Putting God's Word into Practice…

Matthew 18

I’m so convicted by the immediate patience and mercy that I want God to give me and how unwilling I am to offer it to others. These last few days of parenting a pre-teen boy have been hard. It’s so easy for me to respond to him in a way that is ungodly (sarcastic, harsh, insensitive), send him to his room, ask God to forgive my initial response, expect His mercy and then go into his room and scold him to death!  Lord, make me merciful!  Help me to steward your grace and be as quick to forgive as You are.

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Matthew 17-When All Else Fades

Jesus takes Peter, James and John up a high mountain and He is changed before them so that his humanity was rolled back and they saw His heavenly glory.  After His meeting with Moses and Elijah, Peter thought it would be good (what we think is good is not always of God) to make tents for the three of them, but God the Father interrupted Peter’s idea.  He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”  How did the disciples respond to this?  “When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified.” (Fitting response for being in the very presence and hearing the voice of the Father.)  “But Jesus (2 of my favorite words together!) came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw NO ONE BUT JESUS ONLY.  Why wasn’t Jesus on His face in fear of the Father?  Because He is equal to the Father–His exact imprint (Hebrews 1:3), His visible image (Colossians 1:15), He is God (John 1:1).

The words “rise” and “lifted up” are good reminders that I need to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus in every circumstance.  And the phrase, “But Jesus only,” reminds me that on earth, everything will disappear/fade away, but Jesus is a constant advocate and friend. 

You are God with us
You’re victorious
You are strong and mighty to save
For Your word stands true
There is none like You
And when all else fades
You remain

Chorus of “Remain” by Starfield

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Matthew 16-Who Do You Say Jesus Is?

I didn’t get to post this yesterday for a variety of reasons, but I think the Lord wanted me to really understand the gravity of what He was teaching me in this chapter.  I’m a reader–I read all the time! Over the course of time, there have been a multitude of books I’ve enjoyed and learned from, but only a handful that have changed my life. (The Bible being the highest-esteemed, God-breathed, life-altering book in my life!) In 2001 at Moody Bible Institute in Student Wives Fellowship, a lady named Linda Gunter introduced me to Lies Women Believe by Nancy Leigh DeMoss.  It is my most highlighted, dog-eared book.  I’ve taught through it to several woman and teen groups over the years and have referenced it and applied its truths to my life in a way that has brought me much freedom and joy (probably because it’s all about BIBLICAL TRUTH!)  Nancy writes, “What we believe about God is foundational to our whole belief system.  If we have wrong thinking about God, we will have wrong thinking about everything else.”   That truth is echoed in another favorite book, The Knowledge of the Holy, by A.W. Tozer.  The very first line of the book says, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”  And the most foundational truth about God that I have clung to is that He is good and EVERYTHING He does is good! (Psalm 119:68)

And I would say that what we believe about Jesus changes everything.  People have thought Him to be a prophet, a good teacher, the reincarnation of an ancient prophet, a crazy man, a drunkard, and even a myth.  In Matthew 16, Jesus asks Peter a point-blank question, that we all need to answer.  “Who do you say that I am?”  Our response is foundational, and we must settle in our hearts that matter for all time!   Peter responded rightly, “You are the Christ (Messiah, Savior), the Son of the Living God!”  It is followed by Jesus telling them that He must die and be raised again.  Peter gets a little exercised over that.  He was probably thinking, “I just confirmed that you are the Messiah and now you’re saying you’re gonna die!”  Jesus rebuked Peter for setting his mind on the things of man and not of God.  God is good and everything He does is good–even when it meant letting Jesus die!

Jesus goes on to say, “Not only am I going to die, but if you want to follow me, you are going to die to yourself, take up your cross, and lose your life for my sake.” Jesus then promises that on the other side of that is life! “…whoever loses his life for my sake will find it…For the Son of Man is going to come with His angels in the glory of His Father, and then He will repay each person according to what he has done.”  Again, we have to firmly establish in our hearts what we believe about Jesus so that when trials and sacrifice come, we can stand firm on truth!

Yesterday my husband went to the ER with chest pains.  The EKG results came back that he was not having a heart attack.  I took that news to our boys and we praised God together.  Then, I said to them, “Boys, no matter what the outcome would have been, God is good and everything He does is good.  If something had happened to your dad or if it happens in the future, you have to know and believe that.”  We cannot let doubt and unbelief seep in (Matthew 16:5-12).  Jesus is Lord!  And whatever happens I know that it is for my best and for His glory!

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Invitation!! Just for You!

After almost 2 years of our journey through the Bible, the boys and I are at Psalm 119.  So tomorrow on 1-19 at 1:19, we will be reading Psalm 119.  Anyone want to join us?

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Matthew 15-Cleanliness is NOT next to Godliness

This chapter starts with the Pharisees and scribes (rule-makers) asking Jesus, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders?  For they do not wash their hands when they eat.”  He admonishes them by saying, “You hypocrites!  Well did Isaiah prophesy of you when he said: ‘This people honors me with their lips but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'”  Jesus basically tells them that clean hands don’t equal a clean heart.  He also tells them that all their food rules don’t make them clean…in fact, let me share the way Jesus says it…”Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled into the latrine? (Isn’t it funny to picture Jesus saying that!  A good demonstration that He was a real man on earth!)  But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person….But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.”  What happens next almost seems like hyperbole.

Jesus goes on to feed 4,000 men and numerous women and children without sink or soap or pump hand sanitizer!  Jesus fed all those people without having them first wash their hands! (Insert astonished gasp) THEY WERE ALREADY CLEAN!  Look with me at verse 31–for three days they watched in wonder as Jesus healed person after person and they glorified the God of Israel!  They worshiped in heart and speech.

Another example of faith in the heart being demonstrated through speech is found in verses 21-28.  The Canaanite woman had a heart filled with faith and Jesus knew it by what came out of her mouth! 1. “Have mercy on me, O Lord.” 2. “Lord, help me.”  She was humbly depending on Jesus as her only hope!  That is an act of worship that is acceptable to the Savior!

Today, I’m taking time to examine my heart and make sure that my speech and heart are aligned and that my heart belongs to God.  May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer!

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Matthew 14-Jesus is God!

Jesus receives word that His cousin and partner in preaching the message of repentance, John the Baptist, has been beheaded by the Roman ruler of Galilee. John lost his head because he told Herod it wasn’t right to take his brother’s wife.  Jesus tried to withdraw to a solitary place probably to grieve the loss.  Yet the people wouldn’t give him a break.  As He sailed through the sea, they all walked on foot to his destination.  It reminds me of media hounds or paparazzi.  As soon as there’s tragedy, everybody wants to be in on the action.  They had NO compassion for His grief or loss.  In my human nature, I would have lashed out in selfish, impatient anger.  But not Jesus; although He was a real, human man, He was also God.  He could not cast away or suppress his compassion and selflessness.  They are His very nature!  Despite the fact that the sinful nature of man caused His cousin’s death and He foreknew it would cause His, Jesus still had compassion on the people.  He knew it was why He was sent here–to heal (14, 36), to satisfy our physical needs (20), to remove our fear (27), to save and rescue (30-31), to give us THE reason to worship (33).  I echo the disciples in saying, “Truly, He is the Son of God.”  Who else would respond to people the way he does?  Who else would give so much of themselves?  Who else loves their enemies like that?  Who else has the power and authority that He showed over sin, sickness, provisions, and nature?  Only the One who created it all–Jesus Christ the Son of God!

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Matthew 13:24-58-Single-Minded for All Eternity!

In our home, we have a spare bedroom/storage room that is maybe 8 x 8.  It is packed to the gills with toys, off-season clothes, books and my desk that my dad built for me when I was a little girl.  This is mainly where I meet with Jesus for coffee each morning before I do anything else.  Then I go out to face the challenges of the day.  Today I went out to the kitchen half-way through to reheat my coffee and almost got side-tracked, but remembered the lesson God taught me yesterday and went straight back to the spare room.  I prayed, “Lord, forgive me for starting strong and finishing weak daily.  I wish I could stay in my room all day, just once, and not go out to the distractions, agendas, and temptations, but just be alone with You and Your Word.”  Then Matthew 13:49 spoke to my heart.  At the end, the angels will remove from God’s Kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. (Bonus feature:  Want to know why there’s evil in the world?  Because there are evil people in the world.)  Although the judgment and punishment of people who don’t believe in Jesus Christ breaks my heart, how glorious to spend forever in the presence of God without distraction and temptation. “Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be made sight!”

But here I am, and here I’ll stay until the end.  So what do I do with my time from now until eternity?  Grow and mature in my faith, and allow God to use me to meet the needs of others.  Earlier in the chapter, Jesus talks about the mustard seed and a little yeast in flour.  God uses the smallest things and grows them into something extraordinary that give life, lift others up and impact their environment.  Lord, use me like this!

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Matthew 13:1-23-The Trouble with my Agenda is, it’s MY Agenda

This morning my husband was trying to get out the door, and he asked me to dig out his gloves.  The problem is that our house doesn’t have a coat closet so we bought a big trunk in which to store our winter coats, hats, gloves, scarves, etc…Well, I decided it would be a great time to organize the coat trunk, while he waited semi-patiently beside me.  Finally, he reached in and grabbed the gloves and tried to kiss me good-bye, but my head was already back in the trunk.  Then he said very gently, “When I ask you to do something to help me, most of the time, your agenda takes over.”  HE’S RIGHT!  And that’s not the only person I do that to–I do it to God a lot!

Honestly, I admit that when I read this parable about the seed and soil, I thought pridefully,  “I have good soil (heart and mind) and I love the seed (God’s Word).”  Then I went out and had the aforementioned interaction with my husband, proceeded to take out the trash and was getting ready to start another project. Like a ton of bricks, it hit me, I had read God’s Word and walked away and  my agenda had crowded out His Word in my mind and heart.  In Matthew 13:22 Jesus teaches, “The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced.”

Lord, I’m sorry that I often think what I have to get done is more important than what You want to do in and through me.  Lord, I’ve wasted so many opportunities for growth and service because I’ve put me first.  Please continue to show me where I’m falling short, and help me remove the thorns from my heart.  I want a fruitful life–I don’t want to waste my life.  Thank you for mixing my husband’s honesty with Your truth in my heart.  You are so good and all you do is good.  Teach me Your ways!

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Matthew 12-My Aha Moment!

Matthew 12-My Aha Moment!.

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Matthew 12-My Aha Moment!

“We don’t read the Bible to finish.  We read the Bible to change!” (Jeremy Kingsley)  Sometimes I have to think on it longer than others before God speaks to me through His Word. But I always try to read the chapter prayerfully and expectantly for personal conviction, challenge and/or application.  Honestly, nothing was coming to me in Matthew 12 except the repeated phrase, “but the Pharisees”

The Pharisees considered themselves rule-makers and rule-keepers and rule-regulators.  That is, they didn’t just want to trust in God’s set of laws, they added their own to them so they could be extra holy.  They thought their right standing with God came from keeping all their own rules.  They fancied themselves the detectives and police and judge and jury for anyone who didn’t keep the rules.

The Pharisees saw Jesus break one of their rules and they called Him out.  Jesus-the perfect Son of God–broke their rules.  And it angered them.  They didn’t want to submit to the fact that He is the supreme Ruler.  They believed in God, but they missed out on the Savior and Lord.  

In the middle of the chapter, Jesus teaches that we can’t speak what is good and right out of an evil heart.  That’s what the Pharisees were doing.  They had the spiritual jargon down, but they had set themselves up as savior and lord in their hearts.  

That was me 12 years ago.  I was raised in a Christian home, went to Christian elementary school, was a leader in my youth group, and even taught Christian pre-school.  Sure there were dark phases in my life where I obviously behaved wrongly; but even when I thought I was getting it right, I was getting it wrong.  Being a Christian isn’t about following rules.  It’s definitely not about doing what is right in my own eyes.  It’s not about knowing the right answers to questions about Christianity and the Bible.  Christianity is about having Christ’s grace and righteousness in my heart, making my heart clean, and about acknowledging Jesus as Lord–surrendering to His authority in my life. My heart and my mouth must match up.  In Matthew 12:36-37 Jesus says, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give an account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

I believe in my heart and I proclaim with my mouth, “Jesus is Lord!”  He’s my Lord!  What I could never do for myself, He has done for me!  He has made me right in His eyes and covered every instance of rule-breaking and righteousness I thought I earned from rule-keeping.  AND HE WANTS TO DO THAT FOR YOU!  Would you surrender your heart to Jesus today?

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