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Matthew 15

September 29, 2009 1 comment

superkidMatthew 15

Do you remember dressing up for Halloween as a kid? Did you ever feel like putting on that costume turned you into that superhero or princess? Maybe you put on that Superman costume, and you really thought you could fly. Or you dress up like Cinderella or Ariel, and you automatically feel like you get to run the show now.

I heard that they actually had to put a warning label on Superman costumes which says that wearing the costume does not give you the ability to fly. I’m guessing some little boy got a Superman costume and then climbed on top of his house. Empowered by this newfound sense of power, he leapt off the roof. It’s kind of funny to think about this kid hurling himself off the roof, until you think about his painful meeting with the ground below.

We know better though. We are old enough to realize that putting on a Superman costume does not make us Superman. Superman’s powers came from something inside, not spandex pajamas and a cape.

But for some reason we struggle with this as Christians. Jesus challenged the religious leaders of his day for their lack of understanding on this idea. They thought that looking good on the outside—by following certain religious rituals—made them alright with God.

We can be guilty of this as well. We may think that being a Christian means going to church, wearing a cross necklace, not cussing, and putting a Jesus fish on our car. But going to church doesn’t make you a Christian anymore than wearing red underwear over blue tights enables you to fly.

Jesus told his followers that they will know that they are truly his follower by the love that flows out of them (John 13.35). We can go to church every week (which we should), but if we don’t love the people around us, we aren’t his followers. We can wear a Christian T-shirt, but if we don’t show compassion by helping people in need, we aren’t being Christ-like. We can never say a cuss word, but if we’re rude to others, are we clean? Or would Jesus say we are unclean?

When we truly allow Christ to take over our lives, we don’t just change a few things like going to church and not having sex before marriage. We allow Jesus to change everything. Then we will see love, compassion, mercy, and justice flowing out of us.

 

Prayer for Today

Dear God, I don’t want to be fake. I don’t want to just look like I am a Christian. I want to be like Christ. I want you to change me completely, so that I am clean on the inside. I don’t want my life to be just about rituals, but I want your goodness to flow out of my mouth and out of my life. I no longer want to go through the motions and just worship you with my lips. I want to completely give you my heart and worship you with my life. I ask this through the power of your Son, Jesus. Amen.

 

“These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.” Isaiah 29.13

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Matthew 14

September 29, 2009 Leave a comment

surfingMatthew 14

I love to surf. If you’ve never been, you have to go surfing before you die. It is one of the greatest feelings ever. I can’t explain the feeling when that wave catches you, and you pop up onto your board. Gliding across the water, you’re doing something you shouldn’t be able to do, because it’s not natural to walk on water. Yet it is very natural because it’s just you and that wave. It’s exciting, invigorating, and even somewhat spiritual.

And that is what a relationship with Jesus is like, except multiplied times a billion. I can’t even begin to explain the feeling of truly walking with Jesus. The closest I can come is “walking on water.” And since surfing is the closest anyone can come to walking on water, and chances are you have never surfed, you can’t really understand it. That’s why I want you to go surfing. Then you will understand what it’s like to have a relationship with Christ.

Let’s just say it is completely awesome. I know it sounds cliché, but it is a rush. When you surf, you completely rely on the wave’s power to move you. Sure, you have to paddle to catch that wave, but when that wave catches you, it’s all about the wave. The wave is what moves you. There is no one pulling you behind a boat. There is no engine. It’s you relying on the power of that wave. It’s like you become one with the wave.

That is how it is with Jesus. Jesus is this huge wave of power and energy and excitement. He catches you, and the rush is on. You walk on water. You experience life at its fullest. You become part of something hugely powerful. When you put your trust in Jesus, you become one with him, and he leads you into a life of meaning, adventure, and pure joy. You walk on water.

But some of you are still in the boat. My high school English teacher would say I’m mixing metaphors, but I think you get it. You’re like the other disciples. You’re too afraid to get out of the boat because you don’t trust Jesus. And you miss out. Peter experienced something truly awesome, but the others were too afraid to walk on water.

Some of you are drowning. You were like Peter and decided to jump out of the boat. It was great trusting Jesus at first, but then it got a little scary. You took your focus off Jesus and started looking around at all the difficulties in your life. You think that walking on water is hard, and you begin to sink.

But that’s part of what makes it so exciting. Surfing is exciting because there’s a chance of wiping out. And believe me, sometimes you do! But if it were safe, it would be boring. Following Jesus is messy and scary and sometimes dangerous. But it is also the most exciting thing in life. And if you trust Jesus, he’s not going to let you drown. He is always right there to pick you back up.

Don’t miss out on the adventure. Put your trust in Jesus, allowing him to guide your life. Jump out of the boat and walk on water.

 

Prayer for Today

Jesus, I want out of this boat! I want to trust you. I want to experience the excitement and joy of a relationship with you. I admit it is scary, but you say you will be there for me, that you will never let me down. Help me to get over my fears so that I can walk on water with you! Amen.

 

“Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” 1 John 2.6

Matthew 13

September 24, 2009 Leave a comment

Matthew 13

There are so many good things in this chapter I could write several devotionals. You have the famous parable of the sower, the confusing parable of the weeds, the parable of the mustard seed, the parable of the yeast, and more. Jesus packs an amazing amount of teaching into this chapter.

But tucked in the middle of all these parables are two tiny parables with gigantic significance: the parables of the hidden treasure and the pearl of great price.

Jesus says that the kingdom of heaven is like buried treasure that a guy finds in a field. The treasure is so valuable, that he sells everything he has to buy the field. Once he has the field, he has the treasure.

Jesus says it’s also like a fine pearl that a collector finds. The collector also sells everything he owns so he can buy this pearl.

Wow. That is huge. Why would someone sell everything to buy a field? Because the field is worth more than that. It costs the man everything, but he gets so much more in return.

Why would anyone sell everything to buy a pearl? Because it’s priceless. The man has to have it, and he will stop at nothing to get it.

God’s kingdom is like that. It’s priceless. It is of so much value, when you know what it is, you have to have it. And it’s worth giving everything in order to get it.

But people don’t realize how valuable it is. The owner of the field didn’t know what he had. There was this huge treasure in his field, and he let it slip through his fingers. The store-keeper didn’t know how valuable that pearl was. Other customers had looked at it, but decided not to buy it. Why? Because they didn’t realize what was right in front of their noses!

Don’t miss out! God’s kingdom is priceless. It is life-changing. It costs you your life, but it’s worth even more than that. God gives you so much more in return. He gives you eternal life, and he gives you the blessing of spending your life on earth in his presence. Just like the field and the pearl, its value can’t be explained. You have to experience it for yourself. Don’t let it slip through your fingers!

If you haven’t truly given your life to Jesus, do not hesitate any longer. Give it to him, and he will give you back a life that is worth so much more.

 

Prayer for Today

Father, I want to be part of your kingdom. I don’t want to foolishly hang on to my life. I give it to you because I know that life with you is worth so much more. Thank you for giving Jesus to die so that I can have eternal life with you. Amen.

 

 “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.” Matthew 16.25

Matthew 12

September 24, 2009 Leave a comment

Matthew 12

God gave the Israelites Ten Commandments to live by. Number four on that list was to keep the Sabbath holy. God took six days to create the earth, and on the seventh day, he rested. Likewise, he wanted his people to work hard for six days, and then rest on the seventh. They were to dedicate that day to the Lord by not working. Seems like a good idea and a pretty easy idea to follow.

But just like the other commands God gave them, many religious leaders took it to the extreme. They began defining what constituted “work.” So then you have all these extra rules saying what you can and can’t do on the Sabbath. In the midst of all these rules, the people had lost the meaning of the Sabbath: to recharge after a hard week by resting and spending time with God.

So here comes Jesus and his disciples. They’re hungry and have nothing to eat. So they find a field with some grain. They pick a little bit and eat it. Then the religious leaders get mad at Jesus because it’s the Sabbath, and they’re not supposed to do any work.

After this, Jesus goes to the synagogue (a Jewish place of worship) and heals a man with a crippled hand. Again the religious leaders get mad at Jesus because he “worked” on the Sabbath.

Jesus quotes the prophet Hosea: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice,” (Hosea 6.6). The Israelites in Hosea’s day had grown rich by taking advantage of the poor. But they thought they were okay because they worshiped God on the Sabbath. They followed the “rules” and offered the required sacrifices.

But God told them their worship wasn’t okay, because they didn’t show mercy to the poor. Instead of helping the poor, they oppressed them. God demanded justice—that those with plenty help those in need. Until the Israelites did this, their worship, their sacrifices, their rule-following meant nothing.

Jesus reminds the Pharisees (and us) of what God desires. Yes, we are to follow God’s ways, but his ways include showing compassion on those in need. He demands that we help those who are hurting or hungry or helpless.

How can you help those in need? Who do you know that needs help? Think and pray about how you can show mercy and justice to those in need. You can find a list of resources for helping others below.

 

Prayer for Today

Father, you have shown great mercy to me by forgiving my sins. Help me to show mercy to those around me who are in need. Open my eyes to the needs of others. Thank you for loving me so much that you gave your Son to die in my place. Help me to take your love to others. Amen.

 

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1.27

 

World Vision helps children in poverty around the world and fights against AIDS. There are many ways to help. You can sponsor a child for $35 a month, or give one-time gifts for as little as $10. You can even buy things that families in poverty need, such as a goat or chicken. Just click here.

Compassion International You can sponsor a child in need for only $38 a month.

http://www.freerice.com You can give rice to people in need just by playing a game. And it doesn’t even cost you anything!

http://www.freepoverty.com You can help people get access to clean water sources by playing a game online. And this doesn’t cost you anything either!

http://www.mojuproject.com/ Feed an orphan in Africa for an entire month by purchasing a T-shirt.

http://www.tomsshoes.com For every pair of shoes you buy, TOMS will donate a pair to a child in need.

Matthew 11

September 23, 2009 Leave a comment

Matthew 11

Yoke

This chapter ends with one of the coolest yet most misunderstood passages. For the longest time, I had a hard time understanding what Jesus was saying. Look again at what Jesus says in verses 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 says he’s going to give us rest, but then he says he’s going to put his yoke on us. If you don’t know what a yoke is, it’s not the inside of an egg. No, it is a thick piece of wood which links two animals used to pull something like a plow or carriage. So Jesus is going to give me rest by putting a big piece of wood on my shoulders? That doesn’t make sense.

Well, let’s explore this a little deeper. First, we need to remember that Jesus is a rabbi. A rabbi is a Jewish teacher. Jewish boys would start school at the age of six, and begin learning (and memorizing!) the Scriptures. At about 13 or 14, most boys would finish school and learn the family business from their father.

But those who showed great potential would be chosen by the rabbi to continue their learning. They would spend the next several years following the rabbi and learning about God and the Scriptures. Their goal was to become just like their rabbi in everything.

And when the rabbi chose someone to follow him, this is what the rabbi would say: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me.” The yoke is his teaching, or understanding of the Scriptures. So Jesus is a rabbi, and he’s telling these young men who have been rejected by the other rabbis, “I’m choosing you to be my followers. I believe you have what it takes to be like me.”

And Jesus says it to you. “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me.” He is choosing you. It is incredible when you think about it.

“But I don’t want to carry a yoke. I’ve got enough stuff going on in my life. I already feel dragged down.”

The purpose of a yoke isn’t to burden an animal. The animal is already burdened; he’s pulling a plow or wagon. No, the purpose of a yoke is to allow that animal to share the load with another animal.

So the other thing Jesus is saying is “I know life is tough. Let me help you. Link up with me, and we’ll do this together. Put my yoke on, and we’ll be a team. Life will be easier, not because I’ll get rid of your problems, but because I’m going to be with you every step of the way to carry those burdens with you. Learn from me how to deal with life.”

Are you burdened? Are you stressed? Worried? Worn out? Accept Jesus’ invitation. Follow him. Learn from him. Spend your time with him. Become just like him. He will help you with life. He will give you rest.

 

Prayer for Today

Jesus, I’m tired. Life is stressful. It’s tough. And I need help. I need your help. Jesus, I want to take your yoke upon me. I need you to help me with life. I want to learn from you, and I want to become like you. Help me to do that, Lord. Help me to be like you, Rabbi. Amen.

 

“My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him.” Psalm 62.1

Matthew 10

September 22, 2009 Leave a comment

Matthew 10

Jesus sends out the 12 Apostles with these instructions: “As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near’” (verse 7). I truly believe Jesus gives us these same instructions today. We need to share with others the good news of Jesus’ kingdom.

In verse 8, Jesus tells the disciples that they have freely received, so they should freely give. In other words, because Jesus has given them so much, they need to give to others. They need to share with others the incredible gift they have received from Jesus. The same is true for us. Because Jesus has blessed us so much, we need to tell others about him so they too can experience his blessings.

But I can hear you now: “I don’t know what to say. How do I tell people about Jesus without making people mad or sounding weird?” But look at what Jesus tells the Apostles in verses 19-20: “…do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” Jesus says that God will speak through you! How cool is that?

Maybe that seems a little strange and mysterious. Well, it is. That is what makes it so awesome. The God of the Universe will give you the words to say. If you have truly allowed Jesus into your life, then he will work through you.

But that’s the key: “if you have truly allowed Jesus into your life.” Is Jesus your Lord? Have you let him change your life? If so, then share with others what he has done in your life. Don’t worry about what to say, just ask him to speak through you.

If you haven’t allowed Jesus to change your life, then why not? What is keeping your from giving him control? Dare to journey on an epic adventure with the King of heaven and earth.

 

Prayer for Today

Jesus, I submit to you. I love you and want to serve you. I want to give you control of my life. Use me to honor you and to help others. Speak through me so that I may share with others what you have done in my own life and what you can do in their lives. Help me to trust you. Amen.

“He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.’” Mark 16.15

Matthew 9

September 21, 2009 Leave a comment

Matthew 9

Again we have more of Jesus’ healings in Matthew 9. First he heals the paralytic and forgives his sins (and gets into a spiritual throwdown with the Pharisees). Then the woman with internal bleeding is healed just by touching his clothes. After this, Jesus raises a little girl back to life. Next he heals two blind men, and wraps things up by healing the demon-possessed man who couldn’t speak.

But tucked away in all these healings is one sentence spoken by Jesus which you may have missed. Honestly, I’ve read it countless times without really catching it. But this time it finally jumped out at me and smacked me across the face. (Figuratively speaking, that is. Though, it is cool to imagine scriptures actually jumping off the page and slapping someone. Try it sometime.)

The two blind men ask Jesus to heal them. He asks them if they believe that he can heal them. They say that they do. Then, Jesus says something crazy: “According to your faith will it be done to you,” (verse 29). In other words, the level of their faith in Jesus’ ability to heal them will determine how well they are healed.

Both of them must have had great faith, because verse 30 says their sight was restored. I wonder though, what would have happened if their faith hadn’t been that strong. Like, let’s say that on a faith scale of 1-10, their faith had been a 5. Would one eye have been able to see, but the other one still be blind? Or maybe both eyes could see, but they’d be really near-sighted, or maybe color blind.

It’s kind of scary when you think about it. Does God do this with us? Does he help us based on how much faith we have? If I ask God to remove my cancer (hypothetical), but I believe there is a 30% chance he can’t or won’t, will God only remove 70% of my cancer? I don’t know, but it is definitely something to think about.

These two men had great faith, and Jesus opened their eyes because of it. I really think there is something to learn here. The more faith we have in Jesus, the more he will open our eyes. The more we will be able to see him. The more we will be able to make sense of the world and our own lives. The more we will see his incredible love and his plans for us.

You can’t put your faith in someone you don’t know. That’s why it is so important to spend time with God by reading his word and praying to him. The more time you spend with him, the more your faith will be able to increase, and the more God will be able to do in your life.

 

Prayer for Today

Father, open my eyes. I believe you have the power to work miracles in my life. I want to know you more. Help me to trust you more. Amen.

 

“O LORD Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in you.” Psalm 84.12