He Knew (Matthew 25-27)

There is a lot that takes place in these chapters leading up the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. What strikes me the most is that Jesus knows everything that is going to happen. He knows the small things like where to have the Passover meal. He knows the bigger details like who will betray him. He knows and cares about what impact everything will have on the disciples. He tells them they will flee. He encourages them to pray. He has already told Peter that he will will deny Him before the rooster crows. Most importantly He knows He is going to the cross. He is going to lay His life down.

On the one hand we are to see the intentionality in which Jesus went to the cross to save us from our sins. This was clearly the purpose.He willingly submitted Himself to the cruelty of death by crucifixion for the sake of offering new life by His resurrection.

I think what is also intreaguing and comforting to me out of all this is that He wasn’t so focused on the crucifixion that he lost sight of his disciples for one moment. Just as he knew and followed the divine plan set before the foundation of the world, He also intimately knew each one of his disciples and demonstrated great care for them through the whole process.

If Jesus cared for His followers then, He certainly cares for His followers now. No matter what we may face in this life, we know that He knows us better than ourselves and what we need more than anything. I am grateful Jesus knows me better than I know myself.

Father, Thank you for the cross. Thank you for your love poured out. Thank you for your purpose in redeeming a people to yourself. Help me to trust you with all my burdens and cares, knowing you care for me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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When Jesus asks you a question. (Matthew 22-24)

I am working through the Cornoa virus. It’s no fun. Lots of fever, chills, and all the other stuff. If the last serveral days and next several days seem off. I’m probably writing with a fever. One of the things I found most difficult about maintaining a daily bible reading time while I’m sick is that reading has become more wearysome. Several years ago I downloaded an app that reads the bible to you. Today instead of reading the text myself I let the app do it and it was easier to concentrate.

The story is told of a young man who showed up at the Louvre museum one day. He came to the Mona Lisa, perhaps the most famous painting in the world and a masterpiece. He begins to make fun of the painting. He points out what he thinks are flaws and inconsistencies. A large crowd gathers as he mocks the painting and it’s artist, Leonardo Da Vinci. Just then the curator to the museum walks up to hear the comotion. Finally when he can take it no longer he says, “Young man, the Mona Lisa is not on trial here today. It is recognized around the world as a master piece. But you are on trial today, because while you made your accusations and assumptions your ignorance became evident to everyone.”

Jesus and the religious leaders get into it in these chapters. The religious leaders question him, hoping to trip him up and make him stumble in what he says. However, his responses reveal how little the religious leaders really knew. Somewhere along the way the religious leaders fell in love with the idea of appearances, but they missed out on the real thing. Jesus compared them to white-washed tombs. Pretty on the outside, but full of death and decay. The sad things is all these leaders had to do was recieve Jesus. But they loved their power and postition so much that they knew who he was and they rejected him.

Father, guard me from thinking too much of myself or doing things for mere appearances. Certainly we should live godly lives, but I pray that godliness is found in a transformed heart, not a thin vinere meant to impress others. In Jesus Name, Amen.

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It’s not what you do, it’s what has been done for you (Matthew 19-21)

My son and I have been playing an adventure video game. The main character has a backpack that you can load up with stuff. I’m impressed with how much it actually “holds” but it does have a limit. I went to pick up a new item the other day and the game said I couldn’t add anything else until I got rid of something in my back pack. The item I was trying to pick up was way more valuable than the stuff I already had and so I gladly made the trade.

As Jesus deals with the rich young ruler, it becomes apparent that this guy seems to have it all… and that was the problem, he had too much. Too much confidence in his own ability to “do” something to merit eternal life. This guy didn’t need to “do” anything, he just had to recieve what Jesus would do for him. The only way that trade would really take place is if he let go of the stuff he was holding on to. (not because Jesus wanted his money, he said to give it all to the poor!) The only way we can approach Jesus and it do us any good is to come humbly and empty so that he might fill us.

Father, thank you for your amazing gospel of grace. Thank you that it’s not what I can do to earn eternal life that get’s me into the kingdom of heaven, but what you have already done. Help me to be free from distraction and trust in you completely in every way. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Would You Go After One Lost Sheep? (Matthew 16-18)

We all have a tendency to be delusional about some things. Some of us like to think that calories through the holidays or birthdays don’t count, or that we’ll make up our missed bible reading, step count, etc…. later. My brother did a good thing for me the other day. I’m accountable to him for how many steps I walk each day. He texted me to let me know that I was down in my step count. I shared some sort of excuse (delusion) on why I was the exception to the rule that day and he lovingly but firmly said that I needed to figure out how I could avoid the scenario leading to less steps that day. It was the kind of confrontation that I needed. The next day I was right back on track.

I forgot how close together the passagas about a lost sheep (Matthew 18:12-14) and church discipline (Mattew 18:15-20) are to each other. I know certainly it seems like the page is being turned to a different subject. I think though that these passages are side by side for a reason. If we really love our brothers and sisters in Christ, when they sin against us we will lovingly confront them with the goal of reconciliation. (And when we sin against them, we should expect them to come to us as well).

That is how you pursue lost sheep. If you really leave the ninety-nine to go after the one, you aren’t just leaving the pen door open hoping the lost sheep will wander home one day. You are be out in the elements to find the sheep and bring them back. You confront them, you plead with them. You seek reconciliation.

Father, thank you that when I was lost that you sought me. Thank you for lovingly confronting me about my sin, so that I might be reconciled to you. Help me to love like you today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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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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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.

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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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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

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