sometimes tough words are needed to break through the protections and barriers that keep us from seeing the truth about ourselves.

    Day 4: Matthew 24

    In this chapter, Jesus gets into massive predictive-type prophecy. Jesus is now looking into the future and talking about the bad times that the Jewish nation is headed toward.

    Here is a tricky thing about interpreting this kind of prophecy. When it is given, it is looking to the future. But how far into the future? Was Jesus seeing something that was going to happen about 70 AD in the coming war with Rome and the destruction of the Jewish temple and much of Jerusalem? Or was Jesus looking centuries and even millennium later, to the far distant future?

    Or is there a dual nature, a double time dynamic at work? Different Christians interpret it differently. My (Pastor Brian Rice’s) interpretation is that of a double time zone reference. The imminent time zone is just a few decades away and a reference to the disaster that will befall Israel. And then a longer duration way of seeing history—history repeating itself, whenever there are anti-Christian forces and powers at work. And finally, a final climax in what is called the end times.

    On hearing his words, some of the people said, ìSurely this man is the Prophet... Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?  (John 7:40; 8:53)

    However, don’t get stuck on that. Allow the power of the passage to wash over you and speak to you.

    Then, in verses 36–51 Jesus gives a strong warning to be faithful, ready, and prepared for the return of the King.

    REFLECT: Are you ready? Are you prepared? How do you know you are in such a posture of waiting and readiness?

    Finally, notice the excessively strong language. This matters. There are consequences. Don’t rush to soften that message. Let it sink in deep. Then pray for grace and responsibility. That is what prophets know we need—both forgiving grace and empowering grace.

    Day 5: Matthew 25

    This chapter consists of two parables (The Ten Virgins and The Bags of Gold) and finishes with The Sheep and the Goats.

    In other words, it is all just vintage prophet speak. “Let the one who has ears, hear.”

    REFLECT: For each section, what is the take-away lesson you get from Jesus the Prophet? For each take-away lesson, what is a next best step to take to be prepared, to be faithful, and to missionally advance the presence of Jesus in the world?

    Remember, we are listening to the words of the Teacher, the King, the Pastor, the Healer, the Way-Truth-Life, and the Prophet. He is a prophet and more than a prophet.

    Hear the words of a prophet and hear the words surrounding the words of the prophet. Hear the total gospel invitation.

    This is the real Jesus. Is this Jesus becoming real for you?

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