Monday, June 30, 2014

Justifying ourselves....

Matthew 12:1-2 At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.” Jesus has just mourned over those who refuse to believe, and rejoiced over those who in childlike faith do believe. The two groups come head-to-head now: His followers were with Him; the Pharisees stood against him. Their platform for opposition was to accuse them of some minor infraction, blown out of proportion. Before we jump on their case, how often do we do the same? We allow something someone else does, which we would not do (or at least think we would not do), and use it to contrast their sinfulness with our "holiness". But no amount of Law-Keeping can offset the lack of faith they have demonstrated in the Messiah. Whatever we find wrong in others, Jesus can find more in us. He knows it all.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Doing it the hard way...

For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:30 ESV) There is the Jesus way, and there is the hard way. Though His way is narrow, and not without it's struggles, any other way makes it impossible to finish your journey. Which way are you going? Lay your burden down, "yoke up" with Jesus, and enjoy the journey.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Lighten the load...

Matthew 11:29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Sometimes we view our spiritual lives as a burden - trying to keep up with holiness, making sure we don't offend God. That is not at all what God intends or Christ provides. When we trust in Him, we stop pulling the plow all by ourselves. We are yoked together with Christ and what He has done for us. He is not pulling full steam ahead trying to drag us along, but He is the one carrying the load. It is because of what He has done, and Who He is, that life becomes a joyful experience not lived in lonely labor, but with relief within, knowing all is well.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Who isn't???

Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Jesus gives His Great Invitation: to come to Him and find relief. The idea of "rest" is not a long night's sleep, or doing nothing because you're tired of doing something. It is relief from the struggle - the struggles of everyday life in a world marred by sin, and the struggle to try to make up for the sin from within. It is an endless battle, which we cannot win on our own. We need someone, the only One, to come take of our burden, take on our struggle, and give us relief.

Thursday, June 26, 2014


All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. (Matthew 11:27 ESV) Jesus has been sharing the truth of the Gospel from every angle: the Kingdom of God, God's banquet to which we are invited, the place where we find healing and wholeness. It all boils down to this: God is a personal God Who wants us to connect with Him. The Father and the Son are perfectly one, in fellowship with one another. The Father sent the Son so we can get to know Him, and so through Him we can get to know the Father. The question remains: do we want to know God? Are we willing to come to Him through His Son. Or will we chose to push through life trying to ignore them?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Thankful for God's Gracious Will...

At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. (Matthew 11:25-26 ESV) Jesus has just finished lamenting the lack of response to all the miracles He had done, which were so well-known and attested. He turns now to the positive side - that He was also able to see the child-like faith of those who did believe. They were not wowed into the kingdom, or intellectually persuaded to follow Christ; they responded to God's gracious gift, His desire to give them eternal life. If we think about it, those are the people who really make our day, who encourage us day-to-day: those who simply trust in Christ, His Word, and His will, without a big splash.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Hitting Home...

And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.” (Matthew 11:23-24 ESV) In all of his traveling, teaching, and performing miracles, no place had seen more of Jesus than His home base of Capernaum. It was a great choice of bases, with roadways and waterways making Israel as wide open ministry field. But even more, people came through there. Capernaum witnessed more of Jesus because people heard about Jesus and brought people there to be healed and to hear Him. This also brought greater accountability: to whom much is given, much is required. Our nation has been given much. We have had the privilege of receiving not only physical prosperity, but also freedom of religion and the opportunity for many decades to be the missions-sending nation of the world. We have heard the reports of what He has done. Yet, we are very unresponsive to Christ's call on our lives to repent and be transformed. Our "debt", our guilt, is far greater than many of those nations we view as evil-those which do not have freedom of religion and those that declare freedom from religion, because we have been so blessed, yet so apathetic.

Monday, June 23, 2014

We need some Woe...

Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. (Matthew 11:20-22 ESV) Jesus has just explained the importance of John the Baptist's ministry and how it related to His ministry: they both came to call us to repentance. But many have failed to respond appropriately. In a sense, Jesus now begins to respond to this lack of response; He begins to denounce this spiritual apathy and pronounce "woes" on those cities. Often, we perceive and read these "woes" as if they are angry, vengeful statements, but in reality they are filled with grief, a sense of loss. Jesus is almost crying here. He is in pain and anguish over our lack of belief. He cares; He is the compassionate Christ. We are complacent, unmoved by the greatest act of love ever shown. We need to be woed. We need to grieve over our sinfulness as much as He grieves over our complacency.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Proof is in the Pudding...

The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.” (Matthew 11:19 ESV) This is one of those "What does that mean?" verse in the Bible. Jesus has been explaining how the ministries He and John the Baptizer had were not as different as they might appear; they were on the same page. Both called for repentance and changed lives. Both were ridiculed by many observers. The last statement seals the deal: The wisdom of their words would be proven by the results; people would be changed. To add to the confusion of this verse, the last word, in other translations, is "children", following some of the other texts and historical translations. But that too is no problem, because the meaning is the same. The results of Jesus' ministry would prove the truth of the gospel, both by the things He did, and the spiritual Children that resulted - the changed lives He would leave behind.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Childish games...

Matthew 11:16-19 “To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others: “‘We played the pipe for you,and you did not dance;we sang a dirge,and you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.” When Jesus looked out on the crowd following Him, He could not help but notice the selfishness and insincerity of many there. They were playing spiritually childish games. Some had followed John, but when something more fun and flashy came along followed after Jesus. Those who chose to remain with John and his solemn practices would often bicker back and forth with those who left, making accusations toward one another. They totally missed that Jesus and John were on the same page, both calling on us to stop playing games, repent of our sins, and trust in the Messiah. Have you been "playing games" in your spiritual life???

Friday, June 20, 2014

Got any ears???

Matthew 11:11-15 Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. Whoever has ears, let them hear. Jesus was trying to make an important point about John the Baptist, which had implications of vital importance for those who were listening (or who are reading...). John the Baptist was indeed the forerunner of the Messiah, and the last prophet to foretell His coming. That being the case, they should be looking for the Messiah Whom John was pointing to - He had to be around somewhere. They had the unique privilege of being able to look and say: "There He is; God has come to earth!" So the question is... can you see Him? Can you hear Him? Is He speaking to you now??? Can you hear Him now??? Yes you can.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

What are you looking for?

As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings' houses. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written, “‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.’ (Matthew 11:7-10 ESV) After answering John the Baptist's concerns about Him and His ministry, Jesus now turns to address the crowds about their concerns about John the Baptist. Many had gone to his meetings - think revival meetings. Why did they go? Was it the setting? (not the nicest part of Israel - marshy area in the middle of desert) No. Was it the fashion statement John made? (He was no Elvis - more like what NOT to wear) No. It was because he claimed to speak for God. Yes. That being the case, the question is: Did they find what they were looking for? And did they respond appropriately? Are you looking for God and His will? Have you found it? If so, how have you responded to Him and His revealed will to you?

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Enough Evidence....

Matthew 11:2-6 When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.” John had met Jesus in person. He had even proclaimed that he was "the Lamb of God." But after their paths divided, and he ended up in jail, all he heard was rumors, reports about what Jesus was doing. So he sent some followers to be his witnesses, to look and listen. What they saw and heard was more than enough to bring a confirming report: Jesus is the Messiah, the One we have been waiting on to come. It seems that most of us, even those with privileged positions in hearing and reading the "evidence", sometimes have doubts and questions. Jesus calls us to keep coming back to examine the evidence. It is more than enough: He is the Savior and King we need.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

still hard at work...

Matthew 11:1 After Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee. In chapter 10, Jesus had sent out the Twelve in six teams of two, thus, in a way multiplying His ministry by six. You would think He would just sit back, take a break, and let them do it awhile, while He served in some sort of mere mentor position. But no, Seven is a big number in scripture, and seven times the ministry was better than six. The reason He sent out the disciples is because His heart was moved with compassion by how extensive the need was. He kept on working hard because it was about us, not "His ministry." Jesus never stops working on our behalf. We should never stop working for Him. It's not about us, or what we can do. It's about serving Him and others.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Filters for Finding Who's First

Matthew 10:34-39 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn“‘a man against his father,a daughter against her mother,a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it. The context here continues to be Jesus sending His apostles out into the world as His servants: following Him is going out there in His name. As they, and we, go, priorities will be tested. Who do we love more? Who do we put first? Family? comfort? Our personal goals? or Him and His? Jesus is filtering out those who really do not want to follow Him, but who really just want Him around in case they need Him. At this point the crowd has become great, yet He narrows it down to twelve that He sends out. As we seek to follow Him, let us put the filters on, straining out all those things, until what we have left is Christ in us.

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Fairness of Christ...

So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 10:32-33 ESV) Jesus has sent His disciples out into the world to serve and to speak for Him. He has warned them of the opposition they will face, and of the distractions they must leave behind. Now He puts it bluntly: "go out there and tell them, or when you come back, I will act like I don't know you." That's fair. Often times we speak against God for not being fair: we try to do the right thing, yet we become sick or are the "victim" of some terrible tragedy. Those complaints have their answers (and the importance of the struggle to come to those answers), but here there is no unfairness in God. If we do not admit that we are His, and that we are hopeless without Him, we have no reason to expect Him to claim we belong to Him. If we take that seriously, what should that do to our witness for Him?

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Translating Care into Courage...

Matthew 10:29-31 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. It takes courage to get up every morning - to believe that our lives matter enough for something that it is worth the investment to take on the daily challenges we will face, let alone the unexpected ones. These challenges are intensified when we add in the opposition we will face as followers of Christ in a hostile world. What can get us up in the morning? Where can we find the courage for each new day? Our Father cares. He is intricately interested in our thoughts, plans, activities, and even the little things that aggravate us - like our hair falling out. Take heart, have courage, get up and get going - His eye is on the sparrow, and he watches over you.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


Matthew 10:28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. In context, Jesus is telling us how to approach life as we go out into the world to proclaim the Gospel. As we go, we will face persecution by a world that does not understand, and often, does not want to know. How do we respond to that? Often, our initial response is fear. But what we need to do is put our fears in proper perspective. Who is the Almighty One? The Creator or those who persecute us? Who will ultimately be the Judge before Whom we all must stand? Put in perspective, there is only One we should fear.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Broad Daylight Policy

Matthew 10:26-27 “So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. Our Greatest fears are of what is unseen, unheard. That is evident from the encounters Jesus had with the demon-oppressed, as well as those where He forgave sins. The unseen makes us uneasy, fearful. But some day, before Christ as judge, all will be revealed. We are to live in light of that fact now. The truth is not to be hidden; rather, it is to be proclaimed. The truth sets us free from fear and doubt. We need to be "above the board", "on the table", in all our dealings, because they will be revealed. We are to avoid fear like the plaque.

Monday, June 9, 2014

What to expect...

Matthew 10:24-25 “The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for students to be like their teachers, and servants like their masters. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household! As Jesus continues to tell us what it will be like to go out and serve Him, He tells His disciples they have already seen and heard the kind of responses to expect. The Pharisees had accused Him of casting out demons in the power of Beelzebul. This was a totally irrational, illogical accusation, but these are the kinds of things we should expect to be accused of. Opposition to the gospel does not make sense - the offer of the greatest free gift available being rejected due to our pride. But that's what often happens. Sadly, we need to expect that, yet, in compassionate love, continue to share the good news.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

All in perspective...

Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. (Matthew 10:21-23 ESV) When we look at this world, and the negative reaction to the gospel that creates all sorts of havoc in families, communities and nations, we may feel like punting and running away. But rather than run away, Christ tells us to run TO the next town, looking for those who are receptive, letting as many as possible hear before He returns. We need to step back and get the bigger picture of what God is, and is going to do, and our part in it.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

When... Don't worry...

Matthew 10:19-20 But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. As Christ sent out His apostles, He gave them promises about what they could look forward to on their mission. They could count on persecution and being arrested. He does not say "if you are arrested...", He says "When..." They could count on it. But rather than give them instructions on what to do, He addressed what they would say. He did not want them, or us, to worry about how to deal with persecution; He does want us to think about what we will say when we find ourselves in that place. But even more than that, He wants us to realize and rely upon the ever-present Holy Spirit to guide us and strengthen us.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Behold, Beware, Bear Witness...

“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. (Matthew 10:16-18 ESV) As Jesus sent out the Twelve, He gave them clear instructions what they were being given authority to do. He then outlined a simple, straightforward outline of what would happen. They had to go into this thing with eyes wide open: they were going to be watched. Some would be ready to pounce on their every word and action, criticizing, even persecuting them, while others would be watching to see if their words and actions matched. They also had to realize that it was more than verbal criticism they would face; there was real physical punishment and even legal action. This was no adventure for wimps; it involved exciting risk. But all this would lead to something great: the opportunity to bear witness for Christ before people of influence, to do something that would impact the world. Whom does God want us to bear witness to today? Are we willing to take the risks? Do we realize we are being watched? May He make a difference through us.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Can I judge who is worthy???

Matthew 10:11-15 Whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave. As you enter the home, give it your greeting. If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town. At first glance, this is one of those troubling passages: "Are we to judge who is worthy to hear the Gospel?" The context, however has to do with who is worthy of offering hospitality. What we are given is guidelines based upon receptivity. "If they will not welcome you or listen to your words..." is the factor to keep in mind. It is part of being a good steward. We have only so much time and energy. We need the heart of compassion of Christ that looks out on the fields of humanity in their great need, that makes us wants us to let everyone know. But when we are not received, we need to ask Him: "Where now?" It is not a matter of judging "Who is worthy to receive what God is offering?", but "Who is Wanting to receive what God is offering?"

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Living Light..

Matthew 10:9-10 “Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts— no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker is worth his keep. As Jesus sent out the Apostles two by two, one of His instructions was to "travel light," to take along as little as possible. This, of course, was for at least two reasons: so what they had with them could not weigh them down and slow them down, and, so they would learn to depend upon God and His people to provide them what they needed. These are lessons few of us have learned well. We have too much stuff that "slows us down" in serving Him, and, we trust in ourselves (and maybe Uncle Sam) to provide, instead of God and His people. How much is too much? Wrong question. How little is enough? May we learn more today how to live light and follow Him.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Don't stop listen until The Lord stops talking...

Matthew 10:5-8 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give. In these marching orders, Jesus gives the who and where, the what, and the why. They were to go to only thier fellow Jews who lived in Jewish territory. Whew! No Gentiles or pigs!!!. They were to proclaim the Kingdom of Heaven. Easy enough, that's all they had heard Jesus talk about day after day! And they had seen Him do enough miracles that they might have that down pat. But with these things, the mind can wander - me, the great preacher, doing great miracles!!! We can very easily stop listening, start daydreaming, and miss the last part. Why are we to do this? because we are recipients of God's grace. The natural response to receiving what He gives is to give it to others. It is not because we are so worthy or so great (especially as we compare ourselves to the "heathen.") He has given. His Kingdom is a kingdom of followship His standards: Freely Give.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Seeing my place in God's plan

And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction. The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. (Matthew 10:1-4 ESV) As Matthew records the preparation for his first road trip without Jesus, he has a clear perspective on who he is in God's plan. First, he realizes that Christ did not give him all authority. He and his comrades had been given limited authority. It was an awesome privilege to be among the select few, but he knew he was not the one with all the authority Christ had demonstrated. Secondly, Matthew puts himself in the middle of the pack. He was not a standout at either end like Peter or Judas Iscariot. And he was okay with that. He rejoiced that he was a part of the kingdom, a member of the team, a part of what God was doing. Can we see where and how we fit in to God's plan? Are we okay with that?

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Heart of the Shepherd....

Matthew 9:35-38 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” In this Chapter, Matthew has finally joined the team. Having witnessed all he had heard and seen about Jesus, he has accepted the call to follow Him. After a round of seeing more miracles and hearing more of the Gospel, the one thing he observes about Jesus is His compassion. He is a caring Shepherd who sees the effects of sin on human lives, and He is determined to do something about them. He then turns to Matthew and the others and challenges them to get on board - not only with the task at hand, but with the character He has displayed. He wants noting less from us as His followers today - to look on those around us wallowing in life, having compassion on them, and sharing the love and truth He died to bring.