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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Day 79: 1 Peter 4-5 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from 1 Peter 4-5 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

We are certainly living in a day and age where there is plenty of worry. I am grateful for the word we find here near the end of 1 Peter that reminds us to cast all our cares on the LORD (5:7). Sometimes we hold on to our burdens, worries, and anxieties and that is not good for us. Like bread rising in the oven our anxiety multiplies and compounds upon itself and before we know it we are overcome. We need a place to go. What grace that we can take our burdens to the Lord.

We can take our burdens to the Lord because he cares for us. I am amazed that the sovereign LORD, creator God would condescend to care for us. I am well aware of the abundant love and mercy that is available from his pouring our. Caring for us means that he is actively at work in our lives providing the things we need. We can cast our anxieties on the LORD, because he is able to take our anxieties and fears. He meets us at the point of our greatest need!

The only problem is that I like to hold on to my anxieties for too long. Like holding on to a matchstick while it is burning down. We know that we should let go sooner rather than later, but still we wait until we are burnt to let them go. We shouldn’t let our anxieties consume us before we give them to the Lord. We should give them right away. We should “cast” them on the LORD. That is we fling them and let go, letting them fly into the LORD’s hands. He’s got them, he can be trusted. We just have to humble ourselves and let go of our pride and trust him.

FATHER, We thank you for your grace. We are grateful that you care for us. We rejoice to know that we can cast all our cares on you. We pray that you would give us humility to do just that. I pray that we would trust you in every moment of life. When anxiety rises in our hearts, remind us of this promise that we might be quick to remember and quick to cast our cares on you. Thank you for the immeasurable grace of leading your people. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

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Day 73: Hebrews 3-5 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Hebrews 3-5 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

In chapter three of Hebrews, the author states that Jesus is better than Moses (3:3).  Moses lead his people from captivity to the promised land. Yet, the Nation of Israel chose not to believe God when they came to the edge of the promised land and so they wandered the dessert for 40 years until an entire generation died off (3:8-10, 17). Knowing that persecution is coming, the author of Hebrews challengers the readers to be careful, lest they too fall into unbelief in the face of fear (3:12,19).

Chapter four begins the discussion of the sabbath rest. The author looks forward with anticipation to the rest that is afforded those who have believed Christ (4:3). We are charged that there is a rest to come, that we may be prevented from entering into that rest, through our disobedience (4:11). We are challenged to let the word of God have full effect in examining our hearts and exposing our motives (4:11-13).

The text flows from the end of chapter four and into chapter five stating that Jesus is the great high priest (4:14).  He is one who understands our temptation and weaknesses (4:15) and stands ready to receive us in our confession and repentance. We have been granted incredible access to God through him, and  should have no problem approaching the throne of grace (4:16).

FATHER, we thank you for the gift of belief and trust in you. I pray that we would be those who persevere in our faith even when we face obstacles that might cause of fear or concern. I pray that we would never forget the incredible high priest we have in Jesus who stands at the right hand of the father making intercession for us even now. I thank you for your grace that is so overwhelming. Thank you for the grace to pastor your people. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

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Day 55: 2 Corinthians 7-9 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from 2 Corinthians 7-9 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

Sometimes sorrow is necessary. Paul had written a stern letter to the Corinthians that had caused them grief. His desire wasn’t to hurt their feelings, but to bring them to a place of repentance. We live in a culture that is increasingly afraid to hurt feelings, but sometimes hurting feelings is necessary for someone to experience genuine, godly sorrow.

There is a difference between worldly sorrow and godly sorrow (7:10). Worldly sorrow is being sorry you got caught. Maybe you would be glad to do it again if you could guarantee that no one would find out. Godly sorrow is being sorry that you ever did such a thing to begin with. Sorry that your heart would be so opposed to God that you would even have acted that way. Godly sorrow agrees with God about the seriousness of sin and truly grieves over your condition. Godly sorrow is what leads to repentance. You’ll never  find real repentance apart from Godly sorrow.

In Chapters eight and nine, Paul turns his attention to giving and generosity. He shares about the generosity of other churches in the midst of affliction (8:2-3) as well as the model of Christ (8:9). He reminds the Corinthians of two facts concerning our giving to the work of the LORD. He encourages them that, “God loves a cheerful giver” and that our gifts aren’t to be given under grudging circumstances (9:5,7).  We are to give with a joyful attitude. He also reminds the Corinthians that we reap what we sow (9:6,10). Not to say that we get more money because we give more money.

SIDE NOTE: We Reap what we sow is true with all the spiritual disciplines. We gain joyfulness when we give joyfully. We gain knowledge when we study God’s word. We have a deeper understanding of God the more we talk to God in prayer. We get the blessing by being with God’s people that we can’t get when we don’t gather with God’s people. There is always a fruit to doing the right thing spiritually.

FATHER, thank you for godly sorrow that brings about genuine repentance. I pray that we would never shy from speaking your truth in love so that others might experience eternal life in Christ. Thank you for the basic instructions in giving generously that we received from your word today. I pray that we would all be joyful and generous givers because of how Jesus gave to us. Show us how to be diligent in our sowing so that we might be bountiful in our reaping. Thank you for the grace to lead your people. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

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Day 48: 1 Corinthians 4-6 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from 1 Corinthians 4-6 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

It is the Lord who judges me (4:4).  If it’s true for Paul then it is true for us. Jesus will be our judge. No one knows our heart. People may hate us. They may love us and be our biggest fans. However, the truth is that their opinion doesn’t count in the courts of Heaven. The God of all the universe will judge us rightly and He knows us.  Others can and will practice their own judgement, but it doesn’t matter. Those words of discouragement. Those word’s of flattery. Those whispers of doubt… They don’t really count in the one court that really matters. It’s before Jesus that we individually stand or fall.

On the other hand. There is no fooling God. He knows our hearts. We’ve not always been what we should be, thought what we should think, or done what we should do. We should be aware that the God of the universe will be our judge and He cannot be deceived.

As we dig deeper into 1 Corinthians we see a church that is divided on many fronts. Some were puffed up with pride and judging others not reckoning that we each stand or fall before the Lord (4:1-5). They had allowed open and blatant sin to go on unaddressed in the congregation (5:2). There were some who were so far at odds with one another that they were suing their brothers. They couldn’t even find someone from within the church to mediate their troubles (6:5). The behavior is so bad (6:8) that Paul has to remind the church at Corinth that the unrighteous won’t be in Heaven (6:9). He urges them to remember that(if they are truly saved) they are no longer what they were but that they are completely new in Christ (6:11).

FATHER, We pray for the unity of your church today. We pray for grace to know that each one of us will stand or fall before you our Maker and our Master. We ask for grace to lead lives that bring you glory and that when we do stand before you, we will hear the words, “Well Done.” We ask for grace not to judge our brothers more harshly than we ought. We pray for discernment and boldness to address blatant sin when it would appear in our midst. We ask that we would be jealous for the holiness of YOUR church. Thank you for the amazing grace of the gospel and the transformation that has taken place in our lives. We pray for brothers and sisters who find themselves in conflict and we ask not for the wisdom of man, but the power of God to bring about reconciliation and peace. Thank you for the grace to lead your church. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

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Day 44: Romans 10-12 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Romans 10-12 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

In Romans 10 Paul continues to point the readers to faith in Christ. Romans 10:2 is the verse that the Lord used to bring me to conviction of sin in my own life. I realized that I had a religious zeal for the things of God, but I didn’t know the LORD.  Hearing that particular Word of God at that time produced saving faith in my own heart (10:17).

Chapter 11 deals with questions about Israel (God’s chosen people) and their presumed rejection of Jesus. It is not as though the purpose of God has failed, but that it has been enlarged (11:12).

Moving into chapter 12, the Apostle Paul begins to write with more application in mind.  Most of what Paul has written so far, has been laying the foundation of a good theology. You will notice this trend in almost all of Paul’s letters. Theology comes first then the practical application flows last. This is what we see in Romans: Man is sinful, Jesus died to bring you to God, God is sovereign, therefore work together, love your enemies and trust God to deal out justice.

[SIDE NOTE: The point of a good theology is action. Some people live with a false dichotomy between theology and action. They say they believe one thing and behave another way. Then others just reverse the false dichotomy and say its all about action and forget why they do what they do. The truth is to have a fully colored in worldview you need to not only respond to God in faith, but know that previously you were separated from God by your sins.]

A love that focuses on the action and not the principle isn’t any kind of real love anyway. Its a coerced at best and a thin veneer over vileness at worst. Only resting in real truth about God and his character will ever free you to truly love your enemies

FATHER, Thank you that Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. I pray your word would go out far and wide today and many would put their faith and trust in you. I pray for boldness on our part to share the gospel so that others might believe. I praise you that you are too infinate to fully comprehend and humble myself to realize that I need your counsel in every area of my life. I pray that you would equip me to do my part in the body of Christ and exercise the gifts that you have given me, for your glory and the edification of the church. I pray that my heart rests in you today and I love others in the same radical way that I am loved by you. Help me to grow even more in my knowledge of your love. Thank you for the calling to preach your word and prepare your people. I pray that I would walk faithfully with you all the days of my life. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN,

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

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Day 8: Matthew 1-4 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Matthew 1-4 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

The reading for today centers on the beginning of the earthy ministry of Jesus. The gospel writer Matthew is sure to include genetic line of Jesus, in which four particular women are uncharacteristically mentioned (Tamar in 1:3, Rahab and Ruth in 1:5, and Bathsheba, called Uriah’s wife here in 1:6).  Knowing their individual stories helps provide context of the birth of Jesus. (If you don’t know their stories, look them up, they are singled out here for a reason).

The earthly family tree of Jesus has prostitutes, adulterers, and foreigners. These women were grandmothers of the Messiah. Each one living through broken circumstances to bring another life into this world.  In their arms they held the promise of the messiah. They held on to the same promise that was given to the first broken women, Eve,  on her way out of the garden…

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15).

I think we can draw a point of application to our own lives here. We don’t always see the big picture or how our lives are intertwined with others. We know that God can work through sorrow and heartache to bring about something greater than we could imagine even if we don’t see it in our own moment. The small joys of children after tragedy were blessings in and of themselves, but they were also the sight of God’s hand of sovereignty moving to bring the Savior into the world.

The scripture picks up with the birth of Jesus and carries on through Jesus’ baptism, temptation, and the calling out of some of the first disciples. I was particularly struck by the temptation passage.  On the Surface, Jesus quotes scripture to overcome temptation.  This is how it is often taught. But let’s go a little deeper. The first verse Jesus quotes is  Deuteronomy 8:3, “Man shall not live by bread alone.”  It helps to know the whole verse that this quotation comes from:

[Deu 8:3 ESV] 3 And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.

The verse that Jesus quoted refers not just to the temptation that Satan was offering (food), but also hints at the provision of God. Just like God had lead Israel into the dessert, he had lead Jesus into the dessert (4:1) and just like God provided for Israel,  God would provide all Jesus needed. He didn’t need to create a shortcut. How often does it seem like things aren’t working out and how quickly do we look for a compromise. Rather than seeking God. Jesus succeeded where the Nation of Israel had failed to trust God.

We aren’t just entertained that Jesus whooped up on the Devil by quoting the bible, we are also drawn in and challenged to trust God alone for salvation. Do we trust that God will provide all the bread we will need (Remember in John 6, Jesus says that He is the bread of Heaven)?

Here is how I am praying through this scripture today:

LORD, thank you that you take broken lives and use them. I pray that you would mend all of our brokenness hurt and pain. Thank you that Jesus trusted you in the midst of temptation. I pray that you would keep me from temptation. I pray for those who are struggling today. I lift up the brokenhearted, those who have lost spouses, those who have started over in new communities, those who have found themselves as strangers in a new land, those who have been cheated on, those who have cheated, those who have been mistreated by family. I pray for those who are facing temptation and face addiction, I pray for those who lost sight of you and need to come home. I pray for those who are trusting in you and holding on to your promises. I pray for those who are facing trials and crisis of faith moments. I pray for those who I get to shepherd and those who minister to me. I thank you for the Holy Spirit and how He moves in my life. May our confidence be in you alone, no matter what the world may throw our way today. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

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