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. 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

January 12, 2014 – Psalms 5 & 6 – Taking a New but Old Approach

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.

Please say an extra prayer today. Nearly 20 West Side Christians and Teens are in Gatlinburg for the Tennessee Christian Teen Convention. Pray that our travels home today will be safe. Pray that the challenges our teens experienced will stick beyond this weekend. Pray that any bonds created during this weekend will grow when we return home. Pray that our teens will be ambassadors for Christ in their schools.

What Does this Passage Say?
  • David has an amazing ability to articulate the attributes of God. He correctly labels God’s disdain for wickedness. He also shows that God delights in righteousness and offers protection to those who chase him.
  • David battles with worry and agony. While he battles he also understands where he must go … he must go to God. David has faith that God has heard him, he does not question it. He might still be in agony, but he knows this truth; God cares and hears his every longing of David’s heart.

What is this passage teaching?
  • One aspect I love about the Psalms is that they teach us how to praise God. They give us so many insights into the character of God. They show us the love and care God provides. They show us the righteous judgment that God must operate under. Simply put they give us a word picture of our savior.

How can I apply this passage to my life?

  • Does your prayer life struggle? Do you struggle to praise God in your time of prayer? Do you find the majority of your prayer is requests? If so spend time reading the Psalms. Even start to pray the Psalms. By doing so you will learn to praise God, worship God, and then follow up with your own personal supplication and requests. You might just see a huge change in your attitude and appreciation for God! 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

January 11, 2014 – Psalms 3 & 4 – Try Making God your Source of Strength

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.

Please say an extra prayer today. Nearly 20 West Side Christians and Teens are in Gatlinburg for the Tennessee Christian Teen Convention. Pray that our travels will be safe. Pray that our teens will be challenged to follow Christ more closely with their lives. Pray that our youth group will bond tighter during our time away.

What Does this Passage Say?
  • Psalm 3 is a Psalm of David. David was the second King of Israel after his father-in-law Saul. David famously committed adultery with the wife of Uriah the Hittite (One of David’s Mighty Men), Bathsheba. Their son conceived in their affair died. Because of this sin God allowed disruption to take place in his family. One of the major disruptions was his son Absalom stealing the heart of the people and ousting David as king. During this time David is on the run. It is with this context David writes the words of Psalm 3.
    • David has found he has many enemies, but he knows who is on his side … God. He has put trust in God and is crying out to God to lead him, sustain him, and protect him.
  • Psalm 4 is another Psalm of David. We are not given much context for the writing of this Psalm. David is again going through a rough time in his life. Maybe this is when he is on the run from his father-in-law Saul. Maybe it is during a war as king. Maybe it is when he is running from Absalom. We do not know when it is, but he knows this, God again is his strength and it is God he is turning to. This song of David also calls for his countrymen, other Israelites, to call on God, to make Him number one, and live for him with their lives. David will take comfort and strength from God.

 What is this passage teaching?
  • Both of these passages show us where David’s security came from. David did not find strength in his own power and ability. David did not turn to others to secure him. David in his time of need turned to God.

 How can I apply this passage to my life?

  • David was a beacon of light for his countrymen. He not only challenged them to turn to God he demonstrated it in his own life. Will you take David’s challenge and turn to God? Will you take David’s challenge and draw strength from God and God alone? God protected David and brought him through many storms. God will do the same for you if you will turn to him. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

January 10, 2014 – Matthew 8 – Turning to Faith in Jesus Power

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.

Please say an extra prayer today. Nearly 20 West Side Christians and Teens are in Gatlinburg for the Tennessee Christian Teen Convention. Pray that our travels will be safe. Pray that our teens will be challenged to follow Christ more closely with their lives. Pray that our youth group will bond tighter during our time away.

What Does this Passage Say?
  • Our reading today focuses on Jesus power. Not only was Jesus the Son of God but He was God incarnate which means God in the flesh. Jesus had control over everything in creation. We see that when He heals the man’s leprosy. We experience His power over paralysis. We are marveled when we He heals Peters mother-in-law from her fever. We witness Jesus have power over the demons of the spiritual world. We are amazed as He speaks and calms the wind and the waves. And we are astonished when He cast the demons out into a herd of pigs. In this one chapter we see Jesus’ power over sickness, the spiritual world, and the physical laws of nature. Jesus is truly God in the flesh.
  • Not only does this chapter highlight Jesus power, it also highlights what it is that invokes Jesus power …faith. The man with leprosy had faith that Jesus was able to heal him. The centurion’s faith amazed Jesus. These were people who were only given a glimpse of Jesus and they had great depths of faith.
  • The people who shock us the most are Jesus own disciples. They are in a boat, rocking on the waves and scared for their lives. Jesus rebukes their lack of faith. They should have the greatest level of faith, they are with Jesus constantly, yet they have the weakest amount of faith. This is immediately contrasted by Matthew when pointing to the demons. They know who Jesus is. There is no level of faith on their part. They have seen Jesus from the beginning of time. They do not have faith; they have 100% belief in Jesus and His power and ability.

What is this passage teaching?
  • This chapter teaches us a great lesson in faith. When we are willing to have faith, to put our trust in Jesus we can be confident that there is nothing more powerful than Him. He has power over sickness. He has power over the spiritual world. He has power over the physical laws of nature. We should take comfort in that knowledge. With that comfort and knowledge we can have faith in allowing Jesus to lead our lives.

How can I apply this passage to my life?

  • Are you currently going through the storms of life? Are you facing a sickness? Are you battling the temptation of Satan? Are you struggling with your finances? Has a physical calamity struck you and your family that you did not see coming? Where is your faith? Are you like the centurion or are you like the disciples? Try faith in Jesus for the next thirty days, relying on His strength and power and see if you find any strength and relief. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

January 9, 2014 – Matthew 7 – Establishing a Heart Built on Jesus Foundation

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 conclude Jesus famous Sermon on the Mount. For my previous thoughts you can access them by clicking here for chapter five and clicking here for chapter six.
  • Have you heard it said that Christians are not to judge others? What thoughts flow through your mind? Most people that I have had this discussion with center around the idea that in no way should we judge another person. That is not Jesus intention here.
    • Mark Moore indicates that the Greek word used for judge here is krinō. This word can mean “to analyze” or “evaluate” or even “to condemn.”[i] With these three possible understandings we can derive what Jesus is indicating here in this discussion. Jesus is not saying we should not see others and not judge their behavior. We would be wrong if we notice a brother in sin and not offer correct teachings, discipleship, help, and mentorship. That is the analyze understanding of judgment.
    • To help understand judging better we can turn to this same sermon in the Luke’s gospel and get a different word translation. The translators of the NIV chose the word condemn in Luke 6:37. Since krinō can mean analyze, evaluate, or condemn we can understand that Jesus prohibition here was condemnation. Jesus tells us it is not our place to judge a man’s soul and standing before God. To in love show a brother his faults and his sins is noble and helpful. The key to all of that is love.
    • If Jesus intended for us to not judge and not help our brothers He would have never said, “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your won eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:5 NIV) We have a responsibility to care for our brothers and sisters in Christ. But as we care for them we must be cognoscente of our own struggles; continually working to eliminate our sins and faults.
  • The final sections of this sermon by Jesus are sort of conclusions to the entire sermon. In essence they are Jesus returning to what he has already said and putting a ribbon on it like a nicely wrapped package.
    • He returns to the teaching of prayer, the idea of asking God like he taught in the Lord ’s Prayer of chapter six.
    • He reminds us of the Kingdom of Heaven. Before in the Beatitudes He included two that talked about the Kingdom of Heaven as an inheritance. Neither of the two elements are pleasant. Jesus reminds us that the gate of Heaven is narrow. When Jesus speaks these words He is yet to go to the cross. The time is not ready to reveal what the Kingdom of Heaven is exactly. But we know. We know that Jesus is the narrow gate, that He is the only gate to Heaven. It takes faith and belief in Him and nothing else to enter.
    • Jesus spoke earlier in the Sermon about those who lived strictly according to the Law. He has already said He will take the Law to the next level, that He has come to fulfill it. But Jesus also wants to remind that there is going to be some who will come bearing fruit that is not of God. They will claim to be of God, but in reality they are pawns of Satan. The way to enter the Kingdom is to call Jesus Lord, to elevate Him to a high position of authority.
  • Jesus concludes this sermon by sharing that his words are the foundation for all of life. He illustrates this with the idea of wise and foolish builders. One built on a foundation of Sand. I used to live in Easter North Carolina during college. I would visit the Outer Banks often during my four years there. I always thought it was foolish that we built so much on the Outer Banks, a barrier of nothing but sand. A few years ago a hurricane (possibly a tropical storm) came roaring in completely opening up a new water passage way between the Atlantic Ocean and Sound cutting off of any vehicular travel to all points south. Jesus would call this type of building foolish. On the other hand He praises the builder who builds upon the foundation of rock. Jesus says that building our faith and lives upon His words is like building upon the foundation of rock.

What is this passage teaching?
  • Jesus has focused on the heart in previous parts of this sermon. Today’s reading is no different. He is still calling for us to examine our heart. When we judge others, with what type of heart are we doing so … a heart to condemn or a heart of love to build up and encourage? Jesus encourages us to have a heart of prayer, a heart that seeks God and the goodness He provides. Jesus asks us to have a heart that seeks Him for salvation and nothing else. Jesus warns us to protect our heart for false prophets and teachers, to seek those who bear good fruit and to bear good fruit for others to see ourselves. Jesus asks us to build our hearts upon His foundation and nothing else.

How can I apply this passage to my life?
  • Let me encourage you to apply the lesson of judgment to your life. Jesus asks, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eyes and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3 NIV) There is nothing wrong looking out for your brother; in fact it is a great need in our churches today. But before we begin looking out for each other, we must check our heart, our motives, and even our own actions. What one thing can you identify that you need to remove; what beam, what log, what plank, is driving your life that you can eradicate in 2014? Begin working on that. Also learn to judge your brother without condemnation.

[i] Moore, Mark. The Chronological Life of Christ. 1. Joplin: College Press, 1996. 210. Print.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

January 8, 2014 – Matthew 6 – A new and exciting blessing!

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 in the middle of His famous Sermon on the Mount. He is teaching on a Mountainside near the northern sections of the Sea of Galilee, near the town of Capernaum. As most teachers of the day did Jesus is sitting down. What we are privy to is only about fifteen minutes of His sermon. While what we have recorded for us might be the entire sermon, it is safe to assume we are only given a small glimpse.
  • Chapter five dealt with matters of the heart especially those pertaining to public moral behavior. Chapter six of Jesus sermon will deal more with the religious duties of the Jews. We must remember that Jesus is early in His ministry. While there is a timeless truth to what Jesus teaches here, He is speaking to a Jewish audience still living under the law. He is nearly three years before His death, burial, and resurrection. He will not usher in the church age until after all that takes place. While Jesus teaching helps direct our lives in a grace supplied system we must remember His original audience.
  • Why do you give? Do you give so others may praise you? Or do you give so that Jesus will be glorified and people in need will be helped? That is the question Jesus wants you to ask yourself.
  • Prayer is simple but hard. Prayer is our communication tool with God. He speaks to us through nature, through worship, through others, and through His Word. We speak to Him through prayer. We must be careful not to pray in a way that makes us look good, but do so in a way that connects us with God. That is the purpose of prayer to connect us with God.
  • Fasting is something that has been greatly lost in the church age. From time to time Christians do it, but it is not practiced like it once was. When Jesus spoke to His audience He spoke in a way were He assumed they were going to be fasting. He gave instructions on fasting. Again He reminds them that it is a spiritual blessing and connection with God, not something they are doing to glorify themselves with others.
  • Your heart is very important to your walk with God. If your heart is dark, your eyes will only see darkness. Have you ever meet someone who sees the world through a negative lens? Unfortunately that person has allowed darkness to fill their hearts and guide their life. Whatever controls our hearts is what controls our lives. Jesus suggests that we turn to heaven, a place of beauty and light, a place where we will reside with God. When this is dominating our lives darkness cannot.
  • God provides for those who cannot provide for themselves; the lilies of the field and the birds of the air. God loves and cares for us much more than them. Because of this truth we should not let worry fill our minds. If we are willing to work and trust then God will provide for us our every need. That does not mean abundance. That does not mean we will not have moments of struggle. But our needs will be met and with that we can cast worry out the window.  

 What is this passage teaching?
  • Jesus focus on encouraging His audience was again for them to check their heart in the religious duties. For what motives and reasons do you follow God’s Law? For the Jews it was an idea of looking forward, to pleasing God for the purpose of salvation. And, if they looked good to others, then they must be a very righteous and godly person. As Christians living after the cross we are not saved by keeping the Law, we are saved by the work of Jesus on the cross. There is nothing you and I can do to gain salvation; it is all the work of Jesus. Therefore we do not seek righteousness for the purpose of salvation but to honor God in appreciation of salvation. This mindset is what Jesus is trying to convey to His audience. They too are not saved by keeping the Law because no one could keep the Law. As humans we are too imperfect to do so. They too are saved by God’s grace. For them it was an anticipated reality. So Jesus looks at them and advises check your heart. Check your motives for your prayer, your fasting, and your generosity.

How can I apply this passage to my life?
  • So what is your motive for the way you worship, pray, fast, give, or do anything for Jesus? Remember, it is for God’s glory, not ours that we live a life of praise and worship. In the future do not look at your worship and righteous living as earning your salvation. Look at is a way to store up treasures in heaven. When we store up treasures in heaven it already assumes we have a place in heaven reserved for us. If we have a life changing relationship with Jesus then we have a place in heaven reserved. What we do here on earth in essence is building our treasures in heaven.
  • While it has a future blessing to it, our worship and righteous living has a here and now blessing to it as well. Remember you are worshiping God in the flesh. Not only does it praise Him but it also blesses you. Have you ever worshiped and felt a blessing from it? Have you ever walked away from worship and felt closer to God when complete? The change of heart and approach will help all of this materialize as well. When we move from the idea that I am saving myself to the idea that I am blessing and praising God a new world of worship opens up; a new and wonderful world!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

January 7, 2014 – Matthew 5 – Giving your heart to Jesus.

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 very early in His ministry; but exactly how early we do not know. The book of Matthew is not a chronological telling of the life of Jesus. We can assume that the full cast of twelve disciples has been collected by this point.

This is known as Jesus Sermon on the Mount. Mark Moore, former college professor and author writes, “This is the greatest sermon ever given. It is also the most quoted. In it we find the epitome of Jesus’ teaching – radical, sensible, spiritual, and almost vicious in its demolition of hypocrisy. It flies in the face of every culture it enters. It pierces every heart that hears it. We attempt to dissect it with an exegetical scalpel only to find that we, not the text, are under examination.”[i]

Jesus begins His sermon by sharing things that God provides blessings for. These blessings are God comforting and protecting those willing to follow Him and seek Him out.

Jesus then reminds His audience, Jews, that they have a purpose in carrying out … to be the salt and light of the world. They have responsibility as the nation of God’s choosing to be the ones to tell about God, who He is, and what He has done.

When Jesus speaks the Jews are still living under the Law of Moses. This Law has shaped their society … in good and bad ways. They have often taken the Law apart and followed it in ways God did not intend. Jesus reminds that righteousness, not simply observance of the Law, is what God is really after.

From here Jesus begins teaching bout relationships from anger, adultery, divorce, vows, revenge, and loving our enemies. Jesus teaching was radical in many ways. He took what the Law said and even ramped it up a notch. Jesus was more focused on your heart then on strict observance to the Law.

What is this passage teaching?
The blessings that start this sermon off with are often known as The Beatitudes. They are matters of the heart. They demonstrate how your heart should react to those around you and how it should respond to God. For a proper heart, God will bless. What is great is Jesus keeps this heart discussion going. When he talks about being salt and light it is all about changing the heart of those who are far from God. When Jesus talks about the Law, He is reminding them that they have lost the heart of the Law. Jesus is more concerned with our hearts than He is with anything else.

How can I apply this passage to my life?
So where is your heart at? Are you madly in love with Jesus? Or are you following Him because that is what you are supposed to do? Jesus is more concerned with your heart than anything else. He wants you to desire Him. He wants you to follow, not because you fear the alternative, but because you love Him with all your being. Where is your heart at?

[i] Moore, Mark. The Chronological Life of Christ. 1. Joplin: College Press, 1996. 171. Print.

Monday, January 6, 2014

January 6, 2014 – Matthew 4 – Overcoming Temptation

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?
  • After Jesus is baptized by John He heads alone out into the wilderness to spend forty days and night fasting and praying. Jesus baptism marks the beginning of His ministry. But before He can do ministry He must first test His strength. Like Israel before entering the promise land, Jesus spends forty days confirming His ability to stand against Satan. If He can stand against Satan and his temptation, then nothing will overcome Him as He carries out the mission He was born for.
  • Satan temps Jesus three different ways. Temptation #1 is the Lust of the Flesh. Temptation #2 is boastful pride of Life. Temptation #3 is the Lust of the Eyes. Jesus overcomes all three of these temptations by quoting scripture.
  • When Jesus proves He is stronger than Satan He is ready to begin His public ministry. John has been arrested, and Jesus knows His mission is similar so He leaves the hotbed of Judea and heads home to Galilee where Nazareth, Jesus hometown, is located. It is here He bounces around the region to various towns. Again Matthew reminds his Jewish audience that Jesus is fulfilling prophecy. Jesus message is similar to John’s. It too is a message of repentance.
  • Jesus knows that His time on earth will be limited. He must leave His mission and message in trustworthy hands. He does so by calling disciples. The first disciples He calls are fishermen. Jesus uses a neat play on words and tells them He will make them fishers of men. After calling Andrew and Peter He finds more fishermen, James and John, and calls them too. The first four disciples have been selected.
  • Jesus ministry is not the ordinary ministry of other Rabbis. Jesus certainly teaches, but he also preforms miracles, healing disease and illnesses, casting out demons, and healing the paralyzed. This drove crowds to Jesus from all over the Jewish territories. Jesus was a popular man.

  What is this passage teaching?
  • This chapter gives us some insight into the early days of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus stood strong against the temptations of Satan giving Him a firm foundation to stand against the struggles that the role of Messiah would give Him.
  • The early days of any mission are often faced with both ups and downs. Jesus left Judea because of the pressure His relative John was facing. Back home He experienced the glory of the mission … calling disciples and attracting crowds.

 How can I apply this passage to my life?

  • When you face temptation how do you respond? Do you give in to it believing you do not have the strength to stand strong? Do you walk away, but in your mind long for the temptation? Do you stand strong? If so how do you do it? Jesus was tempted in ways you and I are tempted … lust of the flesh, boastful pride, and lust of the eyes. Each temptation Jesus fought with Old Testament scripture. We would be wise to learn from Jesus. The first step to living that out is committing to memory the Word of God. Maybe a good action step for you is to make it a habit to learn one new verse each week. If you do so, at the end of the year you would know fifty-two more verses then you did last year and your arsenal of defense would be a little more loaded