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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Clean Hands or Clean Heart? (Matthew 13-15)

it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.

Matthew 15:11

Today, everyone is talking about washing hands. We all know the drill; wear a mask, stay six feet apart, wash your hands, avoid large crowds, etc… We are all certainly more aware and concience of germs than we used to be. Most of us (I would like to think), practiced generally good hygene before all this but with Covid-19 there is a new hyper awareness. So culturally when Jesus doesn’t seem to think its a big deal if his disciples wash their hands or not, it really jumps off the page.

The modern reader might be worried about if Jesus knew or cared about germs. While there might be plenty of helpful hygene information in scripture (there is more than you might suspect), the primary concern of those complaining was a tradition handed down like it was a law. The Jewish folks had a ritual practice of washing hands before they ate. It symbolized being clean before God and only taking in what is right, pure and wholesome. It wasn’t really a law but it was a symbol. Therefore in the eyes of those watching, when the disciples didn’t conform to the rutual practice, they appeared to be hypocrites.

Jesus used this opportunity to expose the hearts of those who were quick to condemn his disciples. God wasn’t nearly as concerned about if someone had ritually clean hands as much as we was about if they had a spiritually clean heart. He charged the Pharisees and scribes of holding on to the forms (appearance) of God’s law, but completely ignoring the substance (the actual Law of God). He quoted Isaiah in saying that they honored God with their lips but, there hearts were far from God.

We might give the Pharisees and scribes a hard time because they should know better, but some times we can be guilty of the same thing. There are many who try to hold on to some sort of appearance of godliness rather than actually seeking to honor and obey God from the heart. We shold be careful of putting on a “show” and more intent on allowing God to conform us into the image of Chirst.

Father, I pray that I would never obscure the substance of your word with a mere form or practice. I thank you that Jesus is the only one who can make us truly righteous from the inside out. I pray that we would all be found righteous in him. I pray that we would all be surenedered and sensative to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives that He might conform us more and more into the image of Christ. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Judgement Day is Coming (Matthew 11-12)

I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak

MATTHEW 12:36

I remember the first semester of my freshman year of high school. Most of the school work came easily to me and just like 8th grade, I assumed I’d make really good grades with little effort. I had signed up for Spanish class that summer to go a head and get it out of the way. I made the mistake of believing I’d pick up on things naturally like I did in the other classes and so I spent alot of time goofing off with my friends in the class. When the first test rolled around I knew I was in trouble. My brain didn’t learn foreign languages the same way I was able to learn in other classes. I knew then I had to buckle down and study harder. I also thought that there was plenty of time to catch up and so I went on cutting up in class. I really didn’t learn anything that semester other than a few curse words in Spanish that I had looked up in the Spanish-English dictionary.

It really shouldn’t have surprised me when my teacher told me I had failed the class. Yet, somehow it did. I had the delusion that it would all somehow get better. I told myself that I’d have time to buckle down and learn. I thought I could fix it. Before I knew it, report cards were out and I started my high school transcript with a big fat F.

The current that runs just beneath the surface through these two chapters is that there is a day of judgement coming. There will be a day of reckoning. It will be here quicker than anyone can imagine. Jesus declares that previous generations known for their wickedness, will judge those of his day. They would have repented of their sins if they had the witness of Christ Himself. Yet these cities hardened their hearts against God. You can’t read these chapters without seeing the urgency that judgement day is coming and will be here before you know it.

I’ve often wondered what Jesus will say about my generation on the day of judgement. We seem to have no lack of bible study tools and resources. We have so much available to us. Yet we often try and reduce God’s Word to trivial little cliche’s and rob it of it’s power.

I was convicted by Matthew 12:36 today. We live in a world of careless words. It can be too easy to get caught up in the fray and think it’s no big deal. Don’t be decieved, judement day is coming and what you say now will judge you then. It’s not too late to repent and turn to Christ for Salvation.

Father, I am sobered by your words in Matthew 11-12 today. There were many who didn’t recieve your witness, many who will stand on the day of judgement and be condemned by their idle word. Guard our hearts from taking anything trivial that is urgent. Help us to be bold in proclaiming the gospel to our friends, neighbors, and around the world. 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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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.

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