Archive for the ‘Matthew’ Category

Word for the Day – Matthew 19:27

Give to the Lord

I recently discovered something very disconcerting about myself: I am selfish. Many of my daily activities are dominated by what I want. To an extent that is OK because people should respect the work of others. As a stay-at-home wife and mother, it is right for my family to honor the work I do and not undue all my cleaning, etc, when they don’t want to clean up after themselves. So, for those us of who remind our family members to pick up their, I don’t think that is too self-centered.

However, I have uncovered an ugly selfish streak within my prayer life. I’ve discovered that most of my prayers are so ego-centric that I forget to bless God with my words. My petitions are dominated by wants and desires for me, my family, and my friends. Other than the obligatory praises that typically lead off my personal communications with God, I’m pretty self-centered. Ouch, that hurts.

At one  point in his ministry, Jesus is approached by a rich young man (Matthew 19:16-22). The man asks Jesus what he must do to have eternal life. Apparently, this wealthy youngster kept all the commandments (he must have been one impressive guy), but he walked away grieved when he could not part with his possessions. According to Jesus, that is what the young man needed to do to be complete. However, the man chose to hold on tighter to his material wealth rather than reaching for the spiritual riches Jesus offered.

Shortly thereafter, this encounter provided a teachable moment between Jesus and the disciples when Peter asked:

“Look, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” (Matthew 19:27 NRSV)

That phrase struck a nerve with me. I love God. I carry Jesus in my heart. I write, blog, and teach others how to further the kingdom with their words. Yet, in the end, it is often more about me than it is the Lord. My prayers sound something like this: Lord, keep my family safe. Lord, provide us travel mercies. Lord, let me never be without a hot shower. Are those things bad? Not necessarily, but they must be kept in perspective.

When my prayers focus more on ME than God, that is not good. But, when I praise him for what he does and take myself out of the picture, that is when I step onto the right path. Yes, I need to praise him for what he does in my life, but I also need to praise him for sending Jesus, for his beautiful creation, and things like the raising and setting sun. And, when I can still praise him when I have absolutely nothing . . . I have successfully removed myself and am focused on him from the depths of my heart, mind, and soul.

A friend of mine recently lost her young adult son. As a result I have prayed even harder for my own two boys. Yes, I desire their safety, but part of my motivation is that I cannot imagine my life without them. My motives are straight from a mother’s heart, and I’m sure many of you can relate. But, there again, much of what I take before God focuses more on my desires than blessing God. But you know what, I think I’m starting to see the Light.

The Christian life isn’t so much about the question Peter posed: “What then will we have?”. It is about accepting and being content with the blessings God gives and blessing him back no matter what.

A few days ago my oldest son returned to college. My prayers were typical of my mother’s heart: Lord keep him safe and give him a productive year. But, before I finished my silent petition in the laundry room, I added, And let his heart grow in devotion and loyalty to you.

Word for Today: The Christian life isn’t all about what we will get from it; it is about what we can give to the Lord.

Posted by on August 15th, 2010 No Comments

Word for Today – Matthew 16:1

Pass the Test

Most of us know what it is like to get grades. We have first-hand experience of preparing assignments, doing homework, participating in class, and, yes, taking tests. However, whether we attend classes, workshops, or engage in furthering our academic knowledge, tests are hiding around every corner of our lives.

“The Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test Jesus they asked him to show them a sign from heaven” (Matthew 16:1 NRSV).

Jesus can relate to tests. During his earthly ministry he was always being tested and questioned about everything he did and the claims he made. He even faced tests/temptations before he started his ministry. These tests from the devil (administered in the wilderness) included his need for physical sustenance, his spiritual strength in the area of pride, and his ability to by-pass the spoils of the world (Matthew 4:1-11).

So, as we can see from Jesus’ experiences, tests aren’t always in paper form or given orally in a classroom. Once Jesus’ ministry was going strong, religious leaders threw lots of questions at him:

  • The Pharisees asked Jesus’ disciples why their leader ate with sinners. Jesus answered, “For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners” (Matthew 9:13). Good answer, don’t you think?
  • John’s disciples asked Jesus why he didn’t fast. His response: “The wedding guests cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them.” True enough. (For the full answer read Matthew 9:14-17).

Jesus was tested, tempted, and questions throughout his entire time on earth. But perhaps the most compelling test he faced was one that, according to the world’s standard, he failed . . .  death on the cross. This test was administered by the passer-bys that day.

“You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross” (Matthew 27:40).

If Jesus had answered that test and passed according the world’s answer key, where would we be today? I shutter to think of that scenario. Thank goodness Jesus answered that test questions with love and obedience. It was his love for us and his obedience for the Father than kept him on that old rugged cross.

Let’s fast forward and see how Jesus’ response to that test affects us today. How are we at taking the tests that we encounter every day? Do we answer as one devoted to the world or as a citizen of God’s kingdom? Do we take the easy way out or answer with love and obedience when we encounter difficult people or situations? Are we truth tellers when a lie would keep us out of trouble? The list goes on and on.

Suffice it to say that when Christians take tests, we will never score a 100 percent. Jesus is the only one capable of perfection. But, as his followers we need to do our best to score as high as we can so he’ll be proud of our report card. Plus, we need to remember that we need to pass all tests according to God’s standards even if, according to the world, we fail.

Word for Today:  Whatever you face, pass the test God’s way.

Posted by on August 13th, 2010 No Comments

Word for Today – Matthew12:38

Signs Are Everywhere

Step out your door; signs are everywhere. Street signs, billboards, marquees, and for sale signs dominate the palette of our everyday lives. They affect our decisions, influence our attitudes, and paint the backdrops against which we live.

What street will we travel? Where are we going to eat lunch? Who will get our vote in the next election? What social cause will garner our support? Signs have the awesome potential to sway our minds and paint our hearts with emotion.

Yes, signs are everywhere, but some of the truly important signs are the most subtle and least recognized.

Back in Jesus’ day signs didn’t exist like they do today, but that didn’t keep people from looking for them. Even the Pharisees who nipped at Jesus’ ankles during his earthly ministry asked him for a sign proving he was who he claimed to be:

“Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you” (Matthew 12:38 NRSV).

But the next verse records Jesus’ answers:

“An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so for three days and three nights the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:39-40).

Back then, Jesus’ answer probably confused everyone, not just the Pharisees. Who had ever heard of someone being three days and nights in the earth? Wasn’t that a permanent condition once the earth cradled one’s lifeless body?

I think an extreme sign was needed because the religious leaders of the time (and the world for all time) needed a miraculous sign that would stand out.

  • Jesus was living among them fulfilling the prophecies of Old Testament writings of which they were the experts! Of all the people of the day, the Pharisees should have been the ones rolling out the red carpet for the long-expected Messiah walking among them.
  • Jesus was helping people. Misery ran rampant in the days of Jesus’ first advent. Leprosy, physical and spiritual ailments, and lack of compassion dominated many lives. Yet here was God the Father, in the flesh, meeting those needs and giving people hope.

The Pharisees missed and even failed to recognize the sign even when a spiritual billboard laced with neon lights from heaven proclaimed Jesus’ deity, crucifixion/resurrection style . . . the sign of Jonah.

People today still miss the signs pointing to Jesus. He is still in the miracle business: seasons, the birth of a baby, a tire that should have blown but travels 500 extra miles, a husband or wife seeking forgiveness from their spouse, a rainbow, and the rain that falls on believers and non-believers alike.

The signs are everywhere, but only those who follow Christ recognize them. We need to pray for those don’t recognize the spiritual billboard announcing Jesus as Lord and Savior, because until they do, they will miss those subtle signs that paint immeasurable joy to our hearts and minds.

Word for Today: Rejoice because signs are everywhere!

Posted by on August 11th, 2010 No Comments

Word for Today – Matthew 12:22

Stand on Facts

Jesus was a busy man during his earthly ministry and, as a result, he drew a lot of criticism from the religious leaders of the day. He performed many miracles such as healing the afflicted from physical and spiritual diseases, calming tumultuous seas, sending demons into swine, waking lifeless limbs from debilitating slumber, and forgiving sin.

WHAT?! Forgiving sin? Wait a minute, only God can forgive sin. Yes, and that is what I think really gnawed at the religious leaders (the thought of Jesus being God). Of all the people of Jesus’ day, they should have been the ones to recognize and roll out the red carpet for their long-awaited Messiah.  But, there were probably two things at the heart of the matter that prevented them from welcoming him.

Perhaps, they were going through the motions of religion. You know, memorizing the Torah, ministering in the temple, and supposedly serving God with their minds and hearts.

Or, maybe they were drunk with power and did indeed know exactly who Jesus was. If that was the case, they were about to join the ranks of the unemployed because their services would no longer be needed if the Messiah was present. Whether the Jewish leader missed Jesus’ coming because of ignorance or as a power play, the end result was the same. One such instance is described when the crowds start asking if Jesus could be the Son of David:

But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons, that this fellow casts out demons.” (Matthew 12:22 NRSV)

What stands out to me is that, instead of standing on fact, the accusers leveled personal attacks on Jesus. They could not argue reality because Jesus was doing good for the people and they were taking notice. He was addressing their physical needs for the moment and their spiritual needs for eternity. The religious leaders could not legitimately fight the reality staring them in the face, so they took the low road and attempted to discredit the Truth.

Jesus didn’t join in their game of nonsense, but provided a logical response:

“Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand?” (Matthew 12:25)

The Pharisees attacked Jesus with folly; he answered with fact. The same thing happens today: in schools, government, and even in families. Where people don’t have facts as their foundation, they rely on personal attacks, rhetoric, and often times big words or eloquent speech. And on the world stage a favorite tactic is to discredit someone because they are . . . Christian. However, whether people accept it or not, all valid Christian claims can be backed up by secular data and their effect on society.

I find the ones who resort to those tactics are usually those who don’t understand Christianity or have been victims of people claiming to be Christian, yet misrepresent God. Unfortunately that does happen, and I have first-hand testimony to prove it, but that is another post for another time. No matter how you slice this issue, it is sad for all involved. Not only that, but it also has personal and societal consequences when we fail to stand on facts and choose to elevate fiction.

Jesus was accused of being Beelzebub. Followers of Jesus can expect much of the same, but we need to present the facts in a godly manner.

Word for Today: Christians need to stand on facts and not fall victim to fiction.

Posted by on August 5th, 2010 No Comments

Word for Today: Matthew 11:18-19

Wisdom is Vindicated by Her Deeds

Christians often get accused of using faith as a crutch. I’m not going to say that isn’t completely true because I see some church goers doing just that. However, they are people who still have yet to grasp the true concept of relationship over religion.

Despite the fact no one is a perfect Christian who fully understands God or his ways, those who do have a grasp on their beliefs stand on a firm foundation of wisdom. Non-believers who accuse others of using Jesus as a crutch are no different than those they chastise because both groups misunderstand Christianity and its accompanying wisdom.

For John came neither eating or drinking, and they say ‘He has a demon’: the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds. (Matthew 11:18-19 NRSV)

This section of Scripture is a perfect example of people using one standard of accusation in a specific instant, but leaving it behind in another. Christianity gets that a lot and in a variety of ways. But, no matter how you look at it, the basic wisdom of the Bible always holds true whether or not people choose to see that.

Classic example: I used to teach high-school Sunday school, and the kids wanted to discuss a controversial cultural issue; we did. My approach was to look at what God had to say about it, what the prevailing attitude was of those promoting this issue, and then to look at secular data and how this issue has affected society. The facts told the story loud and clear . . . the issue was not wide-spread in the hearts of most people and had detrimental effects on society. I didn’t even have to use the Bible! Secular information vindicated divine wisdom on the world’s stage, but many are not interested in hearing that.

That is just one example of reality that people are all too willing to throw out without exploring. It’s easier to claim that Christians need crutches than it is to take an objective look at the nuts and bolts of what we believe.

I’d like to share one more brief example vindicating divine wisdom. People. Plain folk. I have a friend who is not Christian, nor is her family. From what I can tell, her husband grew up in a Christian home and probably did receive some influence, but how much, I don’t know. Anyway, this family displays many Christian traits. They are moral, loving, non-judgmental, and the list goes on.

They have much to be thankful for, and I hope some day they will be a part of the kingdom. However, in the meantime they are living in accordance with much of the wisdom taught in the Bible. They don’t claim their way of living as Christian based, but the godly principles they adhere to are working in their family. They have great kids, wonderful morals, and are kinder than some Christians I know.  Again, wisdom is vindicated by her deeds, even in a secular setting.

John didn’t eat and drink. Jesus ate and drank. They did what they did for different reasons and were judged by outsiders no matter what they did. As long as there are believers and non-believers, accusations will never rest, but neither will wisdom.

Word for Today: Wisdom will be vindicated by her deeds.

Posted by on August 3rd, 2010 2 Comments

Word for Today – Matthew 10:19-21

Speaking the Spirit

The things that come from some people’s mouths today are downright disgusting. Profanities, lies, hypocrisy, and injustice are just a few examples from a long list. But even more disturbing to me is when ugly things spew from the mouths of Christians much like the recent oil spill gushing into the Gulf of Mexico.

What has gotten into us lately? I’m thinking that it isn’t the Holy Spirit!

“do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; for it is not your who speak, but the Spirit of the Father speaking through you” (Matthew 10:19-21 NRSV).

Jesus spoke these word to his twelve disciples as preparation for the persecution he know they would face. But, I think there is an everyday application for all Christians to glean from his words . . . the Spirit speaks through us.

We don’t have to look far to see examples of Christians flapping their lips without assistance from the Holy Spirit. How many Christian leaders and politicians do you know that support things contrary to God’s Word? For example, how can some reconcile the act of harming babies in light of the sentiments in Psalm 139? Verses 13 and 14 say:

“For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

Would God create such a precious thing just for others to destroy?

And what about this. . . have you heard some of today’s famous reverends get in the pulpit or on public stages and draw distinctions between people of differing skin types? Or elitists who look down their noses at those who are not of the same economic class, social circles, or mental state? Last I knew the Spirit was color blind (1 Corinthians 12:13),  showed no favoritism between social classes (James 2:2), and encouraged compassion toward all (Philippians 2:1). There are people everywhere who display awful behavior towards others, but is the Christian attitude speaking out in a godly manner? . . . or making things worse.

I don’t understand Christians who promote activities and lifestyles contrary to God. Those things do not flow from the Spirit. Are we to love people when they miss the Lord’s boat? . . . yes! But, whether it’s lying, cheating, hypocrisy, questioning the marriage covenant, or promoting deviant lifestyles (both homo- and hetero-), positive encouragement in those areas cannot come from the Spirit or it creates a divided house in God’s kingdom.

It’s easier to understand when non-believer’s words don’t follow God’s ways. But, when Christians speak it should be the Spirit of the Father speaking through us; not ungodly words spilling out like an oil leak. If we choose not to let the Spirit guide our words, it may be time to re-evaluate our claims of being Christian. It’s not our place to judge others, but maybe there should be more accountability in our ranks.

Word for Today: If we claim to be Christian, we need to be speaking the Spirit.

Posted by on July 19th, 2010 No Comments

Word for Today – Matthew 10:14

Look for Opportunity

As Christians we are to share the light of Christ with others. However, is accosting them or hitting them over the head with a Bible the best method to employ when attempting to bring others into God’s kingdom?

I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met that are so turned off to Christianity because of the way people tried to ungraciously cram it down their throats. I, myself,  have been accosted in my own home. Not by Christians, but by others sharing beliefs that have a basis in Christianity, yet follow a different path.

In cases such as that, I’ve not been receptive to their message, nor they to mine. In fact, some of them could not leave quick enough when I posed questions that their belief system could not reconcile. But wait, weren’t they the ones who came to me? Then the minute they get uncomfortable, they leave?

“If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town” (Matthew 10:14 NRSV).

The people knocking on my door carry a message; it usually contradicts God’s Word, and they can not defend it. I guess you could say they are following the principle taught in the above verse, but I do welcome them so they need not shake any dust off their feet. They invite themselves to my front door, but I’m the one who takes advantage of the opportunity; I plant seeds.

How does opportunity work? Some people have the gift of evangelism, but many of us don’t. We all have different gifts. Christian evangelists have a gift and a message to take to others. The truly good ones (like the Twelve) are effective in their ways and can recognize who is welcoming and who isn’t. They don’t create hapless victims, and they certainly can defend their faith to those with questions; they should be able to if they want to be believable. The people at my front door lose credibility when they can’t answer my inquiries.

Does that mean that us non-evangelist types should not approach non-believers? No, not really. We just need to make sure we don’t accidentally, out of good intentions, accost people or scare them off!

Does that mean we need to shake the dust from our feet when others don’t want to listen to us? Not necessarily. But, maybe it means that we need to keep our eyes open for opportunity. Opportunity doesn’t always mean giving someone the Gospel Message or pulling the Bible out. Sometimes we start slowly by showing kindness, compassion, or extending a caring hand. Once they see our actions, the reason why will follow.

Sometimes all we need to do is plant seeds for the Holy Spirit to water and bring to fruition. We are God’s helpers, but he is the Miracle Worker.

Word for Today: Always look for opportunity.

Posted by on July 15th, 2010 4 Comments

Word for Today – Matthew 10:13

Steal Your Peace

Jesus is a man of many talents. One of those includes being an expert on “peace”.  He is, after all, known as the Prince of Peace.

During a training session with his newly called disciples He instructed them on the finer points of peace. Ultimately, His helpers were going to visit towns carrying Jesus’ message to those deemed worthy. (Worthy being defined as those who were Jewish and, supposedly, open to the message.)

“If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you” (Matthew 10:13 NRSV).

Hmmm, “let your peace return to you.” This seems to indicate that we have some control over our own peace. Let’s give this a modern twist. If you have a ministry that no one seems to show interest in, that can be frustrating. Do you have family members that mock your faith because the world is their god? That can be maddening and saddening at the same time. Neither situation tends to breed peace when your bloods boils at uncaring attitudes or being the brunt of people’s jokes. Boiling blood and peace do not often sit side-by-side.

But, those aren’t the only scenarios that steal our peace. Life in general will steal our peace if we let it. Misbehaving children, and unsympathetic spouses are a couple of peace-stealing examples. Well, just about anything can do it . . . how’s your day going so far? This list goes on and on, and it’s different for every single on of us.

As Christians and believers of God’s Word, I think we need to hone in our the part of Matthew 10:13 where Jesus indicates that the disciples are to let their peace return to them. I see that as a clue that we have some control over the condition of our hearts and minds. Is it possible that if we can get our peace back, that we can also allow people or circumstances to steal it?

Proverbs has some inspiring wisdom relating to peace:

“Deceit is in the mind of those who plan evil, but those who counsel peace have joy” (12:20).

It says “deceit is in the mind”. Deceit resides where we allow it, but those who choose to “counsel peace” experience joy. I see a choice here. How about you?

“A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones” (14:30 NIV).

I’ve always heard that we are not to be envious. Envy must be a choice as is a “heart at peace”. Does coveting what others have steal your peace?

“When a man’s ways are pleasing to the Lord, he makes even his enemies live at peace with him” (16:7 NIV).

What’s this? God can make others experience peace? Peace must be available to all when God steps in. Do we allow God to step in when our peace is in danger?

All indications are that peace is a choice. We can let it accompany us with the help of the Holy Spirit, or we can toss into the wind and let it land on someone who really desires it. The opposite of peace is strife. I suppose that must be a choice, too. What rules your heart today? Peace or strife?

Word for Today: Don’t let people, circumstances, or a bad attitude steal your peace.

Posted by on July 14th, 2010 1 Comment

Word for Today – Matthew 10:8

Paid In Full

These days it seems that everyone wants something for nothing. I’m not talking about people who are down on their luck and truly need a helping hand. No, I’m talking about those of us with an entitlement mentality who think life owes us  things beyond necessity or our desire to earn them on our own.

This not only applies to material things, but spiritual as well. There are people who lay in wait for the next victim who will provide their big payday either materially or emotionally. Everyone enjoys getting something for nothing, but some only want to be on the receiving end; they have no desire to be a giver.

“You receive without payment, give without payment” (Matthew 10:8 NRSV?).

Consider Jesus. He gives us the free gift of salvation. We receive it without payment. Yet, what did it cost Him? Obviously, the price was His life on the cross, but that wasn’t all. Philippians 2 tells us what Jesus sacrificed to walk the dirty roads of our world:

  • His equality with God, so He could identify with man
  • His divine nature, so He could walk the roads of our world
  • His majesty, so He could walk among those He came to save
  • His life, so he could save you and me

He never received payment for His service. In fact, He was scorned and murdered by those He came to save! He did not ask for payment of any kind, yet how many of us expect compensation for the smallest of things. I’m not talking about our jobs or services. I’m thinking more about random acts of kindness . . . you know what I mean?

Ugliness can be very subtle. For example, how often do we feel bitter when a person rejects our extended  hand of friendship or doesn’t reciprocate after an invitation for dinner in our home? Things like that happen every day and, yes, rejection is a bitter pill to swallow, but we need to realize not everyone is going to be our new best friend. Not all invitations are going to be returned. But the important thing is how we react when we encounter situations such as these no matter how they manifest themselves.

Do we stomp our way down Bitter Boulevard because we did not receive something in return? Do we snarl at those who do not pay us back for the nice things we do for them? No matter what our circumstances look like or what payment we think we deserve, we must not become resentful when people don’t pay us back. Jesus didn’t.

The Word for Today: Whether or not others pay us back for what we do for them, just knowing we did the right thing helps us consider our acts of kindness “paid in full.”

Posted by on July 6th, 2010 1 Comment

Word for Today – Mt 9:11, Lk 19:5 and 10:41 and 42

Relationship over Religion

Many years ago a lady commented on a pair of cross earrings I was wearing, “I love your earrings you religious little thing.” I would have considered the remark insulting, but I really don’t think this woman understood the difference between religion and a genuine relationship with Jesus. Let’s take a look:

Undesireables

During his earthly ministry Jesus ate with Jewish “undesirables”:

“When the Pharisees saw this, they said to the disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?'” (Matthew 9:11 NRSV).

The answer is easy: Jesus came to save everyone and one of the biggest weapons in His arsenal is relationship!

The “Wrong” People

On another occasion Jesus was passing through Jericho and singled out a tax collector sitting in a tree . . . hardly a member of the “right” religious group:

“Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today” (Luke 19:5).

Why did Jesus do this? He came to save everyone, and His love builds better relationships than legalism.

The “Too Busy”

Jesus had very dear friends during His earthly ministry; this included Lazarus and his two sisters. Lazarus, Mary, and Martha welcomed their dear Friend into their home on several occasions. During one visit the sisters showed two very different responses to Jesus’ presence; Mary sat at His feet while Martha cleaned and complained:

“‘Martha, Martha you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her'” (Luke 10:41, 42).

What can we learn from Mary and Martha? Things may be noble and done with good intentions, but true relationship is superior to the religion of doing and of appearances. Relationship endures, religion dies away. Mary made the better choice.

Bottom line: Jesus chose relationship over the scandalous appearance of eating with tax collectors and sinners. He chose to spend a day of fellowship with a hated tax collector rather than pursuing the company of the religious Pharisees. And, although I’m sure Jesus appreciated all the work Martha did to make His visit in her home nice, He desired her heart and company above all else.

Word for Today: When it comes to Christianity, choose relationship over religion.

Posted by on July 1st, 2010 1 Comment