Thursday, July 31, 2014

The reason for Mistaken Identity...

Matthew 14:1-2 At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the reports about Jesus, and he said to his attendants, “This is John the Baptist; he has risen from the dead! That is why miraculous powers are at work in him.” 
To be sure, one of the reasons Herod Antipas mistook stories about Jesus as being John resurrected was the guilt that haunted his own soul.  He was living in fear, having executed John wrongfully.  But what else was there that made him think Jesus was John?  The similarity of the message they gave: to repent and receive the Kingdom of God at hand.  It was such a strong common thread, that Herod had only heard before from John, so he presumed this must be John.  If we are to be mistaken for someone else, may it be Christ - that we would speak in a way He would and live in the way He did.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Don't turn away... Keep listening and learning

Matthew 13:57-58 And they took offense at him.But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town and in his own home.” And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith. 
Jesus' own hometown failed to grasp Who He really was. Rather than continue to investigate, they blew Him off as "not worth the time", and in fact, even worse, someone to kick out of the way.  They viewed Him as a scandal to be ashamed of rather than a Savior to cling to.  Jesus knew familiarity breeds contempt.  They thought they knew Him; they really did not.  May we never come to the place that we think we fully know Jesus, that we have nothing more to learn of Him.  We have so much more to learn; He is so much more.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

How well do you know Jesus??? How well do you show Jesus???

Matthew 13:55-56 “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” 
The people of Jesus' hometown thought they knew who He really was - not based upon Himself, what He said, or what He did, but upon his family of origin.  They observed the rest of them and did not see any significant difference; therefore, He must not be anything special either.  So they rejected Him and His message.  Two questions come to mind: First, do we really know Jesus as well as we think we do, or it is only second-hand stories?  We really need to get to know Him, like His disicples did - living life day-to-day with Him.  The second question is this:  "How do people evaluate Jesus by looking at me?"  Do they look at our lives, like they did His human family, and decide that He must not be anything special???

Monday, July 28, 2014

Keeping Jesus at a distance...

Matthew 13:53-54 When Jesus had finished these parables, he moved on from there. Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” they asked. 
Jesus came home after a long time away doing ministry.  His first visit back, right after His temptation in the wilderness, was not a very pleasant one (they tried to drive Him off a cliff...), but this one seems a little more hospitable.  But not very positive or intimate.  They had heard all the rumors about what He did and said, and were amazed after hearing Him speak several times (last time His sermon was rather short...). What sticks out is how they refer to Him:  "Where did THIS MAN," (a rather disdainful term) get his wisdom and power?"  They did not call Him by name, or indicate in any way that they knew Him or wanted anything to do with Him.  They were not willing to embrace Him or welcome Him.  How about you?

Sunday, July 27, 2014

What do you Treasure???

Matthew 13:44-52 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it. “Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. “Have you understood all these things?” Jesus asked.“Yes,” they replied. He said to them, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.” 
The Kingdom of Heaven - God's rule and reign in our hearts and lives - is where we want to be.  But how do we get there? What is the road?  First, it is by choosing to respond to the seed He puts in our lives.  Beyond that, Jesus gives three fast parables to tell us we are to be willing to give all it takes; we must be willing to make His Kingdom our highest treasure.  It is not always easy. sometimes we will have to wait - like waiting till harvest to separate the weeds from the grain, or waiting till we get to "that fair shore" to separate the good fist from the bad. But it, and He, are worth it all.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

What kind of blaze are you???

Matthew 13:37-43 He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear. 
As Jesus explains the parable of the seeds and the weeds, each one is described not only in their lives here and now, but also in their ultimate state, after the judgment.  The weeds will blaze in eternal fire, suffering eternal separation from God, while the seed, those who live for the King, will blaze in a shining light that brings glory to God.  May our light shine here as well, so others will shine with us.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Opening the Hidden Treasure...

Matthew 13:34-35 Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable. So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet:“I will open my mouth in parables,I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world.” 
When Christ came to earth, He did not come empty-handed.  He brought with Him hidden treasure.  His words brought truths long hidden, not fully comprehended.  He is, after all, the Word who spoke at creation, and Who reveals the heart of God to Man.  Many of the things He came to share most people could not handle.  He had to speak to us in terms of the thing of this world, giving comparisons to what things are "like" that we can comprehend.  Then, when the light of faith comes on, and the Holy Spirit goes to work, we can see, and believe, and treasure these things in our hearts.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Let it rise!

Matthew 13:33 He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.” 
Sixty pounds... that's a lot of flour to mix by hand. That's a lot for even an army cook, let alone a little lady.  Like some of the other parables in this series of seven, Time is a key ingredient.  God keeps working on us over time.  As we allow Him to instill His Word more and more, deeper and deeper into our lives, and it "takes over" we will have more and more influence in the weedy world around us. We need to allow Him time to work in us, and through us in the lives of those around us.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Subtle Challenge of the Mustard Seed...

Matthew 13:31-32 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” We are much more familiar with Jesus' "faith of the mustard seed" statement than this one. Keeping in mind that as He spoke, most people did not "get it", and if He close followers did not, He would explain it to them, it is no surprise that this one can leave us saying "Huh?" Since "seed" in this chapter is used to represent both the Word of God and His servants, which one fits here? It seems best to take it as representing His servant. when He plants us, He wants us to grow, and He wants us to become a tree for birds. In Daniel, the birds of the air represent the peoples of the world. Jesus wants us to grow in our faith and become a place that attracts others to the tree; He wants us to be the place those needing Him find Him. When we first come to Christ, we might not "bring much to the table" or seem to have much to offer. But as He changes and transforms us, as we respond in faith to His Word, you will be surprised and overjoyed at how God can use you to draw others to Himself.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

It's a Weedy World...

Matthew 13:24-30 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’” Going all the way back to The Fall, there is one thing always present: Weeds. They are a fact of life and constant contention. As we will see in Jesus' explanation, some people are weeds. They allow Satan to rule and reign in their lives, which makes it miserable for everyone around them. They are not necessarily "criminal", but they are a problem. Our first response is often like that of the disciples; "Yank them out!" But that is not our place. We are to cultivate the ground, sow the seed, and bear fruit in the midst of the weeds. We can leave it to Christ and His angels to do the harvesting, and the pulling of the weeds.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Roots and Fruits...

Matthew 13:18-23 “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” There is a direct correlation in a plant between the furthermost points: How good (or even present) the fruit is depends upon how well rooted the plant is. What is it God wants to see in our lives? Fruit - Christlike character and a life that draws others to Him. What does that require? A well rooted life, open to the seed (His Word), His pulling weeds(the convicting and cleansing of the Spirit), and a devotion to Christ so strong that we choose not to be swayed by the things of this world (be it the worry of not having enough "stuff" to survive, or having so much that we do not thrive - think too little or too much water). May we hear, understand, let in, and listen to what God has to tell us today.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

someone is watching

yesterday was an interesting day indeed. first when I took the shuttle bus at the airport the driver was listening Christian program on the radio. then when we got on our flight I noticed during the takeoff the stewardess in the back off the plane was reading her Bible and doing a devotional. thirdly I could see all through the day the Lord watching over us. I cannot wait to see what he has today

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Right Place at the Right Time..

But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it. (Matthew 13:16-17 ESV) This was indeed a life-changing day for Matthew. He had seen and heard Jesus point at Him and the other disciples and say: "These are my family. It was on that day that Jesus began to teach in parables and then take the 12 aside to explain them to them. He was in the right place at the right time, seeing and hearing everything the prophets of God had anticipated. But God has placed us in a place of blessing as well. We have a much bigger picture; the Messiah has come; we can freely study and ask questions about the Word of God. We too can be called the children of God. May we thank God for these blessings!!!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Responsibility for our response....

Matthew 13:10-15 The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?” He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. This is why I speak to them in parables:“Though seeing, they do not see;though hearing, they do not hear or understand. In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:“‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding;you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused;they hardly hear with their ears,and they have closed their eyes.Otherwise they might see with their eyes,hear with their ears,understand with their heartsand turn, and I would heal them.’ Jesus' close disciples noticed a big change that day. He began to teach the people mostly in parables. Why? Because even though more people were coming to hear more often, they were not listening; they were becoming calloused in their response; they were merely being entertained. The disciples were the exception: they were willing to follow, always asking questions, accepting the challenges. How about us?

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Taking it to the beach... nothing new... something new

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.” (Matthew 13:1-9 ESV) My thoughts go two places today: first, to our group at Beach Haven, NJ, who are in a sense, walking where Jesus walked - on the beach, spreading the Good News of the Gospel. Love and Prayers to them. They are not really doing something new (maybe to them, but not to Jesus). Secondly, Jesus was doing something new in His ministry: using parables in a different way - to see who really cares, who really wants to know and live the truth of the Kingdom. He is sowing the seed. Is it taking root?

Saturday, July 12, 2014

One Big, happy family...

Matthew 12:46-50 While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” As Jesus continues to press us about what it means to follow Him, He continues to contrast His worldview with that of the Pharisees. It is during this discussion with them that this event takes place, and His response must be taken in context. The Pharisees were all about excluding others: exclude sinners, tax collectors, Gentiles, Samaritans, women and children. The more people they excluded, the more special and spiritual they felt. They were insiders, everyone else was outside. Not so with Jesus: He welcomed children, sinners, even a Samaritan woman. They were all invited to be a member of God's family, if they would repent and trust in Him.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Gone for good...

Matthew 12:43-45 “When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.” The Pharisees had done nothing but criticize and question Jesus' dealings with demons, even suggesting that He Himself was empowered by them. He then suggested that if what they said was true, their own exorcists must also be demon-driven. He now contrasts the one big difference between His ministry and their activity: when He drove demons away, He would then fill with the Holy Spirit, filling the emptiness that existed, and His powerful Holy Spirit would not allow any demons to return. They were gone for good. Those who try to be holy on their own, without Christ, will find themselves totally unable to do so. They will fail and fall miserably, and sadly give up for good.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Seek the Truth, not a sign...

Matthew 12:42 The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now something greater than Solomon is here. As Jesus continues His comparison/contrast of the Pharisees to others in the world, the Queen of Sheba is His next stop in history. Though a woman of great power and influence herself, she made the 1200 mile trek to find out for herself whether the stories of Solomon and his wealth and wisdom were all true. She was a sincere seeker, who was not disappointed. All of her efforts were worth the journey. The Pharisees had the Christ, Truth and Wisdom in the flesh, right in front of them, delievered to their doorstep. Yet, they treated Him like He was not enough. He is, and more.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Christ's comparisons...

Matthew 12:41 The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here. The Pharisees were experts at comparison - always pointing out how others fell short of their standards and lives. Having been on the receiving end of their constant criticism and questioning, Jesus now is making comparisons of His own: the Pharisees and their followers had received much more revelation and blessing from God than the most pagan of nations, yet refused to repent and believe. Even wicked cities like Nineveh, whose sin was a stink in God's nostrils, at times repented. On the outside, the Pharisees appeared much "cleaner", but the inside was a far different story. Whenever we start to hear ourselves compare, beware, but whenever Christ compares, listen well.

Monday, July 7, 2014

A Personal Sign from God

Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks 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 great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (Matthew 12:38-40 ESV) The height of our human pride can be seen in our expecting God to give us a personal sign that He is indeed real and worthy of our worship, trust, and obedience. These leaders "answered" Jesus. In other words, they had already seen and heard a lot from Jesus. What they were doing was demanding Jesus to perform for them, so they could decide what to do with Him. They had completely missed what He had just taught about Who had authority; they still thought they did,not Him. Christ does have all authority. We do not need letters in the sky or God to take control of the airwaves and send us a personalized message; we need to listen to what He has already said and shown, believe that, and then we will be ready to see and hear more of what He is trying to say to us. The risen Christ says it all.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Evil oozes out...

“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:33-37 ESV) Eventually what is within oozes out. The Pharisees on the outside looked good, but their evil was showing as they opposed Jesus. He had just shown them that they did not care about the spirit of God's Word or the souls of men - only their own self-righteousness. He was a living challenge to their authority, and rather than humbling themselves before Him, and repenting and trusting in Him, they had lashed out against Him. He is the one with all authority, and the one before Whom all will stand to give an account.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Crazy Talk...

Matthew 12:22-32 Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see. All the people were astonished and said, “Could this be the Son of David?” But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.” Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand? And if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. “Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can plunder his house. “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. Jesus' opponents had to find some way to explain away His authority. They were trying to erase in people's minds the thought that Jesus might be the Messiah. In their twisted thinking, demons must have been afraid of Him because He was a more powerful demon. That's crazy. Satan would not allow that kind of self-destructive competition among his minions. No, the source of His power was not satanic; what was satanic was the idea that it was. It was unforgiveable to attribute to satan that which the Holy Spirit was using to convince people of their need to repent and trust in Christ.

Friday, July 4, 2014

A Different kind of Revolution...

Matthew 12:15-21 Aware of this, Jesus withdrew from that place. A large crowd followed him, and he healed all who were ill. He warned them not to tell others about him. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “Here is my servant whom I have chosen,the one I love, in whom I delight;I will put my Spirit on him,and he will proclaim justice to the nations. He will not quarrel or cry out;no one will hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break,and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out,till he has brought justice through to victory. In his name the nations will put their hope.” When Jesus presented His Kingdom, he met a lot of opposition. They even began to plot His execution. But rather than fight back and revolt against them, He withdrew and continued to let the crowds follow Him. This was the method of the Messiah - calm, confident, gentle. He was not on the attack: He allowed the Truth to do it's work - it would either convict, leading to repentance, or condemn, leading to a negative reaction. Later, Jesus would be accused of begin some warlike revolutionary. His actions proved otherwise. That day is yet to come.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Rules Boys

He went on from there and entered their synagogue. And a man was there with a withered hand. And they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—so that they might accuse him. He said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other. But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him. (Matthew 12:9-14 ESV) What's the big deal? So what if Jesus healed on the Sabbath? What would make them want to kill him? They were used to setting the rules for everything spiritual. What happened, when it happened, where it happened. They had forgotten that God set the rules, and the big deal was that He was claiming the authority of God. They wanted to be God, and often, so do we. We want to set the rules for our lives and those around us. What we need to be is willing followers of Christ.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Take it from those who know Him...

Matthew 12:5-8 Or haven’t you read in the Law that the priests on Sabbath duty in the temple desecrate the Sabbath and yet are innocent? I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” The Pharisees professed to know God best. Not only had they overlooked David, the "man after God's own heart", referred to in the verses before these; they had overlooked the priests, who gave their lives in serving Him, and most of all, they had overlooked His very Son, with Whom God is One. In fact, a lot of people knew God better than the Pharisees, and all had one thing in common: there were not judgmental like they were. Only when we are humble servants can we see clearly what is important to God.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

scared by exceptions to the rules...

Matthew 12:3-4 He answered, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. As sinful as we are... as much as we break the law of God... we want to know what the rules are. And when there are exceptions to the rules, it is just as unsettling to us as someone saying: "there are different ways this passage has been interpreted..." We want everything cut and dried; it gives us security. But Jesus is clear; some laws overrule others, and we need to know God and His will well to discern when they apply. David was allowed by the priests to take the sacred bread because the priests knew God and His will well. Though it was not normal or "lawful", they saw reason for it in the plan and purpose of God. Those who refused His disciples the opportunity to glean some grain to meet their hunger were choosing the letter of the law over the Spirit of God and listening to His will. Exceptions are scary, rare, and spiritually discerned. We must choose to not "play it safe", but listen to Him.