Touch (Matthew 8-10)

I miss hugs, handshakes, and high fives. We are physical creatures and we were meant for physical touch. There is something reassuring about holding the hand of your spouse, hugging your friends, and even greeting folks you have never met before with a hand shake. It means even more to hold the hand of a friend in prayer as you face some of life’s scary moments like surgery, illness, or in a room waiting to hear news about a loved one.

Physical touch outside of family has been kept to the bare minimum this last year due to the virus. The fact that Jesus touches so many people in Matthew 8-10 jumped out at me as I read it today because touch has taken on a whole new meaning in our culture. I’ve read all of these verses before, but I saw this aspect of more clearly because of what we are going through (social distancing, lock-downs, changed plans, etc.). That’s the way it works with reading through God’s word. It never changes, but you do, and as you come back again and again you see new insights you have never seen before. Today I saw that Jesus definately takes a hands on approach.

It’s not like he wasn’t dealing with illness either. He touched a leper at the beginning of Matthew chapter eight! Even in those days folks knew not to touch people with Leperosy. Jesus wasn’t afraid because he brough healing with his touch.

Throughout centuries he has used touch to heal people. Where the gospel went, hospitals were established. One of the key ways the gospel still goes out today is through medical missions. Some of our Christian organizations are still serving on the frontlines of the epedemic offering sites for testing and now some are opening up places to recieve the vaccine.

Jesus touched people because he cared for people. Those who have placed their faith in Christ are called to care for one another. In the midst of a pandemic our care sometimes that means we are withhodling physical touch but withholding physical touch should never mean withholding care. I’m grateful many have found old and new ways to bless and encourage one another. I look forward to the day when touching won’t have such a stigma and we can shake hands, hug, and highfive again. Until then, I am grateful for a God who cares for us.

Father, thank you for the gift of touch. Jesus could touch because he was fully human. He could heal because he was fully God. Thank you for the way you have used your church to be the physical hands and feet of Christ ministering in my life this week. Thank you for how you use me to minister to others. I pray for healing from this virus and I pray your Gospel goes out with boldness. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

RESOURCES:

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Your Kingdom Come (Matthew 5-7)

Our country seems to be in a little bit of turmoil. I know many are facing anxiety over thier finances, health, civil unrest, politics, and more. These things are all loud and urgent. It can be easy to get distracted. There are so many things going on at the same time that it can be really difficult to focus even on the task at hand.

Jesus reminds us that we are to build our house on the rock (Mattew 7:24) so that when times like these come we will stand. We are to build our lives on the very word of God. You’re doing that today and every day that you go to God’s word and seek to understand and apply it to your life. A gospel believing, bible teaching church and pastor can be helpful with all of that.

We’re reminded in this passage that we often fret and worry about all sorts of things like food and clothing, but Jesus promises us that all that stuff will be added to us when we seek first the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33). Somehow it seems that we are all prone to get it backwards. We think we’ll go worry about the kingdom of God once we’ve got all the other stuff figured out. Jesus reminds us that it doesn’t work that way. It’s only when we put His kingdom first that everything falls into place.

Our utmost allegiance, indeed our prayer is to be centered on the coming of the Kingdom of God (Matthew 6:10). I look forward to that day! I am excited with anticipation about what it will be like when the Lord returns for all of his people. I also aknowledge on days like today that I’m easily distracted and so I pray the Lord’s prayer with intention to remind me of where my true allegiances are.

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever and ever, amen.

RESOURCES:

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Jesus didn’t come to die, but to beat death (Matthew 1-4)

Have you ever read the geneology in Matthew chapter one? It’s still kind of a new thing for Americans to rediscover their geneology. (A cousin did some geneological work for us and discovered that some of our ancestors were on the Mayflower!) However, there are places around the world where your geneology is your resume. If you don’t have the right ancestory, you don’t get the job!

It is neat to hear the interesting details about your ancestors but why do we get Jesus’ ancstery here? One reason is to display that he was descended from King David. The Messiah would have a claim to the Davidic throne. The other reason is to display the humanity of Jesus.

The bible teaches that Jesus was perfectly God and perfectly man. In theological terms we call this they hypostatic union (Jesus is 100% man and 100% God). So when it comes to his geneology, it’s interesting to learn what “kind of people” were in Jesus’ family tree.

Like most family tree’s there are the stand outs and there are the generations that we’d all rather pretty much try and forget. There are some really great folks listed in Matthew chapter one, but what jumps out to most people are the women on the list. (Generally women weren’t included in geneologies.)

Woman or man, every one of the ancestors in the geneology of Jesus were sinful human beings. Abarahm and Isaac both lied about their relationships to thier wives and put the covenant promise of God at risk. Jacob decieved his father and stole Esau’s blessing. Judah wanted to finagle his way out of a legal and moral obligation to Tamar. Tamar disguised herself and slept with her father-in-law. Rahab was a prostitute before she married Salmon. David commited adultery with another man’s wife and then had him killed. Solomon worshiped false gods and married numerous foreign wives. We really don’t have time to list it all sinful things Jesus’ ancestors did to get the picture (and those are only the sins we know about).

Jesus stepped into this long line of sinners to take away their sin. I’m grateful for that, because I come from a long line of sinners as well. Everyone in that long line of sinners that came before Jesus… died. And I know that short of His return, I’ll die one day too. Death and sin go together and with them comes sorrow. The good news is that Jesus came to conquire sin. He didn’t come to die, but to beat death. He was born into humanity so that we might be born again.

Father, thank you for the perftect atonement that can be found in Jesus who became a man so that he might liberate fallen humanity. Thank you for sending him to the cross for my sin and raising him from the dead that I might have eternal life. Sometimes I still struggle to embrace the depth to which you love us. Help me to grasp how to love others like you have loved me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

RESOURCES:

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No Matter What My Plans Are For Others, You Follow Me (John 19 – 21)

Jesus said to him, “If I will that he remain till I come, what [is that] to you? You follow Me.”

John 21:22

I try and get my ten thousand steps in each day and sometimes when I need a few extra steps I’ll walk the hallway in our house. When my youngest kid sees me doing that, she challenges me to a race. She loves going back in forth in the hallway to see who gets to the door first. She’ll often say, “I win you lost.” or I’ll taunt her and say, “I win, you lose.” What can I say, we’re both competative. Everyonce in a while we end up changing the competition, I’ll stop walking and we start playing some other silly game (That conincidentally I’m really good at). Before I know it, I’m way down in my step count again. Somewhere along the way my focus changed from getting in steps to teaching my child sportsmanship aka how to be a good loser because Dad’s the best.

Peter was walking with the risen Jesus. He has just been restored to ministry. Jesus is telling him the plan for his life. He’s letting him know that he will face persecution, but that Jesus will be with him all the way. While they are walking Peter gets distracted and notices the other disciple lagging behind them and wants to know what the Lord’s plan is for the other disciple. Jesus response is one that should help us all to stay in our lane. He simply tells Peter it doesn’t matter, but that Peter is to follow him.

I know in ministy sometimes it can be really easy for me to get distracted by seeing what other ministries and preachers are doing. It’s tempting to compare church size, budgets, baptisms, etc. and either pat myself on the back because someone is doing “worse” or to feel like I’m striking out at T-ball because someone is doing better. Jesus hasn’t called up to play the comparison or competition game, He has called us to follow Him.

Father, I confess that I too can be walking in lock-step with you and then be quickly distracted and moved by what others are or aren’t doing. It is easy to lose focus. Thank you for the solid reminder today that my job is not to compare or compete with others, but to simply follow you. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

RESOURCES:

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Peace in the Midst of Tribulation (John 16 – 18)

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33, ESV

Some of the quietest moments of my life, where I have heard the voice of God the loudest, weren’t while I was catching coffee at sunrise, but were when I was facing the fierce opposition or dealing with the issues of health (like open heart surgery at age 39). In those moments I had a peace that transcended my external experiences. I saw all the turmoil going on, knew the questions I had, but simply had a peace and confidence the Lord was with me. I remember facing the most challenging day of my life when I found out I had a stroke with complete poise and calm knowing that God in his sovereignty had allowed this to happen.

Sometimes we look for peace in the wrong places. We imagine that there will peace if we don’t face tribulation or conflict. We can think that if we “don’t rock the boat” everything will be ok. But Jesus had a different kind of peace, a deaper peace to give to his disciples. He fortold all that he would face so that they would know that even in the mist of the earth shattering, world rocking moments ahead, that they could have perfect peace in Him.

The disciples needed to know that He was laying down His life, it wasn’t being taken. They needed to know that this was God’s plan all along and that God always does what He purposes. They needed to know that when they abanoned Him, He wasn’t alone and when they would later face persecution, He wouldn’t abandon them. They needed to know that He knew they would abandon Him, and He still loved them.

Father, thank you for your perfect peace that transcends the turmoil that we often find ourselves tangled up in. Thank you, “that even in the presence of our enemies you prepare a table before us.” Peace doesn’t come to us in the ways we would always want or expect, but peace come through you. Thank you for being my peace today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

RESOURCES

Last Year’s Post

A Few Tips on Consistently Reading the Bible

Join us in reading though the New Testament in 90 Days! You can find the plan and previous posts here.

How Do We Love Like That? (John 13 – 15)

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. – John 13:34

When I tuck my kids in bed we have a little routine that we often go through where we will say the Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments together. Several years ago, we started reciting the eleventh commandment as well. At first my kids were surprised that there was an eleventh commandment. It’s not found in Exodus 20, or the Old Testament for that matter. It’s found in today’s reading in John 13:34 where Jesus says, “A new commandment I give you.” What was that commandment? It was to, “love one another; as I have loved you.

From time to time my kids when they were younger get a little silly at bedtime and have tried to change this commandment. One of them when she was too young to really know what she was doing would say, “to love like I love my milk.” I would always gently correct her and say, “we are to love one another as Jesus loved us… and oh how He loves us, to take our sins on Himself, to leave heaven for earth, and to die for our sins. He loves us more than we can think or imagine!”

I think if He had left the command at, “love one another,” we’d have an easier time with it all. We’d just do our best and try to love one another like we love our “milk” or whatever. But the truth is that we would quit loving milk or whatever if it became too difficult. We could quit, give up, and start loving something else. Jesus didn’t tell us to love like that. He told us to love one another like He loved us in the context of going to the cross for our sins!

How do you love someone who has sinned against you? How do you forgive them for them for the hurt and the wrong they have caused? You can’t do it in your own strength and power. You have to be continually trusting in the Lord to provide. I really appreciate that where Jesus repeats the command in John 15:12 it comes in the context of abiding (remaining) in Him. It reminds us that there is no way to really love our brother on our own. We weren’t meant to live the Christian life in isolation. We were meant to live as branches connected to the one true vine, all of us drawing our strength from our Lord.

I confess that there are times I have attempted to do ministry on my own and in my own strength, but it just can’t be done that way. I’m greatful for the command to abide in Christ.

Today is especially difficult for me as I’ll be conducting a second funeral for a friend in 2021. I was especially helped by John 14 today as well as reminded to draw all of my strength from the Lord.

Father, Thank you for your commandments. They are not hard or burdensome but actually very freeing. How much anxiety I bring on myself when I try and figure things out and do things my own way. It’s when I lean into you, trust you, abide in you, that I find myself energized and empowered by the Spirit. I ask for your blessing today to abide in you and strength for a difficult day. I rejoice that Jesus has gone before us to prepare a place for us. In Jesus Name, Amen.

RESOURCES:

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Mary at the Feet of Jesus (John 10 – 12)

A few years ago I made a 3-4 hour journey to purchase a puppy for our family. Somewhere along the trip back we bonded. I became his master and he became my dog.

In the evening my wife will let him out to go do what dogs do in the yard one last time before bed. Then She will call him to come in, but often he ignores her. She can get kind of frustrated waiting for him to respond and so I’ll go to the back and call him in. As soon as he hears my voice he comes running back in. He knows my voice. He knows who he belongs to and he responds when I call.

Jesus wasn’t worried about the religious leaders who were posing as gateways to the kingdom of heaven. He knew they were frauds and He knew those who belonged to Him would respond when He called. Those who didn’t, wouldn’t. At the end of the day there were only two real responses to Jesus and that was to either follow Him to eternal life or don’t.

We see this dynamic continue to play out through the gospel with religious leaders (the very people you would expect to receive Him) rejecting Him and common, ordinary folks trusting Him. Folks like Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. Every time we see her, she is at the feet of Jesus. Grieving her brother and anointing Jesus’ feet here in John but also learning at his feet in the gospel of Luke. Mary knew Jesus’ voice and reponded when he called. Do you?

Father, thank you that when you call your sheep they hear you and respond. Thank you for the amazing work you did in my heart to respond to you when you called. I pray that I would always have ears to hear what you would say and that I always respond with trust and obedience. Thank you for the power of the resurrection demonstrated in Lazarus, perfected in Christ. In Jesus Christ Name Amen

Resources:

Last Year’s Post

A Few Tips on Consistently Reading the Bible

Join us in reading though the New Testament in 90 Days! You can find the plan and previous posts here.

Opening the Eyes of the Blind: John 7 -9

Imagine sitting in a college classroom at the beginning of the semester and an individual gets up to introduce the curriculum. They seem like they know what they are doing. Their voice carries authority like they know what they are talking about. Then another man stands up and starts correcting the “teacher.” The second mand reveals that he is the real teacher and he is also the author of the text book you will be using.

The imposter, who was pretending to be the teacher, doesn’t want the real teacher/author to speak. He takes his case to the court of public opinion and wages a political war saying that the real teacher couldn’t possibly know what he was talking about because of where he was born. The imposter casts doubt on the circumstances of the real teacher’s birth, and he even charges him with being delusional.

As you observe it becomes clear, only the true author/ teacher has the truth and knows what he is talking about. The more the imposter accuses the real teacher of being delusional, the more his own delusion is revealed. If the imposter wants to learn the subject at hand, they must not fight the teacher but humble themselves to receive what the real teacher offers.

The Jewish leaders didn’t want to believe Jesus because of the region where he lived. He was from Galilee and did lots of ministry in that region. Galilee had recently been brought back under Jewish influence and several Israelite settlers moved back to this region. It was akin to the old Wild West in the United States.

The leaders also rejected Jesus for healing on the sabbath. They had misunderstood God’s law in a serious way. They presumed an authority over God’s word, but were really ignorant of what it taught. What God had intended to free people, they were using to ensnare them.

Through these chapters today it is apparent that there are two reactions to Jesus. Some come to Him and believe while others have rejected Him. Those who reject Jesus claim to have the answers, but ultimately reveal themselves to be spiritually blind. This forces us to consider what our reaction to Jesus is. Have you trusted in Him for eternal life or are you rejecting Him?

Father, Thank you that Jesus has come into the world. Thank you that He has come to show us the truth. We pray today that we would be those who recieve you with humbility. Where we are blind, we ask that you would open our eyes to see. Guard us from becoming arrogant and delusional. Thank you for your amazing grace. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Resources:

Last Year’s Post

John 7

John 8:24

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Food and Drink: John 4 – 6

We were traveling on Christmas Day a few years ago. We hadn’t really planned out the trip that well, we just packed our bags and went. Around dinner time the kids started to get hungry and we realized we hadn’t packed any snacks. A small riot was forming in the back of the car and it was on me to find a place to eat. Every exit we stopped at the stores and restaurants were all closed. Finally we found a gas station that had a few chicken fingers left and we paid a small fortune for hardened, rubberized chicken that had been under the heat lamps all day. It was so bad, that as hungry as we were, we couldn’t even really eat them.

Jesus talks a lot about food and drink in the chapters we read today. I couldn’t help but think of Isaiah 55. Jesus uses the metaphors of food and water to illustrate our need for Him. We are hungry and we search in vain for ways to fill the hunger in our life. Often what we end up with, just simply isn’t enough.

Jesus tells the woman at the well to get her husband and then reveals that she has had 5 husbands and the man she was with now wasn’t her husband. She was trying to quench her spiritual thirst with broken relationships. He asked the man at the pool if he wanted to be well, the man had determined the bill for his healing was too high, there is no way he could get in the pool on time. Jesus accuses the crowd of following him for the wrong reasons, just to get a free lunch, he presses them to follow him for what he really came to do to meet their deepest needs.

We can go a few days without food but we can’t go a lifetime. The people that Jesus ministers to in this passage were hungry, but in order to be filled, they had to admit they were hungry and that they didn’t have what they needed to pay the bill but they could receive what Jesus offered freely.

You know, it’s not all that different today. Jesus is seeking people who are hungry. They’ve looked to other places to fill the void in their soul but nothing is open and those who claim they have food are only offering expensive and inedible knockoffs. The only one who has what we really need is Jesus and we can come to Him with faith and repentance. He will freely provide everything we need. Have you placed your faith in Him?

Prayer: Father, thank you that you have provided for us everything we need with Jesus. I pray that we would be humble to recieve you and satisfied in what you have done for us through the ressurection. I pray that you empower and embolden us as your people to share the messge of hope and joy that Jesus has come into the world and He is Bread from Heaven and he has Living Water! In Jesus Christ Name, Amen.

They Did Not Know Him: John 1 – 3

I saw an old friend the other day. I didn’t recognize them because they had a mask on. Yet all the things they were saying were vaguely familiar. Finally when the mask came down and they were revealed I realized who I had been talking too. I was so embarrassed. I should have recognized my friend.

What if God we’re speaking to you and you didn’t know it? That’s exactly what John says happened when Jesus dwelt among us. The very people who should have recognized him, didn’t. Further John reminds us that it wasn’t because he was wearing a mask, but because sin had blinded our hearts. The good news is that Jesus had come to deal with our sin and give us new hearts.

A Few General Observations: God himself stepped back on to the planet He created and His people did not know Him. As I read this morning and I was reminded of the creation account. What we see in Genesis before the fall is that people walked with God. They knew God. They enjoyed His presence. Now when God walks among his people agian, they don’t recognize Him (John 1:10).

What is particularly disheartening is that his “own” people didn’t receive Him. By “own” people we can assume we are talking about the nation of Israel. These were God’s chosen people. He caused them to come into being through the miraculous birth of Isaac. Delivered them through Moses. Then He continued to choose and bless them all through the Old Testament. These people, even in their existence, were a testimony to the work of the One True Living God. So how did they miss Him?

In Chapter three we begin to see the whole picture. Jesus comes as light revealing God to all who will see, but many don’t want to see because they love the darkness (3:19). Sin has blinded us to Seeing Jesus for who He is, but Jesus has come to deal with our sin.

Prayer: Father, I am so thankful that you have revealed yourself to your creation that we might know you. Thank you for saving me from my sin and causing me to be born again. Thank you for the power of the Holy Spirit in my life. I pray that your light would shine in my life so that it might be evident to all that you are the one who has changed me from death to life. I’m Jesus name, Amen

Resources For further reflection

The Lightlings (Children’s Book) by RC Sproul (affiliate link)

Pass Me Not O Gentle Savior (Hymn) by Fanny Crosby