Thursday, August 14, 2014

What My Broken Heart Has Taught Me

Jesus said, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8 NIV) There is a lesson in this instruction from Jesus Sermon on the Mount that God has been teaching me this year.

© Ananya Rubayant
I have an area of my life that I am not thrilled with. To be honest, it is an area that I find very little satisfaction at all. I have my desires and I have found over the years that my desires have not been met. My heart is broken over this. I had dreamed for years of these desires being lived out … but when the opportunity for them has presented itself … I have found my heart crushed and have felt no real hope for fulfillment. And what makes it even worse, I have had little indulgences in these desires, and I know they are not just desires and hopes, but if lived out would provide a bit of good satisfaction to my life.

So in my despair, I decided I was going to pray about this area of my life. This has been an immense blessing. Not only in prayer did I get the dissatisfaction off of my proverbial chest but I also learned a little bit more about myself. Prayer forces us to be introspective about ourselves. When we pray the correct way, we come before the throne of God humble, honest, and looking at our motives for our petitions. The process of prayer broke me. I asked the question of am I being selfish? Am I wrong in my desires? Are my desires His intention for this gift? Is this what’s best for everyone involved? Is this something that honors God? In my introspection God opened the eyes of my heart.

And then God showed me some areas of improvement in my heartache. For that I thanked God. I was thrilled. I celebrated. I was joyous because I was seeing improvement. And that is where I made a mistake. My mistake was not in thanking God for His answer to my prayers. That was an essential ingredient in the process. I do not think we can ever ask God for his work and movement and ignore that blessing. How arrogant we are if we fail to thank God! My mistake was I stopped praying for His continued work.

I saw improvement, I thanked God, and then I left it alone. And with that, I stopped working on myself, I stopped making the improvements I needed to, and I stopped being introspective, learning all the things that prayer was teaching me. Now, my heart is crushed again, and I have found myself back almost where I started. I am unhappy. I am feeling a state of depression. It is affecting my relationships with those that I love. I am not proud of who I am right now. I am not driven. I am lazy. I am mad at myself.

Jesus told us to ask, seek, and knock. This is a continual process. God already knows who we are and what we need before we ever ask Him. He only wants what’s best for us. But sometimes He waits until we are ready to come to Him, because in prayer, in our broken state He wants to teach us, He wants to mold us, He wants to shape us into His masterpiece. And when I saw improvement, I stopped God’s work, thinking He was done. God was not ready to stop working, but I had selfishly decided God was done. I am only sorry it took more heartbreak to learn this lesson. From now on I will ask, seek, and knock until God shows me that His work is complete. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

March 20, 2014 – James 1 – Consider it Joy

Below are my thoughts from the daily Bible reading of the West Side Church of Christ. Before reading I invite you to pray and asked God to speak to you as you read his word. Also above in the tabs is a link to the Bible reading plan.

I want to thank you for returning to the blog. Doing a daily blog is a challenge and sometimes it feels like a chore. Sometimes I struggle to bring fresh content. I get into a rhythm of receptiveness that is often hard to break. I have found the best way to do so is to suspend the blog for a while and then return. With our reading through Acts it was hard to break back in in the middle of the book. Please forgive me for my absence.

What Does this Passage Say?
  • The book of James was written to Christians who had a Jewish heritage living throughout the Roman Empire. The book is often sited as a perfect road map for new Christians helping them understand a little about what following God looks like.
  • James begins his writing reminding the Christian that trials, temptations, maybe even persecutions are going to come their way. It is how we respond that determines whether these are helpful or hurtful. James challenges us to consider it joy when we face trials. This is a strange concept. But if we learn to consider it joy we will be quicker to see God at work. Trials make us stronger, and they lead us to victory in God.
  • He also reminds us that it is not God that tempts us, but Satan. We are tempted when we let our evil desire overcome us. This choice on our part begins a downward spiral that if not overcome can lead to death; separation from God.
  • James then goes on to encourage people to check their lives. If we want to overcome temptation and champion over the trials, then we must examine our heart and mind. James uses an analogy of looking in the mirror and forgetting what you look like as foolishness. As people living today we have the word of God. In His word is instruction on how to live a life that honors the grace and salvation He is given us. Reading the word and failing to live it out is foolishness. If we want to overcome the trials, temptations, and event the persecutions then we must put into practice what God’s word teaches.

What is this passage teaching?
  • This passage reminds us that life, even as a Christian, is not always going to be easy. Temptation will always be present and something we must keep our eyes open to. Trails will present themselves from time to time. How we handle that determines how our faith blossoms and matures. God allows us to experience trials and temptations to mold, shape, and chisel us into the beautiful creation He has in mind.

How can I apply this passage to my life?

  • Take to heart James first challenge … “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds.” Look for the ways that God might be using this to develop you into the person He is creating you to be. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

February 10, 2014 – Acts 1 – Evangelism

Below are my thoughts from the daily Bible reading of the West Side Church of Christ. Before reading I invite you to pray and asked God to speak to you as you read his word. Also above in the tabs is a link to the Bible reading plan.

What Does this Passage Say?
  • Today we begin the book of Acts. Acts was the second book written by Dr. Luke. Luke’s first work was the gospel named after him. Many scholars believe Luke wrote both Luke and Acts for the purpose of the Apostle Paul’s trial before the Roman Emperor. These two works would possibly serve as a foundation for the Emperor for who Paul was and what Christianity is. The way this book ends gives some credence to this theory as it all the sudden stops with Paul in Rome.
  • In our reading we have not yet read Luke’s first work; his gospel. Luke’s gospel was about the life of Jesus. The book of Acts is about the early life of the church. It picks up where his gospel leaves off. It gives us a glimpse into Jesus final day and His final teaching before being called up to Heaven.
  • Through Acts we learn that Jesus spent forty more days on the earth after His resurrection. During this time He taught His disciples all they would need to know and do to prove to the world who He was. In the beginning pages of Acts Jesus gives us His mission strategy; Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and all ends of the earth. Basically Jesus taught them start at home and move on from there. After all His teaching was done Jesus was called up to Heaven.
  • These disciples have a huge task before them. For ten days they will be without the power of the Holy Spirit. There used to be twelve in their inner circle of Jesus followers, but now, after Judas decision, there are only eleven. They felt it necessary that there be twelve men. Maybe they thought because Jesus choose twelve they must continue with twelve. Maybe they thought the number twelve represented the twelve tribes of Israel. For whatever reason they choose a twelfth man by drawing straws: that twelfth man was Mathias, a man who saw Jesus entire ministry from baptism to death to ascension 
What is this passage teaching?
  • Jesus had a specific purpose for the men He chose to be a part of His inner circle. These men had the responsibility of bringing the Kingdom of Heaven into existence upon the earth. The work would not be easy, but Jesus would give these men all the preparation they needed, including an evangelism strategy. The work was not easy, so they disciples found it necessary to include all the men they could into their inner circle. 

How can I apply this passage to my life?

  • The book of Acts opens strongly with the hint that evangelism is going to be a key virtue of the Kingdom of Heaven. How are you doing at living a life of evangelism? How are you doing at sharing your faith? Join us as we learn some practical lessons in Acts in ways to share our faith. 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

February 8, 2014 – Proverbs 4 – Light in the Darkness

Below are my thoughts from the daily Bible reading of the West Side Church of Christ. Before reading I invite you to pray and asked God to speak to you as you read his word. Also above in the tabs is a link to the Bible reading plan.

As we venture through the Psalms and Proverbs portion of our reading it will take on more of a devotional thought and less of the passage teaching of the New Testament study.

I love contrast. Sometimes we can only see the full beauty and complexity of something when it is contrasted against something else. The writer of Proverbs does that today with righteousness and wickedness.

He describes wickedness as darkness. Have you have ever been in complete darkness? That is a hard thing to come by. When I was in high school my youth group went to Summer in the Son at Kentucky Christian University. One day during our free time we went caving in nearby caverns. We found a spot where we could turn off the flash lights and spend some time worshiping in the dark. It was an awesome experience, but a little unsettling as well. It was completely dark and the darkest environment I have ever encountered. It was a fun experience, but not one I would want to live in for any amount of time. This darkens though is what the writer says wickedness is consumed with.

On the other side he compares righteousness to light … “The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.” Proverbs 4:18 NIV. Have you ever watched the sun rise? My favorite place to do it is at the beach. I love to go out before the sun even thinks of rising. It is fun to watch the day get progressively brighter. What an awesome picture of righteousness the author paints for us. And as a side note, what is light supposed to do? Illuminate the darkness. That means, as people striving for righteousness, it should be our desire to remove as much wickedness from our world as we can. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

February 5, 2014 – Matthew 26 – Never Give Up

Below are my thoughts from the daily Bible reading of the West Side Church of Christ. Before reading I invite you to pray and asked God to speak to you as you read his word. Also above in the tabs is a link to the Bible reading plan.

What Does this Passage Say?
  • It feels sort of like decision day. Jesus knows that the hour is closing in that He will be killed. Jesus has predicted His death before, but what a shocking statement this is when He includes the mode of death. All that Jesus has said these last few day has become the final nail in the coffin. There is now real activity in the planning of Jesus death.
  • For the past week Jesus has been staying in Bethany, a small town outside the city of Jerusalem. From other accounts we know He is staying with Lazarus, and his sisters Mary and Martha. It is in this home that a woman pours out an expensive perfume all over Jesus. This woman does a beautiful thing, but the disciples, possibly lead by Judas, rebuke her … there might be a mix of motives here, maybe they have learned from Jesus and their hearts are really for the poor or maybe they are covering up evil intentions … i.e. Judas whose betrayal to the religious leaders is immediately shared. Jesus reminds them that His presence is only temporary and the time stamp is almost up.
  • On Thursday night Jesus sends the disciples ahead to prepare the Passover feast. He has arranged a room for this to happen and they go and secure it. During the traditional Passover meal, Jesus shares that one will betray Him and another will deny Him. He presents them both, and tells Judas to go do what he has set in his mind to do.
  • It is during this meal that Jesus establishes the Lord’s Supper, a meal Christians partake of each and every week. This meal reminds us that Jesus body was given up for our life. This meal reminds that it is the shed blood that saves man from sin. The elements of bread and fruit of the vine represent this sacrifice!
  • After the meal, Jesus and His disciples return to the Mount of Olives. Here on the Mount is a private garden named Gethsemane that Jesus probably has an open invitation to visit. More than likely from this spot Jesus can see all of Jerusalem, especially the Temple mount. The week has been long. The week has been exciting … remember how it began; people lining the streets, Jesus riding in on a donkey to the shouts of praise? Jesus has taught and strongly confronted the Pharisees. Whatever Jesus is getting ready for the anticipation must be at a boiling point. But along with this long week comes exhaustion. As Jesus heart feels overwhelmed and as He goes to pray, He asks His disciples to keep watch and to pray, but they are not able; they fall asleep.
  • Jesus returns to His disciples in between prayers, prayers where He asks God to take the cup of wrath that is coming, understanding that is not God’s will, and finds them asleep. While talking with them, the one, Judas, who has betrayed Jesus, arrives with a crowd of guards sent by the High Priest. Judas kissed Jesus signaling that He was the one, causing Jesus to be arrested.
  • It is here that Jesus is brought in for His first series of trails before the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin was made up of both Pharisees and Sadducees. They were the ruling body in the legislative branch of Judaism.  Here Jesus is presented His charge … blaspheme. It is during this first trial that Peter denies any relationship with Jesus to the crowds standing on the outside watching. 

What is this passage teaching?
  • Jesus has had a remarkable week. It is all coming to a crashing end. The last few hours of Jesus life is consumed with Jesus pouring into His disciples. All the way until the end He is teaching them and guiding them and building them up. 

How can I apply this passage to my life?

  • Do you have someone you are investing into? Do you get frustrated with their slow growth? Do you feel like they just don’t get it? Jesus had to feel that way from time to time. But He never gave up. Until the very end He was pouring into them; at Lazarus home, at the Last Supper, in the Garden of Gethsemane, and after Peter cuts the ear the servant. Do not give up. Find patience, Continuing pouring into and investing in those you love and care for. Who knows but God when the seed will begin to grow.

My response to the Ken Ham and Bill Nye debate

I applaud both men for striving to have a civil honest discussion about their disagreements. If more people especially our government would take their civil approach our nation and our churches would be much better off. These two men were both very passionate about their stated stance and both articulated without destroying the other in a humiliating and nonsensical manner.

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It was very evident that Ken Ham was much more prepared for this debate. That isn’t an attack on Bill Nye. Ham has devoted his life’s work to promoting a Biblical explanation for the theory of origins. He has spent a considerable many hours researching and understanding the evolutionist theories, teachings, and process. A simple walk through the Creation Museum indicates that Answers in Genesis knows and understands evolution.

Bill Nye wasn’t underprepared for the debate, he simply lacked the storerooms of knowledge that Ham has ready. He did say he learned something for Ham’s thirty minute presentation. I would love to have known what that lesson was. Was it a better understanding of what Ham believes? What it a better understanding of the process of creation scientist? Was it something else? Nye did an excellent job but it was evident he isn’t complete in his knowledge of the whole of creation science.

I found the debate format a little troubling. Nye asked Ham several questions that I just don’t believe the format gave Ham the proper ability to respond to. I would have liked to have seen the debaters be allowed to ask each other questions and then responses given to the others questions. The Q&A portion was fine, but real questions were raised without a time to have a dialogue before the next question was presented. Maybe this was done to ensure the civility of the debate, but it would have provided answers and real debate.

What I found that was lacking from the debate was belief. Ken Ham reminded everyone several times that his starting point is the Bible. He admits that and doesn’t back down. What I would have loved to see Ham do was remind that because we cannot observe the world that we are looking back to, the evidence we see takes some level of faith to believe in. At the very least, if I have to have faith to believe one of the systems, I like the one that gives me hope and purpose and doesn’t say I am here by accident.

Bill Nye was trouble by Ken Ham’s lack of being able to predict an outcome. I failed to follow his logic on this one. The debate was centered on the question, “Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern scientific era?” What Nye was troubled by was not a part of the debate. Was Nye implying because Ham was working through the debate to support Biblical Creation to look at origins, that creation scientist could not predict outcomes and invent technology? If so Ham did answer that question by presenting the scientist who invented the MRI that is a creationist.  Nye was troubled by Ham looking back but wasn’t that the point of the debate?

I was troubled by Nye when he kept promoting education and scientific exploration for America’s (specifically Kentucky’s) youth. His promotion didn’t trouble me, but his undermining idea that a creation scientist would find no success did. That I believe is the fallacy of his and other evolutionist’s problem. They see creation scientist as people who are faith based and not intelligent. Nye reinforced the notion that creationists are not given proper academic accolades simply because they have faith. Nye really showed this when he misrepresented the Bible. While he claimed to not be a theologian, he didn’t have to, it was evident that he doesn’t understand the words contained in the Bible and the narrative it tells. He doesn’t understand the knowledge that it takes to understand the Bible whether that is through an academic institutions or from simple years of studying scripture. This notion that intelligence is not present in the Biblical Creation community was amplified in Nye’s poor understanding of scripture and his promotion of science education for the future.

I understand that I am biased. There were questions Nye raised last night that I cannot answer. There were questions asked to both men that Nye could not answer. But my faith … I understand to those outside the church find it silly … answers those questions. My faith reminds me that I serve the creator of the universe. My faith tells me He can do in Nye’s 4,000 years what might take billions in Nye’s view to accomplish. I understand that faith is the foundation for me, but I am ok with that. What I love is that when given the evidence, even with the pieces we are missing, God still shows himself through the scientific evidence. My faith isn’t blind. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

February 4, 2014 – Matthew 25 – While waiting Jesus expects busyness

Below are my thoughts from the daily Bible reading of the West Side Church of Christ. Before reading I invite you to pray and asked God to speak to you as you read his word. Also above in the tabs is a link to the Bible reading plan.

What Does this Passage Say?
  • Matthew 25 opens where we left off yesterday in our reading. Jesus has taught the principle that we do not know the day or the hour, now He uses an illustration of virgins waiting for the bridegroom. Some were prepared for the long wait with extra oil, others were not. Where do you stand? Are you ready for our bridegroom to return … Jesus?
  • Jesus continues His thought but switches up the subject. He has been teaching about being prepared for the coming of the kingdom, or as the last story called it the bridegroom. Now He is concerning His words with what we are to do in the time we are waiting. Jesus wants us to be productive. He tells the story of a master who has three servants that he entrusts a sum of money to. Two of the servants make the money work for them and double what the master gave. Their actions please their master. The third servant did not do anything but bury the money in hole. This displeased the master. Jesus instructs that whatever gifts, talents, resources, or abilities we have we are expected to use them while we wait on His return.
  • Jesus then finishes His discussion by showing the final judgment. Now here is where things get confusing. Jesus is illustrating believers verses non believers with goats and sheep. The sheep represent believers and goats represent non-believers. Jesus then says He will distinguish the believers against the non-believers by their works. Does this teaching by Jesus then stand in opposition to salvation by grace? No. Here’s why … we are not saved by works, we are saved by faith, but our works are the proof of our faith. If our faith is real then our works should support it. Jesus told us in the parable of the talents that we are to be busy working. Jesus then says our work will be a demonstration of our faith. These six elements Jesus highlights are not an exclusive list of works but a good start because they support the basic needs of people. 

What is this passage teaching?
  • Like yesterday’s passage, Jesus tells us to be ready for His return. We do not know when it will be, but we need to be ready. Part of being ready is by being busy using the gifts, talents, and resources God has blessed us with. Jesus finds this highly important as He teaches it is our service in His kingdom that will define our faith. We are not saved by our works, but our works define the faith that saves. 

How can I apply this passage to my life?

  • So, knowing that you are supposed to be waiting on an unknown time of return for Jesus, how busy at work are you? Jesus expects us to be actively serving Him. Analyze your life? Are you serving Him? If not, maybe a good place for you to start is with the six human needs Jesus lists in verses thirty four through thirty six. 

Monday, February 3, 2014

February 3, 2014 – Matthew 24 – The Day and the Hour Unknown

Below are my thoughts from the daily Bible reading of the West Side Church of Christ. Before reading I invite you to pray and asked God to speak to you as you read his word. Also above in the tabs is a link to the Bible reading plan.

What Does this Passage Say?
  • Jesus is at the Temple and He knows about its coming destruction. In AD 70 the Roman armies went into Jerusalem and destroy the Temple. Our reading is Jesus prediction of this historic event. This comment gets the disciples to think. They heard Jesus and figured that the destruction of the Temple would coincide with Jesus coming kingdom, so they ask.
  • Jesus explanation raises more questions than it really answers, at least for us. Is Jesus talking about future end of the world events? Some would say yes. Is Jesus talking about the destruction of Jerusalem under the Romans only? Others would say yes. Is Jesus talking about end of the world events and the destruction of Jerusalem in the same response? Still others would say yes.
  • Here is what I can tell you … Jesus predicted the destruction of the Temple and it happened. We know that the days that surrounded its destruction where horrible days for the ethnic Jews living in Judaea. We also know that Christians faced immense amounts of persecution during the reign of Roman Emperor Nero in the 60’s. We also know that Jesus Kingdom is here. It is not something we are waiting for and anticipating. We who belong to Jesus are living in the kingdom, a kingdom that was released on the Day of Pentecost. We also know that there will be a day when Jesus returns to call home those who have believed and called Him Lord.
  • To answer the questions I think we are safe to say some of these events that Jesus speaks of have happened, some are continuing to happen, and some will happen. 

What is this passage teaching?
  • The underlying principle of our reading today is to be ready. In the 1984 edition of the NIV the editors topical notes titles verses 36-51 “The Day and the Hour Unknown.” This is a very appropriate section title. We do not know when our final day on earth is going to be, regardless if it is by our death or it is by Jesus return. We must be ready. For some it is calling Jesus Lord. For others it is walking with Him each and every day. We do not know when the day will come, but Jesus charges us to be like the servant, busy at work, anticipating His return. 

How can I apply this passage to my life?

  • Are you ready for Jesus to return? Do you have any unfinished business? Would Jesus be proud of you for the task you are involved with when He returns? Fortunately His return has not happened. You have time to get busy.  So get busy, serve Him, walk with Him, and share the love Jesus with all you encounter. 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

February 2, 2014 – Psalms 13 & 14 – God is there!

Below are my thoughts from the daily Bible reading of the West Side Church of Christ. Before reading I invite you to pray and asked God to speak to you as you read his word. Also above in the tabs is a link to the Bible reading plan.

As we venture through the Psalms and Proverbs portion of our reading it will take on more of a devotional thought and less of the passage teaching of the New Testament study.

There are times in life where God feels distant. There are times in life where we feel that we are on an island all alone, even though we are surrounded by people. David felt that way throughout his life. But he knew that God was there and that even though he felt distant from God he put his trust in God. He knew God’s love was never failing and that God offered ultimate salvation. When you feel alone, when you feel distant from God, remember He is there, and His love is never failing. 

Saturday, February 1, 2014

February 1, 2014 – Proverbs 3 – Life giving words

Below are my thoughts from the daily Bible reading of the West Side Church of Christ. Before reading I invite you to pray and asked God to speak to you as you read his word. Also above in the tabs is a link to the Bible reading plan.

As we venture through the Psalms and Proverbs portion of our reading it will take on more of a devotional thought and less of the passage teaching of the New Testament study.

How do you view the Word of God? Do you see it as some historic book telling the story of God? This is a proper view of God’s Word, but not a complete view. Do you see it as a book for of rules and regulations that will help you get to heaven? This too is a correct but incomplete view. I think a full understanding of God’s Word is present in the first few chapters … “My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity.” (Proverbs 3:1-2 NIV)

God’s Word does give us insight into His story, and it does teach us the life He calls us to live. But His Word is so much more. His word teaches us a healthy lifestyle. It teaches us that we are the caretakers of the earth. It teaches us much more than rules and regulation. And Solomon’s Words instruct us to internalize and live by the Word of God, words that give life and prosperity in Him. 

Friday, January 31, 2014

January 31, 2014 – Matthew 23 – It is for you to decide.

Below are my thoughts from the daily Bible reading of the West Side Church of Christ. Before reading I invite you to pray and asked God to speak to you as you read his word. Also above in the tabs is a link to the Bible reading plan.

What Does this Passage Say?
  • Jesus isn’t going to go down without a final word. He knows that He is in the last week of His life. He knows that things are going to quickly turn. He knows that soon He will once again be back in Heaven in the presence of God himself. He knows that this tough world will soon be behind Him. But as He has done all along He has compassion on the people He came to save and knows they still have to live in a world that will be controlled by the Pharisees. He gives them seven warnings against the Pharisees and other various teachers of the Law. 
  1. They are more concerned with how they look than honoring the Law of God.
  2. They teach the Kingdom of Heaven, but don’t allow people to enter, and don’t even live it themselves
  3. They do all they can to win people to God (a noble task) but then they burden him down with so many laws and restrictions that he cannot live joyfully in that kingdom.
  4. They have put importance on the wrongs things, missing the right things when they value the material possessions over the words being uttered and the One being worshiped.
  5. They worry about observance of the Law and beings strict about it but miss the heart of the Law; justice, mercy, and faithfulness
  6. They look good on the outside but their inside is dirty with greed and power.
  7. They look for a prophet and a messiah, but in reality they would reject him, just as they are about to reject the one true messiah.

  • This all breaks Jesus heart. Jesus has come to save all of mankind. While that will be available to all, He knows that some, like the Pharisees will reject Him and completely turn on Him. 
What is this passage teaching?
  • The teachers of the Law are to be respected but only when they are teaching the Law, not drumming up their own rules and regulations. Jesus won’t stand it anymore. They have been trying to trap Him and now He has laid out everything that He finds wrong and sinful about their ministry. He does leave them with hope, acceptance of Him and His kingdom. An acceptance we know that many of them will reject. 

How can I apply this passage to my life?

  • Friends, as a minister it is my goal to only teach the truth of scripture. It is my goal and desire to relay and share the Word as I understand it. I may offer advice and wisdom as to the best ways to live out the gospel and life Jesus calls us to live, but I pray I will never demand it upon you. It is for you to decide to what level you will follow Jesus. It is for you to decide with what devotion and righteous living your life will resemble. If you are listening to a minster or involved in a church where the minister is demanding and requires a certain lifestyle, please be cautious. Please examine everything I say for yourself and base it upon your own knowledge and understanding of God’s Word. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

January 29, 2014 – Matthew 21 – Matching

Below are my thoughts from the daily Bible reading of the West Side Church of Christ. Before reading I invite you to pray and asked God to speak to you as you read his word. Also above in the tabs is a link to the Bible reading plan.

What Does this Passage Say?
  • We are now entering the final week of Jesus life. It is a tremendous week for Jesus. It begins on Sunday with Jesus entering Jerusalem to the joy and praise of the crowds. Jerusalem is buzzing with activity. It is the week of Passover. Jews from all over the world are in town. It is an exciting time to be in the city.
  • Jesus approaches Jerusalem from Bethpage on the Mount of Olives. As Jesus rides down the Mount of Olives on a borrowed donkey (another instance Matthew reminds us was predicted by the prophets) people lined the streets with their bodies and made a carpet from palm branches and their own personal robes. They are really giving Jesus the royal treatment as He comes into this royal city. Not only do they physically pamper Jesus, they also shout praise upon Him. It is striking how different the beginning of this weak is from what will happen at the end of the week.
  • In Luke we will read how Jesus paused on the Mount of Olives before entering Jerusalem. From here Jesus can see the Temple as the most prominent building in Jerusalem. Luke 19:41-44 will tell us that Jesus cries for the Jews. They have been God’s chosen people for a long time, but they are about to reject Jesus and His mission. This breaks Jesus heart. Now back in Matthew Jesus enters Jerusalem during the week and is upset by what the Temple had become. God intended it to be a place of worship, but man made it a place of sin and impure hearts. Jesus is driven by anger … anger is an emotion, emotions by themselves are not wrong, it is what we do when angry that is sinful … to cleanse the Temple. Just how vile the Temple was is illustrated in the hatred of the Pharisees present.
  • This last week of Jesus life He will do some powerful teaching to the crowds and to His disciples. One lesson is with the fig tree. When a tree has leaves it is to a point in the growth cycle that fruit should be growing. While it was not the time for ripe figs, it should have figs. The tree was deceiving. Maybe it grew in poor soil. Maybe something was done that would keep it from having figs that year. For whatever reason, the tree looked healthy, but in reality it was not, it had no figs. Jesus causes this fig tree to wither and die. What an amazing example of the Pharisees. They looked good on the outside, but on the inside they were dead. Like the tree they were deceiving. Jesus is now able to teach His disciples to have real faith.
  • Jesus is done with the Pharisees. He is not done with men. He is not done with His disciples. He is not done with the hurting. He is not done with those He came to save. But He is done with those who are trying to trap Him. Time is short. There is less than a week before His death. By asking a difficult question, He is beginning to silence the Pharisees and set the stage for His death. They knew what was right, but did not live it. The tax collectors, the prostitutes, the common every day sinners did not at first accept what was right, but eventually wised up and accepted what was right. To these, Jesus has compassion and is turning to them!
What is this passage teaching?
  • This entire passage deals with a false sense of reality. Jesus approach to Jerusalem had a feel of a royal king ridding into a royal city. The Temple looked like a place of worship, but in reality was a place of sin. The fig tree looked like it would provide a tasty treat, but it was only fooling with no figs even growing. The Pharisees looked like they loved God and followed Him, but on the inside their hearts were bent on evil and power and greed. The one son looked good, saying he would work for his father but never did so. The other son turned him down, but thought better, and went to work. The landowner did something nice for his neighbors, they were evil in return. They rejected the gift; they rejected the heir, and allowed their greed to win. In just a few days, the Pharisees, while looking good and noble, will lead the charge to crucify Jesus. 
How can I apply this passage to my life?

  • How often do we allow the outside to put on a false showing? Maybe it’s on Sunday morning. Life just is not going well. But you show up to church with a smile on your face, and when asked you say everything is great. Maybe that’s not sin, but you know you are fooling everyone. Maybe you are missing a chance for a blessing. Maybe you look like you have your life in order. You talk a good game about what you are reading in the Bible. You share that you pray and worship and volunteer and even read this blog each day. But when you are home alone you are surfing trash on the internet. You in your own way have allowed yourself to become a Pharisee. It’s time to stop it. It is time to remove the foolish covering and be real. Share your hurts. Share you struggles. Be honest about it. It is not until honesty is shared that real growth and healing and strength will prevail. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

January 28, 2014 – Matthew 20 – God's Grace

Below are my thoughts from the daily Bible reading of the West Side Church of Christ. Before reading I invite you to pray and asked God to speak to you as you read his word. Also above in the tabs is a link to the Bible reading plan.

What Does this Passage Say?
  • Jesus has completely rejected the standards of the Pharisees. He has spoken and taught in ways that others do not. Now as He seeks to establish His kingdom, He is about to go above and beyond what man deems as fair. He illustrates that with a story about a land owner hiring men. In a lot of cultures throughout the world the poor often find work each day instead of having a steady job. They go to the market place and an employer hires them for a predetermined and agreed upon wage. The worker is then paid at the end of the day. Throughout the day In Jesus story more men are added to the workforce. When the day is over, the employer decides to be generous and pays all hired men the same wage regardless of the time they have put in.
  • This angers the men who have been present all day. Jesus compares this decision to be generous to the grace that comes from Christ. It is a teaching that many Christians struggle with, especially those who have been faithful for many years. We often wander why someone who gives a death bed confession is rewarded with the same gift of eternity that the lifelong follower of Jesus is given? We miss the grace that God has chosen to bestow upon mankind.

 What is this passage teaching?
  • God’s grace and forgiveness is for Him to decide. It is God who chose to give grace and salvation to mankind regardless of when they chose Him. It is God who elevates to the proper place in His kingdom, not necessarily Jesus. It is God who heals the pains of this life. This passage is teaching and reminding us that God is in control, and that God has chosen compassion and grace.

How can I apply this passage to my life?
  • One thing I struggle with is people who want the worst for those who have done horrible things. Do not misread me … I am not advocating that there should not be consequences for a man’s sins and the crimes he commits against another man. My argument here is completely about the man’s eternal resting place. It is not for me to decide who God pours His grace upon. Whether it is a man who has lived his entire life following God, or a man who comes to Jesus after doing horrible things, I want all mankind to know and experience the Kingdom of Heaven.

Examine your heart and ask yourself these questions. Do I believe a person as evil as Adolf Hitler should be in Heaven? Do I watch a murder trial like 2013 trail of George Zimmerman and wish the worst for him? Do I see a sexual predator and desire for him to spend eternity in Hell? I am not saying there should not be consequences for these men and their actions. For the crimes committed on earth there should be consequences for those crimes, and I am even ok with the ultimate punishment of death. But at the same time it breaks my heart to know that any person, regardless of the life they have lived, has the chance of spending eternity without God and not in the Kingdom of Heaven. If it does not break your heart that these and others like them may spend eternity in Hell, I believe this is an area you need to start praying about. God’s grace is for all mankind regardless of the wrongs one has committed. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

January 27, 2014 – Matthew 19 – Childlike Faith

Below are my thoughts from the daily Bible reading of the West Side Church of Christ. Before reading I invite you to pray and asked God to speak to you as you read his word. Also above in the tabs is a link to the Bible reading plan.

What Does this Passage Say?
  • We find three separate stories in our reading today that on the surface almost feel like they have nothing in common, but on closer examination there is brilliance in their grouping. The authors of the four gospels often do not tell Jesus story in chronological order. In many regards they group stories and teachings together that follow a similar theme. That is what we have here in chapter nineteen.
  • Jesus is now back in Judea, closer to the home base of many Pharisees, and closer to Jerusalem. He is still drawing larger crowds and some in the crowds are the Pharisees themselves. They are still trying to trap Jesus. They know that God values marriage, but that God allowed divorce through Moses for various reasons. They want to see what Jesus will say. Jesus takes the permissions of the Law of Moses and comes down a little stricter. Maybe Jesus was thinking it is time to get back to their original intention when God ordained the institution of marriage. Here as with many things, the people of Israel are concerned about the letter of the Law and not the heart of the Law.
  • Immediately after this discussion of divorce we read about little children coming to Jesus. His disciples shoo them away. Jesus is not too busy for these children. Jesus doesn’t have any harsh teaching for these children. Jesus doesn’t rebuke these children. Jesus simply blesses these children and proclaims that the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.
  • We finish our reading with a story about a rich young man. This man has lived a righteous life. He comes to Jesus wanting to know what he can do to inherit eternal life. Jesus suggests some things and the man confirms he has kept them all. Then Jesus advises that he sell his possessions and give the proceeds to the poor and follow Him. The rich man is not willing. Jesus points out that keeping the letter of the Law is not enough … that salvation is a heart issue … and then alludes to the grace issue that will be realized in the cross.

 What is this passage teaching?
  • So what three things does each of these stories have in common? The heart of the Law. In the first and last episodes we see grown men concerned with the letter of the law. In the middle story we find children, who are in many regards naive to sin finding praise from Jesus. This is the type of faith Jesus wants us to have; not a faith that is reduced to keeping a bunch of rules and regulation, but a faith that believes and heart that loves. 

 How can I apply this passage to my life?

  • Think about your own life. Do you put your stock of salvation in the things you do? Or is your faith more childlike? What things could you do to make the proper shift from a salvation based off of keeping a bunch of rules to a salvation trusting the grace of God? Begin examining your life and investigating where you have work to do. 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

January 25, 2014 – Psalms 9 & 10 – Letting Go and Letting God

Below are my thoughts from the daily Bible reading of the West Side Church of Christ. Before reading I invite you to pray and asked God to speak to you as you read his word. Also above in the tabs is a link to the Bible reading plan.

As we venture through the Psalms and Proverbs portion of our reading it will take on more of a devotional thought and less of the passage teaching of the New Testament study.

At different times in life we develop conflict with other people. From time to time it may be our spouse, or our children, or a neighbor, or a co-worker, or another parent of a kid on our kids sports teams. Sometimes that conflict will develop to a real deep level of bitterness and possibly even to the point where an enemy is created. How do you handle that in your life? Do you seek to ruin and bring problems to that person with whom you have conflict with? Or do you turn it over to God?

David had a lot of enemies. Whether it was his father-in-law Saul, or his own son Absolom David knew what it was like to be despised. He lived a good chunk of His life on the run from these two men and their supporters. Did he go on the defensive? When it was necessary. Did he go on the offensive? When the time was right. What David mastered was letting God lead. That meant that at times David did nothing and allowed God to bring justice to both of these men. At other times David was patient and allowed God to use him to bring justice to his problems.

Where do you stand? Do you take your problems into your own hand, not relying on God to lead and guide? I think we would be wise to read these Psalms again and see where David’s heart was toward his enemies and learn from him. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

January 23, 2014 – Matthew 17 – Homesick

Below are my thoughts from the daily Bible reading of the West Side Church of Christ. Before reading I invite you to pray and asked God to speak to you as you read his word. Also above in the tabs is a link to the Bible reading plan.

What Does this Passage Say?
  • Jesus does something special for three of His closest disciples. During His ministry Jesus has an interaction with God. He goes up on a mountainside where He interacts with Moses and Elijah. Here God reaffirms Jesus and His mission on the earth. The three disciples with Him are pretty lucky to witness even though they do not get what is going on. This is evident by Peter’s reaction. To be honest this is a passage of scripture that I am still wrestling with in my own understanding and grasp of.
  • Following this Jesus comes off the mountain side to be greeted by a father whose son has been possessed by demons. Jesus remaining disciples have been unsuccessful in removing the demon from the boy who has nearly been destroyed both physically and mentally by these demons. Jesus notes that it is their little faith that kept them from healing this boy. At this point in the narrative they have come so far but have yet so far to go in their walk of faith!

 What is this passage teaching?
  • I think the underlying teaching moment of these two stories is the fact that Jesus does not belong here. On the mountain He was reminded what it means to be with God and that He was God. In the village He is reminded of the dirty ugliness of this earth. This reminder causes Him to cry out … “O unbelieving and perverse generation.” (Matthew 17:17 NIV) For this moment Jesus is homesick here amongst us.

 How can I apply this passage to my life?

  • Do you ever get homesick? I am not talking about taking a vacation and longing to be wherever it is you call your home. I mean do you ever get homesick for heaven? Do you long for the day when you will leave the pains, struggle, tragedies, sickness, and death of this world behind? Do you long for the day when you will feel the glow of God on your face as you worship Him? Do you long for heaven? I believe Jesus certainly did. I believe it is something we should long for. If you do not, examine your heart and ask yourself why you do not. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

January 22, 2014 – Matthew 16 – Do you believe?

Below are my thoughts from the daily Bible reading of the West Side Church of Christ. Before reading I invite you to pray and asked God to speak to you as you read his word. Also above in the tabs is a link to the Bible reading plan.

What Does this Passage Say?
  • This chapter is all about who Jesus is. There is a lot of confusion. The Pharisees and Sadducees certainly understand the claims Jesus is making but their tricks to trap Jesus illustrate that they do not believe in Him. They ask for a sign and Jesus correctly points out that they are reading the sign correctly but unwilling to understand.
  • Following this request for a sign, Jesus disciples struggles in understanding Jesus are evident. Here we find the disciples believing and even devoted to Jesus, but not understanding. Jesus warns against the Pharisees by calling them yeast, but they just do not get it.
  • What a striking difference between education/knowledge and faith. The Pharisees were educated but unwilling to believe. The disciples were mostly uneducated, unable to fully understand but full of faith.
  • Following Peter’s amazing proclamation of who Jesus is, Peter does something incredibly stupid. He has just made the first proclamation of Jesus as Messiah and the Son of God, and now He tries to rebuke God. Jesus is sharing that He is going to die and that death is going to be sooner rather than in old age. Peter does not like this. Now at the heart of this is he still does not understand who Jesus is. For his rebuking of Jesus, Jesus rebukes him and calls Peter Satan. In essence Jesus is fighting the temptation that Satan is throwing in His path to not fulfill His mission. Fortunately for us Jesus is steadfast in His pursuit of us!

 What is this passage teaching?
  • There is a balance that we must strike between knowledge and faith. The Pharisees had knowledge but their knowledge (along with power, greed, and status quo desires) blocked their ability to have faith. The disciples had faith but struggled with knowledge and understanding. What would be ideal is a proper mix of faith and knowledge.

 How can I apply this passage to my life?

  • Where are your pursuits? Are you striving to understand the Bible? I know many who know the Bible well but have no faith in the Bible. Let me suggest balance. Faith with out knowledge is blind and I do not believe God gave us His Word to ask us to live by blind faith. But I also believe that some of what is in the Bible takes faith to believe. Strive for balance in your life!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

January 21, 2014 – Matthew 15 – The heart of God coming to the hurt of man.

Below are my thoughts from the daily Bible reading of the West Side Church of Christ. Before reading I invite you to pray and asked God to speak to you as you read his word. Also above in the tabs is a link to the Bible reading plan.

What Does this Passage Say?
  • Our reading today comes on the heels of Jesus feeding of the five thousand. The crowds are growing and Jesus has begun taking on the Pharisees. They are now ready to kill Him. They come to Jesus looking to entrap Him.
  • They have observed His disciples and realize that they do not wash their hands before eating, a lesson they have undoubtedly learned from Jesus. There are two elements on the table here … the Law of Moses (God’s Law given through Moses) and the Oral Law of the Pharisees. The Oral Law takes the Law of Moses and builds upon it often making things so extreme that it is hard to follow. The Oral Law stated that all good Jews must wash in a ceremonial fashion before any meal. Jesus and His followers are not doing so … this is a perfect example for the Pharisees to try and entrap Jesus.
  • Jesus does not directly answer their question. Because His disciples were breaking the Oral Law and not the Law of Moses Jesus saw no basis for their challenge. However, He knew that their Oral Law caused them to offend the Law of Moses which was a serious offense. We find that in His question about their mother and father. Honoring your parents, no matter your age, was a requirement of the Law. But the religious leaders had found an out.
    • We can turn to Mark 7:11 for a better understanding. In this same discussion Jesus says you dishonor your parents by declaring something Corban. Declaring something as Corban meant you devoted and object … a house, a cart, or any type of resources … to God once you died. When doing so you could not give it to someone else. You could not loan it to someone else. You could not take it from God and give it to another, but you were allowed to use it until you died. This was often done when you did not want someone to have something of yours.
    • So say you had a parent in need. Selling your possession for the finances or giving that possession to your parent in need would be a terrific idea. But if you had labeled it Corban then you could not do it. By not being able to help your parents with the Corban piece you were putting the Oral Tradition above the Law of Moses. Which one offends God? Breaking the Oral Tradition, or breaking His Law?
  • With this discussion Jesus has gotten at the heart of the problem. They are more concerned with their Law than God’s Law. His disciples were not breaking God’s Law by not washing their hands. Filth on the hands does not make you ceremony unclean … it might not be the most hygienic thing to do, but that is not what is at question … what makes you unclean is the filth you allow to fill your mind. What comes in that way is what comes out through your words and actions. That is what offends God. Jesus reminds that God will one day judge based on their fruits!
  • Matthew follows this discussion with a story of Jesus leaving the area and healing the daughter of a Canaanite woman. Canaanites were considered a Gentile. Gentiles were vile people because they did not observe the Law of Moses or the Oral Law. Not only were they unclean, but she was a Canaanite … a long despised people group of the Jews. Jesus mission during His time on earth was not to the Gentiles, but here this woman’s faith in Jesus is huge. What a sticking contrast to the previous discussion … one where Jews were considered unclean by other men for not washing their hands. Here is the great faith of a woman who was genuinely unclean but Jesus helped anyway. This shows the heart of Jesus mission to save all people.
  • Matthew then shares the story of the feeding of the four thousand. This is a similar occurrence to the time where He feed five thousand. Here Jesus heart breaks and He has compassion on the people who have been following Him. I love Jesus. He is willing to go toe to toe with the religious elite of the day and confront their “wrongness,” while at the same time having compassion on those who desperately want to see Him at His core! Where do you find yourself?

 What is this passage teaching?
  • The bulk of our reading today deals with the rules and regulations put on the people by the religious leader and religious observers of the day. They had all sorts of rules that controlled life. Jews evaluated other Jews by their religious observances rather than the condition of their heart. They watched how they observed the Sabbath. They watched their observance of their clean verses unclean lifestyle. They followed that up by observing a strict dress code. What this can lead to is feeling justified by observing Oral Traditions all the while missing God’s expectations like helping the poor, feeding the hungry, and rescuing those who are perishing without God.
  • It’s funny how things really have not changed in the church age. Do we not do the same thing? We observe peoples attendance at church, especially Sunday mornings. We say they are super Christians when they are in attendance on Sunday and Wednesday nights. We teach and preach a healthy diet of all things Christian, and avoidance of things that are not; alcohol, nicotine, and R-rated movies.  We too judge people by what they wear … especially to church and church functions. We are no different, and the results are no different. Now by themselves keeping these things are not wrong. But when we feel justified in our following of Jesus by keeping these things, but are neglecting the needy, or hungry, or not winning souls to Jesus then our focus is in the wrong place.

 How can I apply this passage to my life?

  • Have you spent your life as a Christian strictly observing the churches rules and neglecting the needs of man? If so there is one thing you must do … repent. You are forgiven if you have been saved by Jesus. Repent and begin focusing on the needs of men. I used to attend a church in North Carolina that had as their mission statement connecting the heart of God to the hurt of men. I think that is a very applicable lesson for us. God wants us to follow Him and live righteous lives, but He also has given us, the individuals who make up the church, responsibilities to carry out. Live righteous but do not neglect the hearts and hurts of your family, your communities, and your church. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

January 17, 2014 – Matthew 13 – The Kingdom of Heaven

Below are my thoughts from the daily Bible reading of the West Side Church of Christ. Before reading I invite you to pray and asked God to speak to you as you read his word. Also above in the tabs is a link to the Bible reading plan.

What Does this Passage Say?
  • Jesus lived during a time where most people grew the food they consumed. Some in cities may have purchased food in a market place setting, but still they would have been in touch with what it takes to grow food. Living in our contemporary culture we are not connected as closely with an agrarian culture, but we still for the most part know how plants grow. Jesus audience would have immediately connected with the story Jesus told on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.
  • Today our farming practices are very sophisticated. Most farmers place seeds into bins that sit across the top of a planter. Each bin neatly places seeds in the earth separated into their neat rows with each seed allowed the maximum/minimum space needed to become healthy. That is not what happened in the first century. A farmer would till of the earth with a plow that was pulled by some beast of burden, normally an ox. Then he would simply begin chucking seeds out of a pouch allowing it to fall wherever it fell. Not a very efficient way to scatter seeds. This background sets the scene for Jesus story.
  • Jesus disciples have heard His stories before. They often don’t get them, and wander why He teaches this way. Basically Jesus tells them He teaches in stories to better help people understand the Kingdom of Heaven and His mission. Story telling is a very effective communication tool. Jesus teaching and the complexity of it to the hearers is again something predicted by the prophets of old that Matthew reminds us of.
  • Jesus purpose in telling this story is to compare the seed with the seed of the good news of what Jesus is doing. Some will fall on good soil; others will fall on shallow soil, others on rocky soil, and others on the path. Each type of soil will produce different results. So the same will be with our preaching and teaching of the Gospel of Jesus.
  • Jesus then illustrates that our preaching and teaching won’t be easy. He did so by using another agrarian illustration. A farmer sowed seed and his enemy came behind him and sowed a weed that looks similar to the good seed. We are going to face something similar. While we preach truth, our world is going to constantly preach negative; preach lust, greed, self-indulgence, sex, and so many things that are not of God. God will be the one to separate at the ends days the good from the bad. We must preach regardless the soil, regardless the other messages bombarding, God will judge. Jesus reinforces that with the fishing story towards the end of the reading.
  • The next two stories of Jesus are about yeast and mustard seeds. Both represent small things that blossom into big things. Yeast causes bread to rise. A mustard seed becomes a large plant. While Jesus kingdom will start small, it will not remain small. We have work to do.
  • Do you seek after God and His kingdom, and the life that came with it? You should. It holds more value than anything on this earth. That is the way the man who found a treasure felt. He sold all he had to buy a field because the treasure was worth more than the field and more than all his possessions. This is the value of the Kingdom of Heaven.

 What is this passage teaching?
  • All but the last section of this chapter deal with the Kingdom of Heaven. We have a responsibility in building and growing the Kingdom of Heavy. Jesus outlines that we are to constantly be chucking the seed of the gospel, allowing it to fall in many different places. It won’t be easy. The devil is out there filling the minds of those we are chucking seeds to with his own destructive message. But God will judge all. To those whom the good seeds take hold, they will become part of the Kingdom of Heaven and while they may be few in number, they will permeate culture and they will have the power to transform the world.

 How can I apply this passage to my life?

  • You and I are the mustard seed. It may seem that the church in America is getting smaller and smaller, and it may be. But we must remember that we are mustard seeds. We have the mission and responsibility of taking the message of the gospel to all the world. Letting people know about the Kingdom of Heaven. Don’t see it as an uphill battle. View it as a responsibility regardless of the struggles that it entails. 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

January 16, 2014 – Matthew 12 – The Heart of the Law

Below are my thoughts from the daily Bible reading of the West Side Church of Christ. Before reading I invite you to pray and asked God to speak to you as you read his word. Also above in the tabs is a link to the Bible reading plan.

What Does this Passage Say?
  • So far Jesus has been pretty mild in his dealings with the Pharisees. He has had a few run-ins with them, but nothing that has truly got their blood boiling. That is about to change. For a while they have been questioning Jesus and getting a little agitated. Now they find Him and His disciples breaking the Mosaic Law; by plucking grain off the plant.
    • The Pharisees have taken the Law and imposed it upon the nation of Israel in a way God never intended. They have written thousands of rules and explanations to the Law that made it almost impossible to keep. They blame the disciples for harvesting grain. Harvesting grain is not easy work. It requires plucking grain and then the threshing of the grain. To harvest a field would require a lot of manual labor, labor that was forbidden in the Law. But what the disciples are doing is not mass harvesting, they are plucking grain, rubbing it in their hands and then eating. This hardly constitutes work.
    • The problem here is not the written Law of Moses; it is the oral law and traditions of the Pharisees. They have exasperated the Law. Here Jesus corrects them. He connects what they are doing to what David and his men did when eating the consecrated bread used for the offerings to God. By connecting Himself with David Jesus is making a bold claim.
  • This scene is followed by Mathew writing about the Pharisees trying to trap Jesus. Jesus responds to their questions with logic. If there was a great need they too would break the law to keep that need alive: i.e. a sheep in a well. Jesus reminds them that they have missed the heart of the law in their oral traditions. Knowing they were outsmarted Jesus is permitted to heal the man’s hand. While they may have back away and permitted Jesus without any further intrusion, their hearts are really begin to burn against Jesus, now plotting to kill Him.
  • These Pharisees are not going to relent. They are looking for opportunities to entrap Jesus. They watch Him cast out a demon and claim that He must be a tool of Satan. Jesus throws there logic in front of them. It makes no sense. Why would Satan battle against himself? Families feuding, nations at war with themselves, churches with disruption will never remain united! No Jesus is not from Satan, He is greater than Satan, He has the power to hold him up and plunder him. Again this is a bold claim for Jesus to make.
  • The attacks of Jesus have only begun. No matter what Jesus does, the Pharisees are going to associate with Him bad fruit, even though the evidence suggests other wise. Jesus knows this. He knows why He came. He knows this will all end in His death. He reminds them that He is God, that He is bigger than Nineveh, that He is far more powerful than the Queen of Sheba. He is greater than all these because He is God. His fruit will eventually win out, after three days and three nights in the belly of the earth as Jonah was in the belly of the fish. And then, all those who belong to God, and serve God, and live for God, will be heirs alongside Jesus with the eternal blessing of life in the presence of God.
 What is this passage teaching?
  • The Law of Moses existed to teach and lead Israel as to what God defined as sin. If a person could keep the entirety of the Law they were 100% righteous, with no need for salvation. However, that is not possible. As fallible humans we have no shot at keeping the Law. There are moments in our life were anger slips in even when we do not want it to. There are moments in our life where we lust even when we try our best not to. There are moments in our life were we doubt, struggle, and try to do life on our own. We cannot keep the Law. But the Pharisees thought they could. They created their own Law, their own oral traditions that paved a way for the people of Israel. It became even harder for people living in Jesus day to keep the Law. In doing so Israel has lost the heart of the Law. They are trying to earn salvation on their own merit. Even for them looking forward to the cross they were not saved by their works, but by Jesus work. Matthew spends this entire chapter illustrating the missing of the heart of the Law. The heart of the Law is summed up in Jesus quote … “I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.” (Matthew 12:7b NLT).

 How can I apply this passage to my life?

  • So where do you stand on keeping the Law? Are you focused on the strict observance of faith, or do you live understanding grace, understanding the heart of the Law. The Law still has importance for us today … it still shows and teaches us what God defines as sin. But we are not saved by keeping the Law. We are saved by the work of Jesus, the blood and life shed by Jesus. Jesus paid our ransom. Now that does not give us freedom to do whatever we want … by no means. Being saved by grace should make us appreciative of Jesus and what He has done for us. It should force us to live lives that honor Him in all aspects. So how are you doing at keeping the Law? Are you living it out of religious obligation, living as a Pharisee, or are you living it out of gratitude for the salvation you have?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

January 15, 2014 – Matthew 11 – Childlike Faith

Below are my thoughts from the daily Bible reading of the West Side Church of Christ. Before reading I invite you to pray and asked God to speak to you as you read his word. Also above in the tabs is a link to the Bible reading plan.

What Does this Passage Say?
  • Jesus gave instructions in our last chapter to His disciples to send them out on their preaching, teaching, and healing journey. We can assume He sent them out. While they are out on their own, Jesus continues doing what He has been doing.
  • His relative, John the Baptist, has been arrested for his own preaching and teaching. Whether John is confused or just unsure of exactly who Jesus is we do not necessarily know. We know that his life is shortly going to be taken from him. Maybe he is reflecting on life and wanting to be assured that it was not a waste and that Jesus really was the Messiah. So he sends his own disciples to ask Jesus.
  • Jesus confirmed John’s question by presenting the evidence. The evidence strongly suggests that Jesus is the Messiah. All that the scripture talk about concerning the Messiah Jesus has done. John’s life was not lived in vain.
  • Jesus then reminds the people who John was. He was not a polished man or even a wealthy man. He was a prophet sent by God to prepare the way for Jesus. He is the man that the Old Testament writers prophesied would come. John played a special rule in the Kingdom of Heaven, leading the way for Jesus.
  • Matthew takes a unique turn in verse twenty. At first glance it seems he is going onto a different topic about faith. But let’s connect the dots. He has just finished sharing what Jesus stated about John the Baptist. It takes some level of faith to believe that John was who he claimed to be, who the scripture predicted he would be, and who Jesus said he would be. Jesus carries on this idea of faith and belief that one must have to follow Jesus.
 What is this passage teaching?
  • The underlying principle of this chapter is belief. John questioned his belief in Jesus. The crowds in a lot of ways had no idea who John was to rightfully believe in him. The cities that Jesus ministered to struggled to understand who Jesus was which lead to very little belief in the claims He made. Jesus then concludes this passage with a plea to God thanking him for childlike faith needed to believe in Jesus. Childlike faith doesn’t take much convincing. Childlike faith reacts on basic belief and understanding. This can be a good thing. Jesus then utter the famous words … “for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30 NIV). Jesus knows it is not the definitive proof that draws us to him, but childlike faith and the broken weary moments of life. For that Jesus is ready with His arms open wide.

 How can I apply this passage to my life?

  • What leads you to doubt? What leads you to question Jesus? Jesus does not make belief in Him something hard to grasp. He compares it to childlike faith. All these people who encountered Jesus had the evidence of miracles, healings, and the casting out of demons. But they did not believe or have faith. Their reaction to Jesus will eventually be to chant “Crucify!” We are not witnesses to the miracles, healing, and the casting out of demons. We have to have childlike faith. We have to take the evidence presented before us and believe in Him through it. If your faith is wavering dive in and examine why. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

January 14, 2014 – Matthew 10 – Preparing for Evangelism

Below are my thoughts from the daily Bible reading of the West Side Church of Christ. Before reading I invite you to pray and asked God to speak to you as you read his word. Also above in the tabs is a link to the Bible reading plan.

What Does this Passage Say?
  • Jesus has spent nearly a year with his band of Disciples. He is now ready to send them out to preach, teach, heal and cast out spirits on their own. I love Jesus strategy here. He wants to see how they “preform.” One day in the future the church is going to rely on their preaching and teaching. Now, while He is still with them, it is a prime time to teach them, encourage them, and correct them after their preaching tours.
  • Here Matthew gives the full list of the twelve disciples; all but one will become Apostles. This list seems to group the disciples in the pairs that Jesus sent them out in. By sending the disciples out in pairs Jesus is meeting the Mosaic Law that requires two or three witnesses. Now before Jesus sends them out He has some instructions to give.
  • These instructions prepare the men for their journey. These instructions Jesus gives are both for His disciples and their mission and for us today. Their message and our message are going to be slightly different.
    • Jesus command to go only to Israel does not remain for us. They are on a preaching tour for training purposes. Plus their message would fall on deaf ears with Gentiles, and would be time consuming with Samaritans. The idea that the Kingdom of Heaven is near is completely false today. The Kingdom of Heaven is here and can be reached by all who put their faith and trust in Jesus today. Remember, this mission of the disciples is before the death of Jesus.
    • Jesus instructs His disciples to travel light. This is going to be a quick and local trip. Later Jesus will give different instructions that include money, clothes, and much more preparation. Not only are they to travel light, but they are to stay put. They do not have the time to move from house to house and town to town. Moving too often can waste valuable resources and time.
    • There is a practical lesson to be learned in this passage … those who are receiving blessings from God have a responsibility to bless those who have shared Jesus. The activity of preaching, teaching, healing, and caring for sickness does not come without any expense. While ministry is not there to make servants of God rich, ministers still need basic expenses covered. Jesus has arranged that those being ministered to supply the needs of those doing the ministry. This applies to us today in supporting a paid ministry staff and supply the resources needed to carry out ministry.
  • Jesus wants His disciples to be prepared for the different type of people they will encounter on their travels.  At this time they are in no danger. Jesus is still popular. The Pharisees hate of Jesus is just beginning. Some of this teaching is prophetic in nature. This does not happen on this trip, but we know that one day all of these disciples (except Judas) will face persecution for preaching Jesus.
    • Jesus reminds the disciples that people can be wicked. They will at times face persecution because of this wickedness. When persecution comes upon them they are to leave, not fight back. There will be others whose hearts and minds will be open to receiving the message of the gospel. Go to them Jesus teaches.
    • No matter what they are not to fear their persecutors. Jesus reminds that there will be a day when the pains of this earth will be gone and glory of Heaven will be present. No matter what is done to the body, those in Christ will have the eternal reward for their souls in the presence of God in Heaven. What a glorious reminder!!!
    • Jesus reminded the disciples that even thought this mission in the future might be tough, and their reward great, through it all God knows them, loves them, and will protect them. Because of that they can have confidence to proudly share the good news of the Kingdom of Heaven to all they encounter. For this the reward is great.

 What is this passage teaching?
  • Jesus does not want His disciples to believe preaching and teaching the Kingdom of Heaven will be easy. It would not be easy. It will be met with opposition. It will be met with frustrations. It will be met with hardships. But through it all there is a great reward … eternity with God. What a wonderful blessing that is for those who steadfastly follow Jesus and share His kingdom.

 How can I apply this passage to my life?

  • As a disciple of Jesus we have the responsibility to share with all we encounter Jesus. We will do well to remember the words of Jesus and the reality that preaching and teaching His kingdom will not be easy. No matter how difficult it may be we can also take comfort and find strength knowing that in Him our reward is great. No matter how much opposition we face, no matter how tough evangelizing might be, there will come a day when we find rest. His rest is the best rest. His rest is for eternity. His rest takes us into the very arms of God. That is a rest I am willing to put my life on the line for. Are you? 

Monday, January 13, 2014

January 13, 2014 – Matthew 9 – Taking on your Critics

Below are my thoughts from the daily Bible reading of the West Side Church of Christ. Before reading I invite you to pray and asked God to speak to you as you read his word. Also above in the tabs is a link to the Bible reading plan.

Thank you to everyone who kept our trip to TCTC in your prayers. We returned with everyone healthy and safe. We thank you for the prayers that God would move and work as He challenged our students. Please continue to keep them in your prayers as they continue to grow closer to God.

What Does this Passage Say?
  • Jesus returns from His travels back to Capernaum. This is where He has made His home base for His first year of ministry. It is here we assume He has stayed in the home of Peter. For the first time in Jesus ministry He is about to be met with critics.
  • Jesus is widely popular. He has attracted a great number of crowds to Him. No doubt the news of Jesus has spread all throughout Israel. The religious leaders have gathered to hear Jesus talk. It is early in His ministry. At his point they really do not have issue with Jesus. But that is about to change.
  • Jesus is brought a paralytic man and instead of just healing him, Jesus first forgives the man’s sins. This was a blasphemous act for Jesus to preform. Only God Himself can forgive sins. What the accusers do not get is the fact that Jesus is God in the flesh. Not understanding who it is Jesus is makes their response to Jesus act completely reasonable.
  • This is not the end of the road for Jesus and controversy. Immediately after this Matthew has inserted his own calling to be a disciple into the narrative. Is this the chronological place Matthew was called? Probably not, but in the narrative it fits. Here Jesus is meeting opposition for forgiving a man’s sins. Now Jesus will find opposition for the company He keeps. Matthew, also known as Levi, is a tax collector. He is a Jew who has gotten into bed with the Roman government, collecting taxes, often unfairly, for an empire that oppressed Israel. He was hated, despised, and seen as a sinner by his fellow country men. Now Jesus is calling him to discipleship and even eating in His home.
  • Through all of this opposition and question Jesus is met with humility. A synagogue ruler came to Jesus in need of His healing ability. His daughter has died. The funeral has begun … Jewish funerals began within hours of death since they did not embalm a body. Whether this ruler criticized Jesus for his blasphemous acts we do not know. Regardless, he comes to Jesus seeking His power. Jesus not only heals this man’s daughter but also a woman who has been bleeding for over a decade. Jesus has compassion on the hurting.
  • Jesus has the ability to amaze people. His healing of the deaf and mute, the blind and cripple, and even the demon possessed has amazed the communities around Him. They are astonished. But their amazement is not the reaction of the Pharisees. For the first time they are beginning to be doubtful of who he is. They have no answer so they immediately think it is the work of Satan. Sadly they are wrong and unwilling to remove the blinders they have put over their eyes.  
  • The opposition and the hurting people Jesus encounter causes Him to realize just how messed up the human race is. Maybe for a moment Jesus encounters the reality of His mission and the great need for grace. Jesus does not look at the glass half empty but half full. He knows that the harvest can be plentiful if the right numbers of workers are at work.

What is this passage teaching?
  • I think in many regards we attack the Pharisees and other religious leaders too much. Many times their reaction to Jesus is due to their ego and their fear of a loss of power if He becomes King. But at other times I believe they struggle with the idea of change. They struggle to understand that even though what Jesus is doing is different it is still right. They struggle sometimes not because of ego and sin in their lives but because of a lack of knowledge and understanding of who the Messiah is to be. At times, I believe they are acting in full confidence that they are serving God. Unfortunately they are serving God in a wrong way.

How can I apply this passage to my life?
  • So how do you respond to your critics? How do you handle those who believe you are living wrongly for God when in reality all you are doing is honoring Him in a different way? I believe the first step is looking at their life and mindset trying to understand where they are coming from. Maybe they feel they are doing everything in their power to honor God with the choices they have made and criticism they have shared.  Maybe instead of being frustrated and hurtful, it is time to turn and show love and understanding to their struggle over change. If we were to do that, then maybe more and more we could have civil edifying conversations.
  • Maybe you are the one that is struggling with change. Maybe you feel that others are doing things that are blasphemous for a true follower of Jesus to do. Instead of being like the Pharisees and allowing hate to brew in your heart; have an open, honest, and love filled discussion with those you struggle with.