Archive for : April, 2017

Matthew 18

Forgiveness is at the heart of our reading! If a brother or sister in Christ sins against us, we make the first move to bring about restoration in the relationship! There are a couple of points we need to keep in mind with this process. First – we go to them and inform them we have been sinned against. Often in our pride we feel that as the offended party, they should come to us! I will let you in on something; often they are not even aware you have been offended. Second – the matter is NOT to be discussed with others, Jesus made this very clear! The point of this whole process is forgiveness & restoration! Forgiveness is a key principle of what it means to be a disciple! Jesus used a parable in our text that drives home this point. God has forgiven us of this massive debt (sin) and He in turn expects us to be just as gracious and forgiving towards others. The sad reality is that if we are not willing to forgive, God will not forgive us! Forgiveness is key in being a disciple of Jesus!!

Reflections

Today is a day to reflect on our readings. Jesus is getting closer to the time when He will face His fate in Jerusalem! In this progression we see how Jesus was preparing these men that He has chosen for the task that was ahead of them. One reflection worth considering is how Jesus was preparing these men, for He kept challenging their faith and how they saw their world.

A reflection to consider

From the time we were born, the first lesson Jesus wanted us to learn was not how to lead but how to follow. The first lesson Jesus wants you to learn is not how to be over but how to be under. Isn’t it striking that Jesus could choose twelve men to follow him who wouldn’t argue with him? Who wouldn’t say, “No, Jesus, let’s do it my way this time”? Oh sure, from time to time they questioned Jesus’s decisions. They even argued over which of them should sit at his right hand when he’s ruling his kingdom. But the disciples somehow knew they were there to follow him, not to lead him. How often do we say, “No, Lord—let’s do it my way this time”? And yet when we stop trying to manipulate God to our way of doing something and let him lead, we find that he was right all along. When God makes a decision regarding our lives, it’s always the right decision. Why? Because he’s the leader, and we are the followers. There is such contentment in that, isn’t there?
(52 Weeks with Jesus)

Matthew 17

Jesus climbed the mountain with Peter, James, & John and there He was transfigured before them. This mountain encounter reminds me of Moses’ encounter with God on Mount Sinai. Jesus of course was the promised one that God was going to raise up like Moses (Deut. 18:15-19). What is taking place on this mountain is directly connected to that O.T. prophecy. The scene played out where there was Jesus, Moses, and Elijah (The law and the prophets), figures present that represented the old Law, and God proclaimed: “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” The spokesman for God was no longer Moses and Elijah but the Son of God! This is what God told Moses about Jesus – Deut 18:18-19 “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him. If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account.” Peter’s confession in Matthew 16 is confirmed by the Creator Himself in our reading!

Matthew 16

There is a statement in our reading that just jumped out at me. “Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.'” Jesus said this to Peter when he told Jesus that He should not have to go to the cross. There is an interesting contrast in this text! On one hand Peter is praised for his spiritual discernment that Jesus was the Messiah, The Son of God. Yet, Peter did not use that same spiritual discernment to understand that this same Messiah came to die on a cross. Thus is the battle that often is setup in our hearts, the concerns of God and the human concerns! We see often in scripture that these concerns are often in conflict with one another. What we want and what God wants at times can be two very different roads! All too often people get angry because they believe what they want should be what God wants and when it doesn’t play out the way they want – they get angry and cry “foul!” Jesus told Peter that when he fell into that trap he fell right into the hands of Satan. So I pray about my human concerns and I trust the answer I receive as God’s concerns.

Matthew 15

In our reading Jesus encountered a Canaanite woman. It is important to note that Matthew refers to this woman as a “Canaanite.” Of all the Gentile nationalities, those of Canaanite descent would have been among the most abhorred by the Jews. Despite the huge walls that existed between these two cultures – this women’s love for her daughter and her faith in Jesus caused her to push through the barriers that existed. What barriers are there that keep us from trusting God? Like the women, our Lord calls for us to face those obstacles and move forward trusting Him!

Matthew 14

Jesus in our reading continues to put the faith of the disciples to the test. After Jesus heard about the death Of John He wanted to get away to a remote place but this young Rabbi had become too popular for that to take place. Jesus drew a crowd of 10,000+ when you count women and children and there arose a need to feed them. Jesus tested the faith of the disciples by placing the impossible task of feeding these people in their lap. Then when the disciples were in the boat and saw Jesus walking on the water they were afraid. Peter had the faith to join Jesus, which took a lot of faith! Yet, when he took his eyes off Jesus, fear over took his faith! Jesus made it very clear the issue was FAITH! Both tests called for the disciples to face an impossible problem or task and Jesus then tested them to see how they would deal with the issue. Would they only look to their abilities and resources, or would they have the faith to trust that if the Lord says “do it” – it can be done with His help. Please realize that Jesus was not calling on them to have faith that whatever the disciples wanted to do could be accomplished with God’s help, no each test was about accomplishing God’s will. So, what is God calling me to do and do I have the faith to answer that call?

Matthew 13

The parable of the sower and the parable of weeds get across a very important point – God’s kingdom is breaking into the human experience, but evil still is at work until the ultimate victory! The parable of the weeds – Jesus who came to convince the world of truth and those who accept and live by that truth are the good grain. Then there is Satan who is trying to seduce the world with his lies and those who accept and live by those lies are the weeds (tares). Keep in mind that the “tares” look a lot like wheat until the heads are formed (by their fruit you shall know them). When will Jesus deal with “the sons of the evil one?” And the answer given is at “the end of the age,” for when Jesus returns His rule will be manifest over all the world and Satan will no longer rule for his kingdom will be destroyed! So why is there so much evil going on in the world? Because there are two kingdoms coexisting, two forces competing for the hearts of men.

Reflections

Today is a day to review and ponder our readings this week. One question that you may ask yourself as you ponder – “what are some themes Jesus continues to focus on in our readings?”

A reflection to consider

“Sometimes we think we have nothing of value to offer the Lord. Our natural talents are meager at best. Our attempts to come alongside others in pain seem awkward. We’re aware of how very little we have to give. But then aren’t we looking at the baseball as it remains in our human hands? The lesson of Scripture is that the size of the gift isn’t what matters, it’s in whose hands the gift is placed. When we look around and see how used of God others seem to be, we’re reminded of our own inadequacy. But that’s not how God views the situation at all. God sees our seemingly small gifts through the magnifying lens of his power—power that enlarges every gift to perfectly fit the present need. Someday, in eternity perhaps, we’ll meet the little boy who made his insignificant lunch available to the Master. I’m sure he’ll have much to say about God’s willingness to use our small offerings to his service.”
(52 Weeks with Jesus)

Matthew 12

Jesus closes this reading by talking about when spirits being cast out and then return. How Jesus closes this section (“That is how it will be with this wicked generation”) tells us this illustration has more to do with the state of Israel, than demon possession. In fact from verse 18 on Jesus has been dealing with “this generation’s” inability to recognize that the kingdom of heaven was breaking into their world. They were so blind that they called the work of God, the work of Satan! Yet, this illustration has an application in our own walk. If one’s life has been occupied by evil and they are then cleansed of that evil, unless they fill their life with what is good – evil will return. The spiritual world like the physical world abhors a vacuum! When we are baptized and we begin our walk with our Lord cleansed, a new creation, if we do not then fill our lives with the light the darkness will again over take our lives!

Matthew 11

Do you find John’s question odd? Didn’t John witness what took place at Jesus’ baptism? Didn’t the Spirit reveal to John that Jesus was the one (John 1:32-34)? What had happened that caused John to doubt? Well life happened! John was now in prison and things were not looking good for him. Sometimes when we face hard times it can cause the best of us to second guess our faith. The text also seems to allude to the fact that maybe Jesus was not what John had expected, maybe John expected the Messiah to be more of a champion for Israel. Jesus seems to refer to expectations unfulfilled in verses 16-19. So what does one do when they hit a point like John? “Back the truck up!” We need to remind ourselves of the truths that brought us to faith. That is what Jesus did with John – He had John’s disciples report all the signs Jesus was displaying that declared He truly was “The Son of God!” So when in doubt – “Back the truck up!”

Matthew 10

Thus far in the story the disciples have been only observers as Jesus’ teachings and healing. However, if they are to be “fishers of men” they too must embark on a ministry of announcing the kingdom. These men were chosen for a mission and now it was time to get their feet wet, so Jesus gave them power to heal and gave them a message to preach. Their involvement in a ministry patterned after Jesus’ meant they had to learn to trust God for even the basics of life. Jesus made it clear that when one embarks on this journey as Jesus’ disciple it has a cost! For we must be willing to place our Lord before ALL, even our parents, spouse, and children. The cost is high but both the journey and the reward is worth it!!

Matthew 9

A dead girl is raised to life, two blind men receive their sight, and a mute can now speak and what is the reaction of the Jewish leaders? How can they make the charge they did with the evidence staring them in the face? Spiritual blindness very often has nothing to do with evidence and everything to do with a person’s heart! The evidence was there, they couldn’t see it because their hearts were closed! Often the question comes up in a bible study – how can they not see this or that truth and the answer is their heart is closed! For the reality is, one can not see or be taught until their heart is open, even Jesus could not teach a closed heart. What is very important is that we do not allow our hearts to become closed – for we must always be open seekers of truth!

Matthew 8

This text drives home the point that FAITH is the center of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus! The faith of the Centurion is held up as the model we are to emulate in our walk and Jesus drives home the point that it was the lack of faith that was going to keep many in Israel out of the kingdom. And when the disciples faced a life threatening storm and were afraid, Jesus equated their fear to a lack of faith! Today many pause to remember the resurrection, an event that should truly transform our FAITH! “He is risen” “He is risen indeed!”
Happy Easter!

Reflections

Today is a day to reflect on our readings this week. This week we read the sermon on the mount which is an excellent text to ponder and reflect upon!

A reflection to consider

“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (Mark 4:36-41). The disciples—some of whom were fishermen—were caught up short when an obviously unexpected storm arose. The very men who fished these waters were afraid of perishing. If only they’d realized who was sleeping soundly through the storm in the stern of their boat! They would have understood then how foolish it was to worry. But, really, are we any wiser? When an unexpected storm brings dark clouds, sharp winds, and pouring rain into our lives, do we not fear just as the disciples did? This very unexpected storm had a great purpose, though. It turned out to be an opportunity to learn the lesson that, yes, Jesus has power over storms. If you’re in a storm now—particularly an unexpected storm—remember who’s in the boat with you. He will calm the tempest after it has served its purpose. Jesus will soon say, “Peace! Be still!” to the turbulent winds in your life, and they will cease. In the meantime, consider the question Jesus asked of the disciples: “Have you still no faith?” Let your answer be, “Lord, I do believe. Help my unbelief during the raging storm.”
(52 Weeks with Jesus)

Matthew 7

What struck me in today’s reading was the series of choices that our Lord set before us. He started by asking us to choose between the wide road or the narrow road. Then He asked us to choose between those who are false teachers and those who are teaching the truth. Jesus continues to place choices before us by asking us to choose between being religious or being a true disciple who does God’s will. The point that Jesus drives home with these series of choices is – true life and heaven requires commitment, focus, and discernment! Those who place little focus and commitment on their spiritual walk will end up on the wide road, easy prey for false teachers, and will fall into the trap of being religious. So, Jesus ends with one more choice that we need to consider, choosing between being foolish or being wise? The commitment and focus of our lives will display the choice we have made!

Matthew 6

This is a chapter that I think about often, not that it is hard to understand but because of what it is calling me to do! I find that worry is a powerful force in the lives of so many. It is sad, but there are many who are addicted to worrying. Many worry about all the “what ifs” in life, things that have not even happened and most likely won’t happen. Worry is often a person’s way of trying to gain some control over what they have no control over. Jesus calls for us not only to stop worrying about tomorrow, but not to worry about the basics of life, food, shelter, and clothes. Jesus’ answer to worrying is place God and His will first in our life and TRUST Him! That is where our faith becomes real and our transformation takes a giant leap! It is easy to ask God for help but it is a whole other thing to submit to Him, trust Him with everything, including our life, and let go of worry – but that is what He is calling me to do and that is what He is calling each of us to do! The question is not can I, but will I submit to God in this matter?

Matthew 5

our reading starts with what is known as the beatitudes. These principles follow a natural progression that is involved in our growth as Jesus’ disciples. It all starts with an emptying of ourselves by becoming “poor in spirit.” For pride is often the first and greatest barrier that we to breakdown in this journey! For before we we can be transformed we have to be broken. The text we are reading now is what known as the sermon on the mount. As we read this text we need to consider a question – Does Jesus really expect us to follow these teachings? If the answer is “yes” then as we explore this text we should be asking ourselves two questions: “What is Jesus calling me to do?” and “Am I willing to follow what He is teaching?”