Tag Archives: daily walk

Matthew 19; A Great Place To Live

My thoughts on the Kingdom of God, the Church, continue as I read what Jesus said here in Matthew 19. What does it mean that His Kingdom is made up of children, and poor people?

Well, first of all, it isn’t. But Jesus teaches us an important lesson about attitude here. Child-like faith is not childish faith.

I’m with my niece from Texas and her two young daughters this weekend. This is only the second time I’ve been with her 18 month old, so it took a while for her to warm up to me. But I’m proud to tell you I can now peel a banana for her, and actually pick her up on occasion. We’re becoming best buds!

Last night we went to my sister’s house for a cookout. There were about 50 people there, none of whom were familiar to Colette. And even though there were children running around the back yard, Colette stayed close to Mommy. She’d venture out a bit, but if things got confusing, she’d run to her mom.

At one point, I held out my arms to “rescue” her when she found herself among grown ups she didn’t know. She looked at me and I could tell she knew who I was. But she shook her head no, then ran to Mommy. She wasn’t upset. She just wanted to be close to her mother.

I think that’s like us who are in God’s family. We live life, venture out, but we also stay close to our Heavenly Parent because when things get confusing, we know where to go. We know who to trust.

Of course, that’s not all there is to a relationship with God. As we mature, our walk with Him deepens, our faith is strengthened, and we become farmers and fishermen like I talked about the other day.

But Jesus is teaching us that our attitude toward Him should be as pure, as innocent, and as complete as a child’s trust in her parent. I never saw Colette even consider handling her fear on her own. Never saw her try to manufacture confidence or power in herself. Her 18 month old self understood what some of us have forgotten: Complete trust outside ourselves.  I believe that’s what God wants of us, too. Just to trust Him. Period. Not to depend on our selves.

Or our possessions.

That wealthy young man was undoubtedly a good man. But he wanted to hold on to God and his money. He wanted to follow Jesus, but he also wanted one foot in the world, too. Jesus tells us that’s not how it can be in His Kingdom.

Everything we have, everything we are, has to be given to Him, nothing held back. There will be people in heaven who had healthy bank accounts while living here. But they will be the ones who held Jesus more tightly than they did their dollar bills. And Jesus warns us that’s not always easy to do.

The Kingdom of God is made up of us who have placed our trust, our very lives in the hands of the Creator. Like a child in the arms of the Father, nothing held back.

The Kingdom of God is a great place to live.

Matthew 13-18; The Kingdom of God

I have a burden for the Church, we who are God’s Kingdom through the blood of Jesus. I’m concerned because it seems we are looking more and more like the world, and less and less like the Kingdom described in Scripture. I’ve been encouraged, and convicted as I’ve spent some time these past couple of days looking at what Jesus said about His Kingdom. I’d like to pass on to you what God has laid on my heart.

William Barclay says, “To be in the Kingdom is to accept and to do the will of God.” (The Daily Study Bible Series, the Gospel of Matthew, Volume 2; page 87;Westminster Press; Philadelphia, PA; 1975) God’s Kingdom isn’t some future phenomenon. It’s us today in 2018. And our King has drawn pictures about how He expects His Kingdom to look.

Matthew recored seven parables that Jesus taught in the chapters I’ve been looking at. Each one begins, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like…” As we look at these I pray we will consider our own standing in God’s Kingdom, that we will consider how our church fellowships are doing, and what we can do to make the Church, God’s Kingdom, be exactly who He told us to be.

The first three parables Jesus spoke in these chapters concern something small growing to something big. The good seed (13:24), the mustard seed (vs 31), and the yeast (vs 33). I’ve looked at this a couple of ways. One, when we first come to know Jesus as our Savior (the Sower of the good seed),  our faith is often as small as a mustard seed, our knowledge limited. But as we spend time with our Savior, as we read His Word and fellowship with other believers, that faith grows. Or it should. I wonder if there are people in our churches who are satisfied with their seed-faith. What good is that? There can be no harvest of stunted seeds. That can’t be good for the Kingdom.

The other way I see this is in the common misconception: “What can one person do?” We are tempted to focus on the weeds growing all around us. God is telling us not to worry about that. He’s got it covered. We are asked to do is grow, stay connected to Him, the source of all we need to be healthy Christians. Yes, there is a force of evil out there that intends on choking the life out of us. But if we are growing, those weeds have no power over us. And God is the One who will weed out the evil. He wins.

And, like the yeast, if we are faithfully doing what God is asking of us, it will spread. You might think you are insignificant in light of the Billy Grahams of the world. Your contributions to the Kingdom might be done behind the scenes, your efforts quietly transforming your surroundings and the lives of people you touch for Jesus’ sake.

What can one person do? There is no limit if Jesus in it! Dear one, nothing done in Jesus’ name is insignificant! And it all works together to produce the Kingdom of God Jesus is describing.

Jesus said the field in which He is sowing good seed is the world! Oh that the world, our world, our homes and neighborhoods, would be germinated with the Gospel… and thrive!

The next two parables are about treasure. (13:44-45) What is that treasure other than Jesus Himself? The world is desperately searching for Him. They keep turning over rocks and finding fools gold and glass pearls. But the truly valuable treasure, the real thing they are looking for is Jesus only. And those of us who know Him know He’s worth everything.

But God is asking me if I’m content to hoard the treasure I hold, when I can look all around me and see people who are still looking under rocks, who are parading around their fools gold and glass pearls and trying to pass them off as the real thing. Is it ok for me to say, “They can believe what they want to believe. If they want to think that glass is a real pearl, who am I to say it’s not?”

It’s not! And you know it.

It’s not enough to be in possession of this priceless treasure. There are people in your life, and in mine, who are searching. But is the Kingdom (are we) failing because we aren’t showing those people where they can find the real thing?

The sixth parable (13:47-50) is about the fisherman who throws out the net and brings in ALL the fish, good and bad. As the Church, we are told to go into ALL the world and share the Gospel. Sometimes I think we can get comfortable writing our check out to missions and feel we are obeying that commission. But is that how Jesus is describing His Kingdom?

All of us need to be faithful to throw out those nets in our homes, our neighborhoods, our workplaces, in the streets, wherever there are people who don’t know Jesus. It’s not up to us to decide who will be responsive. We don’t pick and choose who we think deserves God’s grace. We aren’t told to be judges. We are called to be fishers of men. I wonder if God’s Kingdom (you and me) doesn’t need to repair some nets and get busy throwing those nets out there.

The music minister at my church is an amazing fisherman. Recently he stopped at a gas station, and went inside to pay for his gas. The only person in the store was a young man behind the counter, tattooed, pierced, and sporting a spiked purple hair-do. Paul, whose teenaged son was waiting in the car,  didn’t throw his money on the counter and run. He stopped and started talking to the young man. And as Paul often does, he steered the conversation to Jesus.

He asked the young man if he knew Jesus. The boy said, No. Paul asked if the boy would like to know more about Him. The boy said, Yes. Right there and then Paul shared the Gospel with a weird looking young man who’d been searching for that treasure. Paul asked him if he’d like to pray to receive Jesus as his Savior.

The young man said, “Yes!”

But just then, another customer came into the store. Then another, and another. Paul went out to his car and sat with his son for awhile. They had somewhere to go, but there was a young man in that store who was more important.

Finally, the store cleared. Paul went back into the store and prayed with that young man to receive Christ. Paul threw out a net, and Jesus reeled him in.

I think that’s exactly what Jesus is saying to us through these parables. When we are faithfully doing what He’s asked us to do, He does the rest. And His Kingdom grows one soul at a time.

The last parable is found a few chapters later. (18:23ff) It’s so easy to recognize other people’s faults. Not so much when recognizing our own. And sometimes, we don’t forgive like we have been forgiven.

It always hurts me when I hear Christians say about someone who has hurt them, that they hope God will give them what they deserve. “What goes around comes around.” “Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord.” I think that attitude is hurting God’s Kingdom.

We should never NEVER forget what God has forgiven of us. When Jesus taught us to pray He told us we should ask God to help us forgive others the same way He forgives us. That, my friend, is undeserved forgiveness, complete forgiveness, self-sacrificing forgiveness. And that’s the forgiveness we are to extend to others.

We as the Church of God are under attack. The Kingdom of God is being criticized for things that we should be criticized for, and for things that are outright lies. We, as members of God’s Kingdom are walking around with targets on our backs.

But we need to remember how Jesus told us to deal with our enemies. Love them. Pray for them. Turn the other cheek in Jesus’ name. If we get caught up with the social media frenzy, if we think we have to have a response to every stupid thing people say, we aren’t representing the Kingdom of God very well. Because Jesus died for every one of those people.

Every one. Including people with purple hair and nose rings. Including people who have treated us unfairly. Including the Muslim who just moved in down the street, or the homosexual who delivers your mail.

As I look at the Kingdom of God as described in these verses I am encouraged. I do see people who are farmers sowing seed, people who are sharing their gold mine, fishermen who are casting out their nets with abandon. May God bless each of you and grow His Church as you are yielded to Him.

But I also have a concern. The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. Are we making God’s Kingdom stand out because we are being faithful, are we sharing the amazing treasure we have in Jesus, are we that yeast that is transforming the world by our presence? And are we casting out the Gospel net, and drawing people in?

May each of us consider our role in the Kingdom of God. And may we all be the people God can use to sow the seed, transform the dough, direct people to the treasure, cast the nets, and demonstrate what His forgiveness looks like.

For Jesus’ sake. And for His glory, may the Kingdom of God stand, and grow, until He comes.

 

 

 

 

 

Matthew 5-7; That Sums It Up

How do you define the Golden Rule? Do you, like many of the middle schoolers I worked with as a school counselor, believe it means you treat people the same way they treat you? If they’re nice to you, you’re nice to them. If they cross you, watch out! Pay-back ain’t pretty.

People, very often, use the behavior of others to rationalize their own bad behavior. Scroll through FB if you don’t believe me. Or watch the evening news. There is this unhealthy push to try to even the score in our modern society, whether the offense is real or imagined. I think it’s destroying us from the inside.

Jesus said the Golden Rule sums up the Law and the Prophets. The Law which God gave Moses to show us how we need to live our lives, how we are to consider others and revere God. The word “respect” comes to mind.

The Prophets told us about how God relates to it all. The words “holy,” and “fear,” and “awe” come to mind. And Jesus said the Golden Rule wraps it all up in a neat little package.

In these three chapters in the book of Matthew, Jesus spells out the practical side of life as His followers. If you want to know what the Golden Rule looks like…

Jesus said we are to be salt. A preservative, a flavor enhancer which needs to be applied to be useful. He said we are to be light, not hidden. A light which reveals sin by dispelling the darkness, then leads people to the Savior by lighting their way. (5:13-16)

He tells us we are to have a righteousness that is note-worthy. We who know the Savior know we have no righteousness of our own. But when Jesus clothes us with His righteousness, people can’t help but notice! (5:17-20)

Jesus tells us, in essence, if we want to live the Golden Rule, we can’t hate, or damage someone’s reputation, or get caught up in the name-calling. He says we need to settle disputes quickly, not sit around and seethe, or post a rant on FB, or spout off to a friend. (5:21-26)

He tells us to guard our hearts and minds, to look the other way instead of giving in to lust. I can’t help but think of the access to porn that is so readily available to people, including our children. Even the “soft porn” seen in many TV shows and commercials all day long. Jesus tells us we don’t have to do the deed in order to commit adultery. (5:27-32)

Jesus tells us to be honest, to keep our word without some grandiose gesture. A simple “yes” or “no” should be enough. Didn’t people used to say, “A man is as good as his word?” Hmmmm… (5:32-37)

Then Jesus gives us some hard to manage, not all that popular, words concerning people who do us wrong: Turn the other cheek. Go the extra mile. Be generous even if you might not be reimbursed. Love your enemies. Do good things for them. (5:38-48)

He tells us that, whether we are serving, giving, or praying, let it be between us and God. Face it, people who brag are usually ones to avoid anyway. (6:1-13)

Then Jesus says we need to forgive. Forgive. He doesn’t put the “if they deserve it” disclaimer in there. In fact, He says we are to forgive like we are forgiven by Him. (vs 12) None of us deserve that. (6:14-18)

Jesus tells us not to get caught up in the pursuit of material wealth. Again, people with that as a priority are boring, too. I don’t see how we can be salt and light if we are boring people to distraction by our constant talk of money, or worry about having our needs met. Know that God is able to meet all of our needs, and leave it at that. (6:19-34)

Jesus also tells us not be judgmental. We need to first recognize sin in our own lives, and repent of it. Then we need to reach out and encourage others to recognize their own sin so that they can repent of theirs as well. (7:1-6)

That about sums it up. Life would be so much better if we really did treat each other with respect, gentleness, generosity, honesty, purity, love, if we would think of others more highly than we think of ourselves. I mean, wouldn’t you like to be treated like that? Jesus would tell you, do for others exactly the way you would like to be treated yourself.

Don’t wait for someone else to start truly living by the Golden Rule. Why shouldn’t it start with you?

 

 

 

Matthew 1-3; Where Is Who?

So some guys, probably from Arabia, who were into star-gazing, and who were at least somewhat familiar with Jewish history and the prophets, see a new star in the sky. Maybe they watched it for a few days to be sure it wasn’t a Russian spy satellite or a drone or something they could explain.

Well, maybe I’m wrong about the satellite/drone thing. But I can imagine them getting out their charts and excitedly trying to put two and two together to identify this celestial phenomenon. However, their charts could take them only so far. They had to check it out for themselves.

I wonder how that conversation went when one of them remembered reading something about a Jewish Messiah being born. “Didn’t our calculations predict he’d be born around this time? Could the star be God’s sign that it’s happened? If so, this is huge! Let’s go worship Him together.”

So the men set out for parts unknown, following that strange star, believing that the Jewish God was going to send a Savior.

Here’s what made me sad today. These Gentiles came to Jerusalem, the center of the Jewish religion, and with great anticipation asked, “Where is the one who has been born King of the Jews?” And no one knew!

“Where is who?”

It took the question of non-Jews for God’s people to look to Scripture for answers they should have already known.

I believe God is still putting stars in the sky to draw non-believers to Himself. God reveals Himself every day in hundreds of ways to anyone paying attention. Think about it. Evidence of God is everywhere!

So what happens when a non-believer whose eyes are beginning to open to the Truth comes to you and asks, “How do I find the Savior?” Do you know?

It seems the Jews in Jerusalem weren’t giving much thought to Scripture until the Magi came with questions. Shouldn’t they have been prepared? I think so.

And I think we should be, too. So did Paul:

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. (I Peter 3:15) (emphasis mine)

Dear one, we have got to be in God’s Word. We’ve got to be familiar with God’s plan of salvation. We’ve got to be able to tell anyone who asks how they can find what Jesus died to give them. We’ve got to be prepared.

So that when someone asks how they can find the Savior, our reply will be “I’m glad you asked. Let me introduce you to Him.”

Malachi; Driven

Have you known  anyone you would describe as “driven?” People who work ten hours a day, then bring work home with them? People who haven’t taken a vacation in years, never turned down an assignment, or overtime because they are focused on advancing in their careers or padding their bank accounts?

Some people are driven by their hobbies. They spend thousands of dollars and hours on finding the next piece in their collection, or on improving their golf swing. They surf the net, pour over magazines, and know exactly who to talk to for the latest information on their favorite activity. And these same people have a knack of turning every conversation you have with them around to what drives them.

Malachi has me looking at my own drive today. He’s talking to people who seem to have thought they were doing a pretty good job as far as their religion went. But God is calling them – and me – out for hypocrisy.

He first got my attention in 1:8. The priests had evidently been faithfully offering sacrifices like Moses had told them to centuries before. But the animals these priests were offering were the left-overs. The crippled and diseased animals of the flock were being used in their sacrifices to the Lord. God, in no uncertain terms, says, “This is just wrong!”

Then He goes on to challenge the priests with this: “Try giving those animals to the governor. Would that make him happy? Would he reward you for bringing him a diseased animal?”

Have you ever worked so hard throughout the week that you just couldn’t make yourself get out of bed on a Sunday morning to go to church? Do you fill your evenings up until late, so you let yourself sleep until the very last minute, then you just don’t have time in the morning to be alone with God, praying, and reading His Word? Have you ever agreed to teach a Sunday School class but, because your schedule was so full during the week, you didn’t even look at the lesson until Saturday night?

Now, what if you applied those same principals to your job? Malachi, in a sense says, “Try offering that to your boss. Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?”

What do you think?

I think it’s significant that God inspired this particular book to be placed at the end of the Old Testament, the last thing we read before Jesus’ birth: Service. Honest worship. Making God our priority. Sacrifice. I think it’s significant because when we turn the page we are going to see those things lived out in the lives of Jesus, Peter, Paul, and others who make God, and serving Him, their number one priority.

So the question I believe God wants us to consider today is, where does He fit on our own lists of priorities? How much time during our day do we devote to God as compared to our attention to other things and people? Are we guilty of offering Him the left-overs?

I hope you’ll read the book of Malachi today and let God speak to you from His heart. He demands – and deserves – our best. Is that what we are giving Him?

Zephaniah; Complacent

I don’t think we fully understand the length to which God goes to address sin in our individual lives, and in the world. This God, who is not willing that anyone die without Him, who went to the cross so no one has to, is actively working in all our lives to get our attention, to draw us to Himself, to hear us confess our sin so He can shower us with His amazing grace. But some of us are so stubborn.

Chapter 3 talks about the lack of morality, how brazen people can be in their depravity. Verses 6-7 tells us God disciplines sin with the intent people will recognize their need of Him and repent, so that He can remove His hand of judgment, and bless them. “But they were still eager to act corruptly in all they did.” (Emphasis mine)

Now, before we get too comfortable thinking, “I’m not committing any brazen acts of disobedience, or living a sinful lifestyle,” let’s back up to Chapter 1:12. God says He will punish complacency, those who think, “God won’t do anything either good or bad, so I’ll just sit here in the comfort of my pew.”

Look at 2:15.

This is the carefree city that lived in safety. She said to herself, “I am, and there is none besides me.” What a ruin she has become, a lair for wild beasts! All who pass by her scoff and shake their fists.”

Does that sound like 21st Century USA? I think it does. But the bigger question is: does that sound like any of us? Are we banking on that day when we accepted Jesus as our Savior, thinking we’ve got it made-in-the-shade because well, once saved always saved. But we don’t make an attempt to “grow in grace and knowledge of Jesus,” and we don’t live lives that look different from the world, and we certainly don’t share Jesus with anyone else for whatever reason. Oh, we go to church most of the time. And we even keep our Bible on the table next to our beds. We pray before we eat when we remember to. And we recognized how blessed we are to live where we live, to be able to pay our bills, and see the doctor only at our yearly exam. Life is good. And we’re a bit smug about it all. Isn’t that the definition of “complacency?”

Dear one, Zephaniah tells us God punishes “complacency.” If you think you can be described as “complacent,” ask God to forgive you. It is a sin. Then get out there and get busy making disciples.

I am reminded, through Zephaniah, that God does and will continue to punish sin (including complacency), until we repent or He comes again. And His discipline will only continue to hurt more and more as long as people continue to act corruptly. I’m also reminded God WANTS to stop the hand of judgment, and He will, if we turn to Him.

“But they were still eager to act (complacently) in all they did.” (paraphrase mine)

May no one ever have a reason to call you or me complacent. May we be busy doing the will of God, growing in our relationship with Him by studying His Word and praying. May we be actively leading people to their Savior, so that God can forgive and bless us, our land, and the world for Jesus’ sake and for His glory.

 

Hosea 6-14; Take Words With You

The book of Hosea is a picture of unfaithfulness and judgement. But it is also a picture of God’s grace and mercy. It is so beautiful.

I would encourage you to read Hosea and ask God to speak to you about your own walk with Him. What was true concerning a group of people known as Israel or Ephraim in Hosea’s day, carries with it spiritual truth for us in 2018. I read these chapters today and replaced any reference to “Israel” with my name. It became very personal, because what God said to the Jews through Hosea, He is saying to me. I love God’s Word!!

When I read verses like 5:4, I ask myself if there are things I am doing that do not permit me to draw near to God. Do I have a spirit of prostitution in my heart by harboring hatred or unforgiveness, by holding on to a “secret” sin and telling myself it’s no big deal? Are there times I am more concerned about my “self” than about God?

I hear God say He hates His wicked children. (9:15) HATES! Do I give God reason to hate me because of my own disobedience? That is a sobering thought. Hosea reminds me God rejects the unfaithful.

But then I also read verses like 6:6 and realize God wants only to love me, to show me mercy. Look at 10:12:

Sew for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love…

Doesn’t that encourage you to sew righteousness by putting on Jesus’ righteousness? Don’t you hunger for the fruit of God’s unfailing love? I do.

When I read 14:2 I had to stop a minute and think what it means to “take words with you” as you approach God. God is not asking for an animal sacrifice. He’s not asking me to go to church, give to the poor, or be a good neighbor. What He’s asking is that I come to Him purposefully, repentant, and say the words, “Forgive me,” and mean it.

Take words with you and return to the Lord. Say to him: Forgive all (my) sins and receive (me) graciously, that (I) may offer the fruit of (my) lips. 

It goes on to say God wants me to realize nothing else can save me. Nothing and no one but God Himself.

What is the result of such a prayer, of a heart that is honest before my Holy God? Hosea tells me He will heal my waywardness and love me freely! (14:4) God will give me everything I need to be fruitful. (14:8)

Then listen to the way God inspired Hosea to end his book.

Who is wise? He will realize these things. Who is discerning? He will understand them. The ways of the Lord are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them. (14:9)

I want my walk with the Lord to be intentional, honest, and fruitful. When I go to Him, I want to go with the words He wants to hear. And I want to mean them from the bottom of my heart.