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Posts Tagged ‘God’

Matthew 25

October 13, 2009 Leave a comment

Matthew 25

Parents love their kids, at least the good ones (good parents that is). They love to do things for their children, and they love it when other people do something nice for their kids. When you give a kid a present, in a way, you are also giving their parents a gift. Parents love to see their kids happy. So when you make their child happy, you make the parent happy as well.

This is what Jesus is getting at in Matthew 25.31-46. He says that when you help other people by taking care of their needs, you are taking care of Jesus himself! We are all God’s children, so when we give to God’s children, we are also giving to God. He wants to see his children happy. When we bring joy and happiness to others, we make the Father happy.

Of course, parents also don’t like to see their children abused nor neglected. So when we ignore the needs of the people we see, it upsets Jesus. He tells us that we are ignoring him when we do that. Ouch.

Think about it. If you saw Jesus Christ, and he was hungry, would you share with him, or would you turn your back on him? When we don’t help others, we are turning our back on Jesus himself. But when we do help those in need, we are helping the Creator of the Universe.

What needs do you see around you? What specific ways can you help Jesus?

 

Prayer for Today

Jesus, I don’t want to ignore you; I want to serve you. I know that there are people all around who have needs. Help me to look for those needs, and help me to do anything I can to help. Use me as your instrument to serve others and serve you. Amen.

 

“He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.” Proverbs 14.31

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Matthew 22

October 6, 2009 Leave a comment

Matthew 22

I want to be like Jesus. Several times in Matthew 22, the religious leaders try to trap Jesus. They come up with these questions to try to outsmart Jesus. I can just picture them staying up all night trying to think of the perfect question. Then that little light bulb comes on. “Oh this is it! He’ll never be able to answer this one correctly. If he answers it this way, we’ll get him. But if he answers it this way, we’ll still get him! There’s no right answer. We’re geniuses!”

Then they come to Jesus. You can see them snickering a little while they ask Jesus their trick question. They just know they’ve got Jesus trapped now.

Then Jesus blows their minds. He finds a correct answer to a trick question. He makes the religious leaders look foolish. His wisdom leaves them speechless. That’s why I want to be like Jesus. I want to have wisdom like that to silence my critics.

Okay, maybe that’s a selfish reason to be like Jesus. Please pray for me.

One such episode occurs in Matthew 22.34-40. One of the Pharisees asks Jesus what the greatest commandment is. There’s no way out of this. There are over 600 commandments! Whichever one he picks, they can blast him for not picking any of the others. It’s the perfect plan.

But Jesus outsmarts them again: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (verses 37-39). Jesus says that all the other commandments are summed up in these two commandments.

What about not taking God’s name in vain? If you love God, you won’t take his name in vain. What about not lying? If you love your neighbor, you won’t lie to her.

He did it again. That Jesus is pretty smart. (That is a huge understatement.)

Jesus sums up the Christian life with these two commandments. We like to make things complicated, but it’s simple really.

Love God. Love others. That’s the challenge. It’s the goal. Put it into practice. If we are like Jesus, this is what we will do.

 

Prayer for Today

Dear God, help me to love you and love others. Amen.

 

“God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.” 1 John 4.16

Matthew 21

October 6, 2009 Leave a comment

Matthew 21Donkey

This is a strange episode from Jesus’ life. It’s a little weird to think about Jesus riding a donkey down the street, while people throw their coats and palm branches on the ground in front of him. It’s like a spontaneous mini-parade.

But a donkey? Really?

But Jesus did this to fulfill a prophecy. Zechariah prophesized hundreds of years earlier that Judah’s Savior and King would ride into Jerusalem on a donkey (Zechariah 9.9-13). Sure, Jesus could have ridden in on a majestic white horse, towering over all the people. But that’s not Jesus’ style. He rides in on a humble donkey. He’s riding what any other person would ride. He’s on their level. It’s like Jesus is saying, “Yes, I am your King, but I’m also one of you.”

That is so amazingly awesome! This is a perfect example of how Jesus is 100% God yet also 100% human. Jesus is God Almighty, but while on Earth, he chose to limit himself and be completely human. Any supernatural miracle he performed was only because he asked God, and God allowed him to do so.

Again, Jesus could have ridden in on a Clydesdale, a Rolls Royce, or a space ship. He could have flown into Jerusalem like Superman. He could have had the angels carry him into the city on a kingly platform. He could have had fireworks and lasers. He deserved it. But he chose to limit himself. He chose the donkey. He chose to be like us.

He did this so we could relate to God. God is huge. He is beyond our comprehension. Saying that God is complex is an understatement. But in Jesus, we can better understand God. He doesn’t seem so far off. He becomes tangible (that means something we can see and touch).

God doesn’t want to be far off. He wants to be near to you. He wants a real relationship. He wants you to know him, because he is so in love with you. That is why Jesus came. That is why Jesus died. That is why Jesus rose from the grave.

God wants to be in your presence. Will you let him?

 

Prayer for Today

Dear God, thank you for coming to Earth as Jesus. I don’t want you to be far off. I want to be in your presence every day. Your love is amazing. I can’t understand how you could love me so much, but I thank you that you do. I love you. Thank you, Jesus for choosing to become like me. Thank you for your life, your death, and your resurrection. Amen.

 

“Jesus, who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2.5a-11

Matthew 16

October 2, 2009 Leave a comment

Matthew 16

In Matthew 16.13, Jesus takes his disciples to Caesarea Philippi, a town near the northern-most part of the land of Israel. Caesarea Philippi was home to a large cave which had a natural spring running out of the mouth of the cave. Local legend said that this cave was the entrance to the underworld, and a large temple was built there to worship Pagan gods.

The cave and temple were located at the base of a very large cliff. All kinds of evil acts occurred here. The worship consisted of prostitution and other kinds of sexual immorality. An unlikely place for a Jewish rabbi to bring his students.

The name of this terrible place was “The Gates of Hades.” Hades was the place of the dead in Greek mythology. They believed the gods went there for the winter. Worshippers would attempt to entice the gods to return in the spring with their sexual perversion.

All this helps us to understand Jesus’ statement in Matthew 16.18. Jesus asked his disciples who they believed he was. Peter pipes up “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God,” (verse 16). Peter realized that the idols that were carved into the rock were not alive; only the One True God—Jesus’ Father—was alive.

Jesus then replies to Peter in verse 18 by saying “On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” Jesus appears to be saying that he is going to build his church right here on this rock, the Gates of Hades. In other words, he will replace the evil of this temple with the righteousness of his church. This movement Jesus has started is going to change the world, and even the intense immorality of Caesarea Philippi won’t be able to slow it down.

The question to ask yourself is “Have I allowed Christ to build on my life?” Do you agree with Peter’s statement that Jesus “is the Christ, the Son of the Living God”? Have you allowed Christ to rid your life of immorality and anything that isn’t true? Or are you like the Gates of Hades: an entrance to death and a monument for immorality?

Examine yourself. Let Jesus take control and build upon your life.

 

Prayer for Today

Jesus, you are the Christ. You are the Son of the Living God. Remove from me anything that distracts me from you. Take away the sin in my life. I want you to build upon my life so that you can be glorified. Help me to take your glory everywhere I go, so that others may be freed from death. Amen.

 

“Among the gods there is none like you, O Lord; no deeds can compare with yours.” Psalm 86.8

 

Check out this home video of the Gates of Hades in Caesarea Philippi:

 

*A special thanks to Ray Vander Laan, whose incredible research and teaching is the background for today’s devotional. You can find out more about his teaching at http://www.followtherabbi.com. The source for today’s devotional can be found on the Faith Lessons video Volume Five: The Early Church.

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

Matthew 8

September 21, 2009 Leave a comment

Matthew 8

Matthew 8 contains five of Jesus’ miracles—four of which are healings. The last one he casts demons out of two men and sends the demons into a herd of pigs. I have to admit, this is one of the strangest stories from Jesus’ life.pig-fly

Why did he send the demons into pigs? I have no idea. The demons asked him to, but I don’t know why. I also don’t know why Jesus did what the demons asked. And I don’t know why the demons made the pigs leap to their death.

Maybe Jesus had been teaching some really hard things, and one of the disciples said they’d believe that “when pigs fly.” I don’t know. But it happened nonetheless.

But something else weird happens after this. The entire town comes out to see Jesus, but instead of asking him to teach and heal, they beg for him to get out of town. They’ve just witnessed this awesome display of power, healing these two men who had been suffering (and causing everyone around them to suffer), and they want Jesus to leave.

Maybe they were ticked because Jesus had just ruined their barbeque. Maybe they were afraid of the power Jesus had. Either way, they didn’t want to have anything to do with Jesus.

Sometimes we’re like that. We want Jesus to save us from hell, but we don’t really want him messing with our lives. We want everything to be the way we like it, and we don’t want Jesus coming in and changing stuff around. We’re afraid of his power. We’re afraid he might get rid of some stuff we like.

But you can’t have it both ways. Jesus is God, and God isn’t safe. (Think Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia.) The Bible calls him a consuming fire (Deuteronomy 4.24) and a lion (Hosea 5.14). He’s powerful and dangerous and mysterious. And when you invite him into your life, it’s not neat or safe. It’s messy and scary. But it is also wonderful and exciting.

Continue to explore this dangerous mystery who is God. I promise your life will never be the same.

 

Prayer for Today

Jesus, I don’t always understand you. You are much bigger than my mind can understand. And that is scary, but it is also exciting. Help me to have deeper faith in you. Help me to trust all of you with all of me. Help me to have enough faith to let you change me completely, no matter how messy it might get. Amen.

 

To the Israelites the glory of the LORD looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain.” Exodus 24.17