Archive for February, 2006

Counterfeit Truth – Matthew 28

We are to put on the belt of truth each morning as we armor up. As I read the chapter this morning, the account of the bribing of the guards caught my attention:

11 As the women were on their way into the city, some of the men who had been guarding the tomb went to the leading priests and told them what had happened. 12 A meeting of all the religious leaders was called, and they decided to bribe the soldiers. 13 They told the soldiers, “You must say, ‘Jesus’ disciples came during the night while we were sleeping, and they stole his body.’ 14 If the governor hears about it, we’ll stand up for you and everything will be all right.” 15 So the guards accepted the bribe and said what they were told to say. Their story spread widely among the Jews, and they still tell it today.

I don’t know why, but I never really noticed this story before. I never knew the guards were bribed to keep their mouths closed about Jesus’ body in the tomb. Remember last chapter, Pilate had the tomb sealed and posted guards so the body would not be taken by the disciples. Did they actually see what happened? How could they miss it? We see they went to the priests and told them what had happened, so they DID see it.

But, because of the greed of these soldiers, many who may have turned to Jesus did not. I wonder if these men knew what an impact their little lie has had…

Put on the belt of truth today.

(that concludes our look at the book of Matthew – tomorrow join us in the 1st chapter of the book of Mark)

peace,
e

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Be Ready – Matthew 25

You know, what’s so good about our God is how He can deliver to us exactly what we need exactly when we need it. Today’s chapter has proven to me again that He knows exactly what I’m going through and knows exactly how to handle the situation.

There are three powerful parables in this chapter:

1) The story of the ten bridesmaids
2) The story of the traveling man with 2 wise and 1 foolish servant
3) The sheep and the goats

All of these have to do with being prepared and being good stewards with our time, our treasure, and our talent. As I read this chapter over a few times, it really hit me how important it is to have things in order; to be ready at all times.

peace,
e

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Hypocrites, Snakes, Sons of Vipers, Oh My! – Matthew 23

Oh to have been a fly on the wall during this conversation. Jesus holds no punches as He put the religious leaders in their place. How many times does He call them hypocrites? How many times does He say, “how terrible it will be for you”?

It occurs to me that Jesus came into this world and “hung out” with the rejects – the sinners, tax collectors, harlots, drunks, and the like. He had compassion for them. He helped the sick and the lame, the leper and the blind. Those that had “issues” where the friends of Jesus.

But, when it came to these religious leaders – where was the compassion? Where was the concern for their salvation? Why was Jesus so harsh with His treatment of these people? Doesn’t God want everyone to be saved?

Obviously, these people had chosen to rebel and commit the unforgivable sin – an unrepentant heart. They had been turned over to their own wicked ways. They could no longer be reached. Jesus spent much of his energy putting them in their place (probably in front of others for their benefit) in no uncertain terms, because these are the people working against Jesus. The religious leaders were being used by the enemy to tear down what Jesus was trying to accomplish.

Why did God give us this chapter? It has shown me what’s most important. It’s not about us and our abilities. It’s not about how we look on the outside. It’s not about the law. Jesus is teaching us that what is important is to have a servant heart. We’re back in Kansas and it’s time to stop dreaming!

11 The greatest among you must be a servant. 12 But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Soften my heart, Lord, so that I can be used by You today.

peace,
e

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Yes, we have no bananas! – Matthew 21


Or, if you prefer, “No fruit.”

As most of you know, the fig tree story is one of my favorites. Matthew’s account is not my favorite, because it doesn’t contain my favorite five words: “it was out of season.” But, understanding this story has changed my prayer life – and my life in general.

I took a step back and looked at this chapter as a whole and found that Jesus is really giving the “no fruit” explanation to the high priests and religious leaders. Here’s how it hit me:

1) Jesus had to borrow a donkey which fulfills scripture, but certainly speaks volumes about how we provide for our King
2) Jesus cleans out the Temple, which indicates a lack of prayer fruit
3) Jesus rebukes the religious leaders for their comment, “Do you hear what these children are saying?” Jesus responds with “Haven’t you ever read the Scriptures? For they say, ‘You have taught children and infants to give you praise.’ – which indicates a lack of Bible reading fruit.
4) Of course, there’s the story of the fig tree – ’nuff said
5) Then, there’s the story of the man with two sons which points to a lack of obedience
6) Finally, the story of the landowner who planted the vinyard, which points to a complete lack of understanding and a lack of stewardship on the part of the religious leaders.

Wow, I love how Jesus handled these swindlers.

How can I apply this to my life? Well, in this short chapter, I’m hearing from the Lord that I need to work on my “fruit production” in the areas of prayer, Bible reading, obedience and stewardship. So cül.

Thank You, Lord for speaking to me today through Your Word.

peace,
e

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Childlike = Humility = Greatness – Matthew 18


Childlike.

What comes to mind when you read the following passage from Matthew 18?

3 Then he said, “I assure you, unless you turn from your sins and become as little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. 4 Therefore, anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.”

There have been many times in my life when I’ve become “childish” but I don’t think that’s what Jesus is talking about here. To become “child-like” requires you to closely observe children. It’s a bit easier for those of us who have children. But, we’ve all been children, so try to think back…

The thing that comes to mind is a total trust. Perhaps because they have to depend on others for their every need (food, shelter, security, etc.) or perhaps because they have yet to experience a reason NOT to trust, they approach life with hope and anticipation. I never remember wondering if my parents would provide my clothes or my food or my shelter – I just woke up in the morning and did what children do!

Let’s turn it around. How would we, as parents, feel if our 4 year old got up in the morning and was panicked because they didn’t know if they would have a warm coat to wear. “It’s going to be very cold tomorrow and what if I don’t have a coat?!” What if they started crying and sobbing, “What if I don’t have any food tonight to eat?!” How would you feel? Would you feel angry and wonder what basis they have for asking those questions? Would you feel sad to see them worried and in a panic?

How do you think God feels when He sees us all in a tizzy and generating elaborate “what-if” scenarios?

Humility = Greatness

Now, I think I’m starting to understand…

peace,
e

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“Listen to Him” – Matthew 17

This one of the funniest moments in the show, “The Rock & the Rabbi.” It really made it clear to me how things played out that day on the mountain when Moses & Elijah appeared with Jesus. Typically, the audience is in hysterics at this point because Gary Richardson, playing the part of Peter, does such a good job drawing in the audience and making you feel like you’re really there.

Peter: “Suddenly, there was Moses & Elijah. I didn’t know what to say. What do you say in the face of a miracle like this? I had nothing to say. ……so I said something”

Peter: “wow…er…Lord, it’s a good thing I’m here…I can…um…I could…build a shelter…for the three of you…um…to keep the weather off……like that……with the thing.”

Peter is my hero and I can’t wait to talk with him on the “back porch.” I can relate. You see, Peter, having seen the glory of God on Moses, Elijah & Jesus, is speechless (like me, not a common symptom for Peter). God was trying to make a point – to show His glory to these men like they’ve never seen it before. In his typical fashion, Peter speaks before he thinks and blurts out:

4 Peter blurted out, “Lord, this is wonderful! If you want me to, I’ll make three shrines, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

God quickly, even before Peter could finish, sent a bright cloud and said, “This is my beloved Son, and I am fully pleased with him. Listen to him.” (verse 5).

The three didn’t need shelters or shrines. God didn’t need Peter’s help or commentary. God just wanted Peter to listen to His Son.

That speaks to me. How about you? When you pray – do you (like I usually do) complain and whine and then run off? Or, do you listen as you pray? Have you ever tried to turn off your radio and ask God to speak to you and then…just listen? Isn’t there a time you could carve out of your day to just sit and listen? This used to be an important part of my day…funny how things change.

Thank You, Lord, for this reminder.

Peace,
e

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The Big Picture – Matthew 16

After all these years of on-again/off-again, God has been calling me to a serious relationship with Him. And, when it comes to a serious Christian walk, there are two verses in this chapter that provide such a wealth of knowledge for success. Not to say that they’re easy, quite the contrary. But there is so much treasure buried within these two verses:

25 If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for me, you will find true life.

Everything in our nature – in our culture, in our minds – cries out for us to live for “number one” and “climb the ladder of success” and “play to win” and “(insert favorite power cliche here).” Yet, Jesus is encouraging us to lay our lives down at His feet – to loose our lives to find true life. Jesus asks a huge question.

26 And how do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul in the process? Is anything worth more than your soul?

Drink that in for a while. In view of eternity, we’re here for such a short time (vapor in the wind, withering flower, etc.). I’m reminded today in Matthew 16 to remember “the big picture” and resist the temptation to accumulate “stuff” and be distracted by my internal feelings to “get ahead” or “get justice.”

My only focus should be: live for Jesus. For my family, for my employer, for my friends, this is what I’m tasked with. And the only way I can do that is to die to self every day, put on the full armor of God and keep accountable to my friends in the reading of His Word and in prayer.

I’m reminded of Matthew 6:33:

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

Thank You, Lord, for this good word today.

peace,
e

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“The Bait” – Matthew 15

I learned much from the book entitled “Bait of Satan” written by John Bevere. As I read today’s chapter, I’m reminded of those teachings by the woman mentioned in verses 22-28.

As she approaches Jesus and pleads for Him to heal her daughter, she is ignored by Jesus and the disciples are annoyed by her begging. Finally, the disciples ask Jesus to tell her to go away. And, in what seems to me as uncharacteristically harsh, Jesus has the following conversation with her:

24 Then he said to the woman, “I was sent only to help the people of Israel – God’s lost sheep – not the Gentiles.” 25 But she came and worshiped him and pleaded again, “Lord, help me!” 26 “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs,” he said.

Is He calling her a dog?…because she is a Gentile?

You can look at this two ways. 1) He is being harsh and really wants her to go away and leave them alone. Or, 2) He is trying to teach His disciples (and us) a lesson. I rather think it’s the latter case – as otherwise this one passage would go completely against the nature and consistency of Jesus.

Ultimately, the conversation continues:

27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “but even dogs are permitted to eat crumbs that fall beneath their master’s table.” 28 “Woman,” Jesus said to her, “your faith is great. Your request is granted.” And her daughter was instantly healed.

What faith she had. How does this tie in with the book “Bait of Satan” I mentioned earlier? Well, how would you have reacted if Jesus talked to you as He did this woman? I believe most of us would have either been so hurt or embarassed we would have choked, turned and walked off. Or, we would have been offended and stamped off to join the religious leaders’ movement to end Jesus’ “threat.”

The ultra-condensed version of the book is the premise that once we take the “bait,” satan has us in his trap. What is the bait? Becoming offended. The word for “offense” comes from the same root as the word used to describe the “bait-stick” in a trap. Once you get offended – the trap is sprung.

What would have happened to this woman and her daughter if she became offended by Jesus’ harsh words? Because of her persistance and her ability to let it roll off of her like water on a duck, her daughter was healed and she was blessed.

Something to think about today…

peace,
e

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FREE Lunch! – Matthew 14

There are two great stories in this chapter, the feeding of the thousands with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish (with 12 baskets of food left over?!), and Peter walking on the water (for a bit).

As I read this morning, I was drawn to the boy with the lunch. What boy, you ask? Neither Matthew, Mark or Luke mention the boy, but John does (see chapter 6). First, I’m amazed that of five thousand men, only a boy had the forethought to bring a lunch?! Come on, where are all the protein bars, the beef jerkey, the honey roasted nuts? Nobody brought food?

Then, think about that boy and what he must have been thinking. He apparently willingly gives up his lunch to these 12 disciples. Then Jesus somehow multiplies it to feed more than five thousand people! Can you imagine what happened when this kid gets home that day?

“Hi, Mom, I’m home!”

“Oh, hello dear. How was your day?”

“Well, I shared my lunch.”

“Isn’t that sweet? I’m so proud of you honey.”

“With five thousand people…”

He probably got grounded for lying.

I guess the point I took was that no matter how insignificant it seems, if we’re willing to give it – to share it with our brothers – with Jesus’ blessing it can become far more than we can even imagine. This could be our money, our time, our abilities, or even a kind word.

peace,

e

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Wheat & Tares – Matthew 13

I believe it was the summer of 1980 – and it was called “Starlight Crusade.” Typically, this annual outdoor event was a great excuse for me and “the guys” to scope out girls, embarass ourselves (and them), show off, joke around, and see if we could get the entire row laughing uncontrollably but not get caught. Well, at least that was my MO.

The first time I ever heard (or paid attention to?) the parable of the wheat & the tares. Sr. Pastor Bailey Smith was giving the message in the outdoor football stadium of Del City High School (Go Eagles!) to a crowd of at least a thousand people. I remember it like it was last year. I sat rivited to the edge of my seat. The story sank in deep. I remember hearing the message and feeling so convicted. I completely doubted my salvation because a) I looked like a Christian, b) I grew up around Christians, c) I didn’t always act like what I thought a Christian should act like, d) I had real “issues” that no one else knew about, e) so how could I be saved?

It is a powerful teaching – no doubt. How you respond to it has everything to do with eternal life.

So, that night – along with many deacons, Sunday School teachers, even pastors and pastor’s wives – I went down to get saved (again). Later, upon searching my past and finding myself in the Lord, I realized that I had already given my life to the Lord by that time, but had never been discipled or trained in the ways of a Christian. But, that’s another chapter…

The point is that this story in Matthew 13 had a huge impact on me, my friends, and my entire community. It brought up in many people the fact that “I’m not sure how to live like a Christian, so maybe I’m not a Christian at all.”

I guess the encouragement is – first, MAKE SURE YOU ARE!!! Then, know that you know that you are – and seek Him with all you’ve got – like your life depends upon it. The truth is, I had opportunities to grow deeper in my walk, but I was more interested in worldly pleasures and the pursuit of self.

The part about the tares looking like wheat, growing up among the wheat, but in the end – when it came to harvest time – the tares were bundled up and thrown into the fire really speaks to us. Some avoid thinking about this because “it’s not my place to judge” but I know there are people in my life who go to church, who go through all the motions, who even think they are saved, but have never called on the name of the Lord. There are some who have never been taught, who are clinging to ritual or to their own goodness (hoping their good will outweigh their bad deeds) who will be very surprised.

Remember Matthew 7:

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, `Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 “Many will say to Me on that day, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 “And then I will declare to them, `I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’

Let these words sink deep – for you and for those in your family, and for those you meet.

Lord, increase my awareness and concern for the lost in this world. Give me the opportunities and the words that would cause them to turn to you!

peace,

e

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