Paul says we Christians are running a race. Here's what I'm looking at on my run toward Christ.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Matthew 14

As always, take time to read the chapter.

Faith.  Five letters forming one loaded word.  We say my Faith.  Have some Faith.  George Michael sang "You Gotta Have Faith".  There are many Faiths in the word.  It's a first name i.e. Faith Hill.  I mean we are comfortable with the word "Faith", but do we really have a grasp on what Faith is?

In this chapter Matthew writes about many things including Faith.  I want to take a look at Faith as explained in this chapter.

Jesus performs one of His most famous miracles in this chapter, "The Feeding of the 5,000".  It is one of the few miracles mentioned in all four Gospels.  Jesus is healing the sick among the 5,000 men (maybe 10-15 thousand people).  As it got late the disciples tell Jesus to send the crowd home so the crowd could get food.  Jesus responds to this reasonable statement with a challenge, "You give them something to eat."

Now the disciples couldn't do this and Jesus knew it.  Jesus was challenging their Faith.  After He challenged their Faith He proved why they should have Faith in Him.  God does this with us many times as well, although not always as immediately or as dramatically.  He will not do this every time, but Matthew is showing that Jesus is enough and He makes all the difference.  He deserves our Faith in Him.

Later Jesus sends the disciples in a boat ahead of Him while He prays.  Meanwhile, the disciples are battling a storm on the lake and Jesus comes walking on the water to them.  (This shows that Jesus comes to us in our storms anyway He can, but that's not my point here).  After the shock of seeing a man walking on water Peter asks Jesus if he can walk on the water to Him.

Peter begins to miraculously walk on water.  This is amazing!  But Peter gets distracted by the storm, takes his gaze off Christ and begins to sink.

Don't we do this?  We begin to do amazing things through the Faith in the power of Christ when we become distracted by the waves.  We can't allow ourselves to take our gaze off of Christ.  When we do we will sink.  I mean do we think the waves are more powerful than the One who created them?  That's silly, but it's what we do.  It's what Peter did.

However, do not bash Peter.  Many of us like to bash the Peters (this sounds funny, but role with it) of this world.  "How could they not trust Jesus after He caused them to do miracles?"  "Are they stupid?"  "Don't they have any Faith?"  Don't bash Peters people.  Most of us are like the other eleven disciples.  We are still in the boat!  Sure Peter's Faith wasn't complete, but at least he had some.  I'd rather be 'ye of little Faith' than 'ye of no Faith'.  So get out of the boat!

Faith as described in this chapter is all about: #1 realizing that Jesus deserves our Faith; #2 keeping our eyes on Him when we act on Faith; and #3 taking a leap of Faith.  Faith is not a spectator sport... get off the sidelines and out of the boat!  Do what God is challenging you to do by Faith today.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Matthew 13

Thanks first of all to my little brother Patrick for recommending this blog to the folks who read his.  I'll do the same.  Check out www.patrickrussellray.blogspot.com it's called Love is a Verb.  You might like it.

Matthew 13 is full of Jesus speaking in parables.  Take time to read all of the parables in this chapter especially the parable of the four soils.  I'm not going to talk about that one, but you should definitely read it.  I want to look at just a few of the smaller parables in this chapter.

1) The parables of the weeds and the fishing net.

In these parables Jesus is talking about how God separates the good fish from the bad fish or the wheat from the weeds.  This is an important truth: God is not going to let bad and good mix or wheat and weed mix.  God is just.  Some will be saved and the others will be burned in the furnace where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.  Hell is real and real people are going there.  God wants you to know that for sure.

However, Jesus tells us in this parable that God will do the sorting, not us.  In the parable of the weeds the servants ask the master, "Do you want us to go and pull them (the weeds) up?"  The master answers, "No, because while you are pulling up the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them."

Jesus is telling us that God does not want us to start early by throwing some out of the Kingdom.  It is not our job, most of the time, to decide who's in and who's out.  God will do this.  We might mistakenly rid the field of wheat (believers) as well as weeds (non-believers).  So we must error on the side of love.  Treat people like they are wheat like you.  Don't ignore sharing the Gospel, but do not consider yourself to be the judge.

2) The parables of the hidden treasure and the pearl merchant.

Verse 44- "The Kingdom of Heaven is like treasure hidden in a field.  When a man found it, he hid it again, and then IN HIS JOY went and sold all he had and bought that field."

Verse 45 & 46- "Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls.  When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it."

Is the Kingdom of Heaven worth everything to you?

When you give up everything for the Kingdom do you do it in joy?

Jesus is telling us that it is worth it.  That the juice is worth the squeeze.  The Kingdom of Heaven is worth everything and we need to start acting like it is.

So enjoy the gift of the Kingdom of Heaven and be loving to everyone like they are a brother or sister in the Kingdom with you today.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Matthew 12

Matthew 12 is a chapter full of red letters and therefore full of Truth.  Take time to read this chapter.

In Matthew 12 I saw three things that I would like to highlight.

1) Jesus instructs us to ditch religion when religion forgets its purpose.

Sidebar- this is not a Church blasting post.  I love the Church because Jesus has chosen it as His bride, so I will not bash her.

In this chapter the Pharisees are trying to find something wrong with Jesus and they find two things.  First, Jesus' disciples pick grain to eat on the Sabbath.  Second, Jesus heals a man on the Sabbath.  Keeping the Sabbath holy is one of the Ten Commandments, it's kind of a big deal.  However, the super-religious people added all sorts of weird rules to this commandment.  Jesus and His disciples broke those rules.  Jesus' response to having broke those rules was simple.  "I desire mercy, not sacrifice."  (Hosea 6:6)

Jesus is saying is a nutshell, "Religion goes too far when it forget the point."

This is not Jesus saying, "All religious aspects of living for God are wrong." In fact religion can be a valuable tool for many to be more Christ-like, but don't ever practice religion without love.

2) Jesus is coming to rob Satan!

The Pharisees accuse Jesus of being Beelzebub, the prince of demons, because He can command demons to leave people.  Jesus then uses logic to debunk that idea.  He says, "A house divided against itself cannot stand" (Yes, Lincoln did not come up with that).  Meaning, why would Satan attack his own troops?  Rather, consider this- Verse 29, "how can anyone enter a strong man's house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man?  Then he can rob his house."

We are owned by Satan when we are in sin.  One reason Jesus came to earth was to tie up Satan and rob him!  Jesus wants to steal you and me from Satan's possession.  How cool is that?  Jesus is not some hippie wimp.  No, He's a buff Satan robbing Lord.

3) I can be Jesus' brother.

Verse 50, "For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother."

Wow!  The Lord of Heaven and Earth wants to be my brother!  Doing the will of the Father is not about a bunch of rules and religion, no it's about becoming a relative of the Son.  I think it's worth it.

So don't let religion turn into something it's not supposed to be, remember that Jesus has come to steal you from Satan and that He wants to welcome you into his family.  He desires mercy, not sacrifice.  So show mercy today.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Matthew 11

Well, we are finally back into the book of Matthew after Advent and the New Year.  We jump right into Matthew 11.  Please take the time to read this chapter.

In this chapter Jesus is preaching and any time Jesus preaches we should take note of what He says.  I believe that one of the main points Jesus has in this chapter is this: It's all about Him.

First, the chapter begins with John the Baptist sending a messenger to Christ to ask if Jesus was The One.  Jesus answers not with a 'yes' but with a report on what He had done.  When people ask us if Jesus is The One we should follow His lead and tell them what Jesus has done.  That means what He has done in history and in our lives specifically.  So be ready with your testimony.

Secondly, don't think that you are a Christian because you figured out some hidden truth.

Verse 25, "I praise you Father... because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children."

Verse 27, "All things have been committed me by my Father.  No one know the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him."

Meaning, you didn't decide on Jesus; He decided on you.  So don't boast about your salvation because it's all about Jesus.

Lastly, we must remember that it's all about Jesus in every aspect of our lives, not just our salvation.  One of the ways we pridefully try to do it on our own is in our worrying and plan making.  This is not the plan He has for us.

Verse 28-30, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

Jesus never intends Christians to plan their own lives.  He has a yoke for us to bear (work for us to do and a cross for us to carry), yet we like to pick our own heavy, useless yokes.  How can we imagine that we could have a better plan and purpose for ourselves than the Almighty does?

Jesus never intends Christians to do it on their own.  He asks us to come to Him and find rest.  To do this we must submit to His control.  We must give up control to find rest.  Lay your burdens at the feet of Jesus and He promises to take care of you.

Remember the hymn "Take it to the Lord in Prayer.  I love the line, "Oh, what peace we often forfeit.  Oh, what needless pain we bear.  All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer."  How true is that?!

Or a more modern song, Carrie Underwood's "Jesus Take the Wheel".  "Jesus take the wheel.  Take it from my hands.  Cause, I can't do this on my own.  I'm letting go."

Have you let the wheel go?  Have you recognized that it's all about Jesus, not all about you?  There is so much peace to be had when we let Him take the wheel, when we take it to Him in prayer, when we submit to the man who carved the mountains.

So let go and let God today.