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Matthew 7

September 19, 2009 Leave a comment

Matthew 7

This is the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus wraps things up by saying that the person who does what Jesus says in this sermon is truly wise. They are like the man who builds his house on a solid foundation. That solid foundation keeps his house standing when the storms batter it.

But the person who doesn’t follow Jesus’ words is foolish. They have tried to build on a weak foundation. When it storms, there is nothing to keep their house standing firm. The house collapses.

So the question is: Are you going to be wise or foolish? You have heard Jesus’ words. Are you going to follow what he says, or will you ignore it? I invite you to continue in this joustormrney through the Gospels—to learn the teachings of Jesus and put them into practice. There is so much wisdom contained in these books. If you follow his teachings, your life will truly be blessed.

I want you to notice that Jesus doesn’t say that the storms don’t hit the wise man’s house. They still do. But because he has built on a solid foundation, his house doesn’t collapse in the storm.

Following Christ doesn’t mean you won’t face storms—times in your life which are difficult. But when you build your life on Christ and his teachings, your world won’t fall apart. He will give you wisdom to make wise decisions and give you strength to face tough times.

Don’t be a fool. Follow Jesus.

 

Prayer for Today

Jesus, give me wisdom. Life is hard, and sometimes I don’t know what to do. I realize that true wisdom only comes from you. I am going to build my foundation on you and your word. Give me strength to deal with life’s storms. I know you will always be with me. Thank you. Amen.

 

“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” James 1.5

Matthew 6

September 17, 2009 Leave a comment

Matthew 6

When reading through the Sermon on the Mount, it seems like Jesus just jumps from topic to topic, none of which really have any connection to each other. But look again at Matthew 6. The first four sections all mention “reward” or “treasure,” and the final section sums it all up by urging us to seek God first.

Hopefully, you have never had to worry whether or not you would have food to eat for the day. However, I would guess you have worried about clothes or other things. The word here that is translated “worry” can also mean “give thought to.” It means to think about or concern ourselves with something.

As a teenager, your mind starts to change, and you start being concerned with what people think about you. “Am I wearing the right clothes?” “How can I get that person to like me?” “Will my friends think I’m a loser because I like the Jonas Brothers?”

If you want people to look at you and think you’re a great person, Jesus says you can do that, and that will be your reward. But it is shallow and temporary. It’s like trying to grasp sand. When you grab hold of it, it just slips through your fingers. Chasing after the things of the world will only leave you frustrated and feeling empty.

But Jesus says in Matthew 6.33 to seek God first. That word “seek” can also mean “desire.” Jesus says that if you make God your primary desire, if you want him and seek him, then you will be fulfilled. God will take care of the details of your life, and you will experience a joy and a peace that nothing in this world could ever give.

Seek God first.

 

Prayer for Today

Heavenly Father, I want to seek you. I want to know you better. God, show me just how awesome you are, and show me how insignificant everything else is. Help me to give my worries to you, and help me to trust you to take care of me. Amen.

 

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5.7

Matthew 5

September 12, 2009 Leave a comment

Matthew 5

Matthew 5-7 is called “The Sermon on the Mount” because it is a collection of teachings Jesus gave from the side of a hill. It is one of Jesus’ most famous teachings. In fact, many of the teachings here are taught around the world, even by non-Christians.

No doubt, Jesus’ listeners were shocked when they heard this. Look back through this chapter. There’s a phrase you see over and over: “You have heard that it was said…But I tell you…” This teaching was—and still is—revolutionary. Jesus came to turn our world upside-down.

It starts off right at the start. In the first section, called “The Beatitudes,” Jesus uses the word “blessed.” This word is often translated “happy.” So Jesus says happy are the poor in spirit, those that mourn, and those that are persecuted.

Excuse me, Jesus?

And you want me to love my enemies?

This is completely upside-down. How can I be happy in those circumstances? Jesus says that we will have a great reward in heaven (verse 12), but I think there might be something more.

The word “blessed” really means joyful. What is the difference between joy and happiness? Happiness is dependent upon my circumstances. In other words, I’m happy when things are going well, but when things go badly, I lose my happiness.

But joy comes from the inside, not from the outside. Jesus fills me with joy; it does not come from experiencing good times. And it doesn’t disappear when bad things happen.

In John 10.10, Jesus says that he came to give us “life, life to the full.” He came to give us the life we were meant to live. He came to fill us with joy so we could experience the reward of heaven here on earth. Jesus doesn’t promise bad things won’t happen. But a true relationship with Christ fills you with a joy that cannot be explained.

Are you filled with joy? Have you allowed Jesus to turn your life upside-down? The more time you spend with Jesus, the closer you draw to him, the more like him you become. When you do this, you will experience that joy. Pray to Jesus, and ask him to help you live your life upside-down.

 

Prayer for Today

Jesus, I want to be filled with your joy. Help me to live my life upside-down. Help me to love my enemies. Bless those who treat me badly. Help them to come to know you. May I live my life in such a way that others will see God and worship him. Thank you for your joy. Amen.

 

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4.4-7

Matthew 4

September 10, 2009 Leave a comment

Matthew 4

Satan knows you. He knows your likes. He knows your dislikes. He knows what you were thinking before you fell asleep last night. He knows what makes you tick. He knows how to get you away from God. And he knows the Bible better than you do.

Scary, huh? This real account from the life of Jesus shows me how well tuned-in Satan is to our weaknesses. He knew where Jesus was at his weakest, and he hit him hard.

First, Satan tries to convince Jesus to turn a rock into bread. Doesn’t seem like a big deal does it? But Satan wants Jesus to do this to prove that he is the Son of God. He’s trying to get Jesus to question his identity.

Remember, he’s been without food for over a month. We say we’re “starving” when we skip lunch. To turn that rock into food would be to give into his selfish desires. It would be to honor himself by showing what kind of power he had and to get an easy meal instead of trusting God.

Jesus was physically and mentally weak, and I’m sure he thought, “Man, some bread sounds good. And, boy, I’d really like to show that devil what I can do!” But Jesus had spent the last 40 days alone with God, and was spiritually strong. His response came straight from “the mouth of God.”

So next, Satan tries a new approach. He still tries to get Jesus to question his identity. But he changes tactics after seeing Jesus quote Scripture. Satan uses the Bible to convince Jesus to base jump without a parachute. The Bible is our sword (Ephesians 6.17), and Satan is using it against us!

Again, Jesus was probably thinking, “That’s easy stuff. Pretty soon I’m going to walk on water, control the weather, and give life to a guy that’s been dead for four days. Flying is easy. I could do a lot more than this to show you who I am.”

But Jesus’ mission wasn’t to show how great he is. His mission was to save us from death. So again he quotes the Bible and tells Satan he will not test God.

Desperate, Satan tries one more temptation. He realizes that Jesus isn’t going to do anything to glorify himself. He knows that Jesus has come here to help the world.

So Satan proposes a deal with Jesus: “Bow down to me right now, and I’ll make you the king of every nation. Just think what you could do! If you were king of the world, everyone would follow you. Isn’t this what you want?”

But Jesus knew better. He wasn’t going to compromise. He could never worship Satan. And Jesus hadn’t come to force people to follow him. He’d come to rescue them. Again he uses God’s word to fend off the devil.

Satan wants to destroy you. Jesus says that Satan is a thief who has come to “steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10.10). He is on the attack. Are you prepared? I thank God that you are participating in this devotional. Spending time reading and meditating on God’s word will prepare you to fight off Satan’s attacks. I encourage you to continue to read the Bible and pray to God every day. The more time you spend with God, the easier it will be to fight the devil’s temptations.

 

Prayer for Today

Dear God, help me to be on my guard. Fill me with your strength and wisdom to face Satan’s attacks. Remove my selfish desires. I want to please you. Amen.

 

“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5.8

Matthew 3

September 9, 2009 Leave a comment

Matthew 3Jesus Baptism

John is out in the wilderness baptizing people who wanted to repent of their sins. Then here comes the Son of God asking to be baptized. Just as I would be, John was confused. He asked Jesus why he needed to be baptized. Jesus simply responds “It is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.”

Did Jesus need to repent? No, he had no sin (1 John 3.5). But he did it. It was part of his Father’s plan. And when he came out of the water, something very special happened. The Holy Spirit came upon him, and the voice of God spoke: “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

What is really cool is that Christians get to participate in this very same thing. When a person is baptized, he or she unites with Jesus in this very special event. We participate in this same ceremony, but we also unite with Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection (Romans 6.3-4).

And I imagine God saying the same thing when we are baptized. I imagine as a person comes up out of the water, the Holy Spirit comes down and God says, “This is my child who pleases me.” How awesome is that? God is pleased with you! And it doesn’t stop when that “first sin” happens. No, God is pleased with you because you are his child.

You can’t be perfect. If you could, Jesus would not have had to die for your sins. God wants you to not sin, but he doesn’t stop loving you when you do. You are still his child, and you bring him great pleasure! God loved you enough to give his Son to die for you (John 3.16). There is no greater love than that. Today, reflect on God’s amazing love and the union you have with Christ.

 

Prayer for Today

Father, thank you for making me your child. I do not understand your incredible love for me, but it is amazing to know you love me enough to give your Son to die for my sins. Thank you for that sacrifice. Help me to never forget that. And help me never to forget that I am your child. Amen.

 

“If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.” Romans 6.5

Matthew 2

September 8, 2009 Leave a comment

Matthew 2

Magi were people from modern-day Iran who read the stars in an attempt to control their fate as foretold by the stars. The Magi in Matthew 2 followed a special star to the infant Jesus. When they found him, they gave him gifts and worshipped him.

There are a couple of really cool things in this story. First, the Magi were not Jews. In other words, they did not believe in the God of the Bible. However, God used this star to show them that someone very special had been born. And when they found the Son of God, they worshipped him.

That is the second interesting fact. You see, when we think of worship, we probably think of sitting in a pew (or maybe a chair) and singing songs and listening to people pray and preach. But I don’t think this is what the Magi did when they found Jesus.

The word used here which is translated “worship” literally means to “bow down” and perhaps even “to kiss the hand.” The Magi realized they were in the presence of someone greater than themselves. They may not have understood everything about Jesus, but they knew that they should bow before him.

How have you responded to Jesus? Do you truly “worship” him? Are you humbled before him? Do you bow to him and shower him with gifts?gift

Think about the “gifts” you can give to Jesus this week: Giving money at church or to a charity; telling someone something encouraging; doing something for your parents without them asking; telling someone about Jesus; volunteering for a charity or at church; giving blood; donating clothes, food, or toys; mowing or raking an elderly person’s yard; talking to someone who looks lonely; inviting a friend to church. Feel free to add to this list. Try to do at least one thing each day this week. And when you do it, do it to please Jesus.

 

Prayer for Today

(Kneel down and bow your head toward the ground)

Jesus, I bow before you in worship. I know you are special and worthy of my praise. I pray that I will worship you with my life, that my life may be a gift to you. Help me to honor you with my words, my actions, and even my thoughts. I pray that others will worship you because of the way I honor you with my life. Amen.

 

“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” James 4.10

Matthew 1

September 8, 2009 Leave a comment

NativityMatthew 1

It is easy to just skip through a list of names like in Jesus’ genealogy. But if you take the time to read it, you might catch something interesting. When I read this, there are five people who stand out: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Uriah’s wife (Bathsheba), and Mary. What is so interesting about these women?

Well first of all, they are women. They are the only women mentioned in Jesus’ family tree. Women were not well respected during this time, but Matthew includes them anyway. But if you know who these women are, then it really becomes interesting.

Tamar (Genesis 38) pretended to be a prostitute in order to sleep with her father-in-law, Judah. Rahab (Joshua 2) was a prostitute. Ruth (check out the book of Ruth) was a foreigner (as was Rahab), whom the Israelites were not to marry. Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba, committed adultery with King David. And Marry, the mother of Jesus, was not married when she conceived Jesus. (Though it was a miraculous virgin birth, you know how it must have looked to everyone.)

Jesus was born in to scandal. His family wasn’t the shining, happy, church family. They were sinners. They were cheaters, adulterers, murderers, outsiders. Jesus didn’t have a perfect family, and neither do any of us. Maybe you’re ashamed of your family. Perhaps you’re ashamed of your past. But Jesus did not let any of this slow him down, and neither should you.

You see, Jesus’ identity was not tied up in his family, the past, or anything else besides his Heavenly Father. He knew he was loved by God, and that is all that mattered.

You too are deeply loved by God, and he has special plans for your life. Don’t let the past weigh you down. Forget the past, turn from any sin in your life, and walk the follow God down a path of righteousness.

 

Prayer for Today

Heavenly Father, I confess that I am far from perfect. I have sinned against you. Father, please take away my sin and let me see the amazing things you have planned for me. I thank you for loving me enough to send your Son to this earth. Help me to learn from Jesus so that I may honor you. Amen.

 

“Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3.13a-14