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Matthew 27

October 14, 2009 Leave a comment

Matthew 27

Why did Jesus have to die?

It’s a valid question. Why did the Son of God have to come to earth and die? Was there not another way? He is God. Could he not have found another way to save the world?

We are all sinners (Romans 3.23). Sin is rebellion against God, and it separates us from him. The punishment for sin is death (Romans 6.23). Therefore, we deserve death and eternal separation from God.

But that presents a problem. God is love (1 John 4.16), and he created us out of love. He doesn’t want any of his children to die (2 Peter 3.9). In the Old Testament, God came up with a plan to save his people. They could use an animal as a substitute. The animal would pay the price of death so that the person wouldn’t have to die.

However, since the animal didn’t die voluntarily, it wasn’t a perfect sacrifice. Therefore, the people would have to make a sacrifice each year. This was all to foreshadow God’s ultimate plan.

The only way to have a perfect sacrifice, was if an innocent person (someone who had committed absolutely no sin) willingly died for the sins of everyone else. But how is that possible? We already know that we are all sinners, so how can there be a perfect sacrifice?

There is only one way. God himself had to die in our place. He had to become human and become our sacrifice. And that is exactly what he did.

That’s good news, right? We have been saved from eternal death because our God loved us enough to die in our place. Spend some time thanking God for his sacrifice, and let others know about this good news.

 

Prayer for Today

Dear God, thank you so much for loving me enough to become my sacrifice for sin. Thank you for sending your Son Jesus to die for me. Thank you, Jesus, for going through that horrible death so I could live. Thank you for taking my place. I cannot thank you enough, and I can never repay you. But I want to give my life back to you as a sacrifice. Help me to live for you. I love you so much. Amen.

 

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3.16

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

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 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

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