Mark, chapters 7 & 8

“[…] He sighed deeply in his spirit […].”
~Mark 8:12

Jesus was a man who clearly expressed his emotions.
This is the only passage where the greek verb “anastenazas,” or exasperation, is used in the Scriptures.
It describes how the Pharisees’ lack of faith made him feel.
But Jesus also sighed when speaking sign language to a deaf man he was about to cure. (“estenazen,” Mark 7:34)
He did not simply go through mechanical motions like an overworked doctor.
His sigh conveyed heartfelt empathy, a quality he reflected from our heavenly Father.
People may respond favorably or critically to God’s message, and they can move us, encourage us or drain us.
And like Jesus, we will need to discern who truly is appreciative of the good news and keep looking for them without becoming disheartened.

Mark, chapters 1 & 2

“[…] He was at home. And so many gathered that there was no more room, not even around the door, and he began to speak the word to them.”
~Mark 2:1,2

When I think of Jesus’ ministry, I do not think of him as having people over for brunch, but rather picture him as a wanderer, reaching out to others wherever they were at.
But he did have a home based in Capernaum, which was close to Nazareth, the town he had grown up in. (Matt. 4:13)
What strikes me in this passage is Jesus’ hospitality, even towards those who did not have faith in him. (Mark 2:6,7)
Not only was his privacy overcrowded in an unannounced manner, but some even removed the roof to bring down a paralytic man. (Mark 2:4)
Jesus remained helpful and compassionate as always. (Mark 2:5)
When we in the Christian congregation are encouraged to be hospitable, it is not a suggestion based on culture or personal preference. (1 Pe. 4:9)
The way of hospitality is part of Christ’s example.

Matthew, chapter 25

“Well done, good and faithful slave! You were faithful over a few things. I will appoint you over many things. Enter into the joy of your master.”
~Matthew 25:20-23

In Jesus’ illustration of the slaves and the talents, one slave was responsible for the equivalent of 102 kg of silver (~225 lbs.), or what was back then about 100 years’ wages for a common laborer.
The second slave was responsible for 40.8 kg of silver (~90 lbs.), or about 40 years’ wages.
They both doubled their master’s initial capital by immediately investing it. (Matt. 25:16,17)
Jesus focused on the effort each made and in the story, each received the exact same compensation.
This shows me that God does not value my service to him depending on how many privileges I may hold within the congregation, but on how much effort I individually put forth in serving him wholeheartedly.
He focuses on quality, and as long as I am doing everything I can to be a true Christian, I will receive as many blessings as someone who perhaps bears more responsibility. (Matt. 25:29)

Matthew, chapters 18 & 19

“[…] Whatever things you may bind on earth will be things already bound in heaven, and whatever things you may loosen on earth will be things already loosened in heaven.”
~Matthew 18:18

When we are waiting for a decision to be made by our congregation’s body of elders, we can easily lose patience if it affects us personally.
When Jesus was talking about things being bound or loosened, he did it in the context of someone on trial.
When a body of elders holds someone to account for their sins, they need to be careful not to rush into rash judgments based on hurt feelings.
Jesus implied elders’ decisions should be based on principles laid down in heaven, and the same principles should guide them when reinstating someone into the congregation. (2 Cor. 2:6-8)

Matthew, chapters 14 & 15

“[…] Out of the heart come wicked reasonings […].”
~Matthew 15:19

Do I ever try to justify unethical behavior to myself when tempted to do something wrong?
It is human nature to have a sinful inclination, but if I am not careful, I could end up a slave to my own whims, and also end up hurting those who matter most, including God. (Jer. 17:9)
Instead of entertaining sinful notions, it is wiser to not let them nest in my heart to begin with. (Prov. 4:23)

Matthew, chapters 12 & 13

“[…] If you had understood what this means, ‘I want mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless ones.”
~Matthew 12:7

Often we think of mercy as an accessory to justice. But really, justice is a means for God to express his mercy toward us.
Because of his mercy, Jehovah God sent his only-begotten son to earth to die for our sins. (Ro. 5:8-11)
Jesus thereby satisfied God’s law of ‘a life for a life,’ replacing Adam as our first father, and opened the way for us to reconcile with God. (De. 19:21; 1 Cor. 15:45)
God’s law was founded on mercy, so Jesus highlighted mercy as the underlying principle in the application of his law.
If we are motivated by a sincere desire to aid those who are at a spiritual or material disadvantage, our heavenly Father takes notice. (Prov. 19:17; 2 Cor. 4:1,2)

Matthew, chapters 6 & 7

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
~Matthew 6:21

What do you value most in life? What consumes the greater part of your time and effort?
Although Jesus did not have wealth or a prominent career, he was obviously successful in carrying out his life’s work.
Doing his father’s will was in his heart, and he found happiness in teaching others God’s kingdom message. (Acts 20:35)
If we were to focus our resources on selfish pursuits, we would probably eventually find them to be vain and unsatisfying. (Eccl. 2:11)
But if we guard our hearts from selfish desires and follow Christ’s example of selflessness, we will discover the happiness that only God can give, while successfully securing our future. (1 Ti. 6:18,19)

Haggai, chapters 1 & 2

“[…] That is how all the work of their hands is; whatever they present there is unclean.”
~Haggai 2:14

God doesn’t care so much about the sacrifice we are giving him as he does about what motivates us to give it. (Hag. 1:5)
We should not undermine our privilege of knowing and serving the true God by letting our worship become mechanical and superficial in nature.
Those who try to serve God hypocritically lose his blessing and his friendship.
On the other hand, if we ‘set our heart in our ways’ by trying to find joy in his service, we can experience more blessings than we could have imagined. (Hag. 2:7; Mal. 3:10)

Amos, chapters 1-9

“Even if you offer me whole burnt offerings and gift offerings,
I will find no pleasure in them; […]
Let justice flow down like waters,
And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”
~Amos 5:22, 24

We should not let our sacred service to God fall into a mechanical routine, as if we are doing him a favor through the sacrifices we offer him.
What God really looks for in us is heartfelt obedience. (Ps. 50:14)
False religion allows believers to continue on paths of cruelty and corruption, “absolving” sins through rites and rituals without ever addressing the root of problems. (Amos 2:6,7; 5:12)
Acceptable service to God is motivated by love of what is good.
We should try to reflect his sense of justice. (Amos 5:14,15)

Daniel, chapters 4-6

“[…] As soon as Daniel knew that the decree had been signed, he went to his house, which had the windows of his roof chamber open toward Jerusalem. And three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed […].”
~Daniel 6:10

Daniel had not seen Jerusalem since his childhood, and would probably not see it again in his lifetime.
Still, the values his parents instilled in him at a young age guided him until he was elderly. (Prov. 22:6)
He never lost view of what the most important thing in life is: one’s personal praise toward God. (Ps. 145:2)
Jerusalem was supposed to be the hub for pure worship of Jehovah, and Daniel regularly reminded himself that was where he came from. (2 Chron. 6:20,21)
He realized God’s purpose endures forever and it had not been lost with the exile of the Jewish people. (Jos. 23:14; Isa. 40:8; 1 Pet. 1:25)
Daniel set an excellent example of being spiritually constant despite difficult, changing circumstances, conscientious of the most important things. (Phil. 1:10)