Thursday, February 28, 2008

Matthew 8:28-34


28 When He came to the other side into the country of the Gadarenes, two men who were demon-possessed met Him as they were coming out of the tombs. They were so extremely violent that no one could pass by that way.29 And they cried out, saying, ``What business do we have with each other, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?'' 30 Now there was a herd of many swine feeding at a distance from them. 31 The demons began to entreat Him, saying, ``If You are going to cast us out, send us into the herd of swine.'' 32 And He said to them, ``Go!'' And they came out and went into the swine, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and perished in the waters. 33 The herdsmen ran away, and went to the city and reported everything, including what had happened to the demoniacs. 34 And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw Him, they implored Him to leave their region.

Here we have the first mention of DEVILED HAM in the Bible.

Jesus entered into the country of Gadara on the East side of the Sea of Galilee. He was confronted by two men who were demonized, men with such a violent reputation that people avoided them. There are two very interesting observations here:

1. Jesus was confronted by evil and was victorious over it.

2. Even though Jesus freed the two men, He was rejected by the community and asked to leave.

Two men were freed from demonic bondage and still Jesus was rejected for what He had done. You see, not everyone is happy when others are freed, especially when this freedom begins to change those around them. I've seen this happen with alcoholics and drug addicts. When an addict gives up his drug and is freed up from the bondage, those around him become very uncomfortable.

Spiritually speaking, this happens frequently. People can watch their friends find personal freedom, but that very freedom threatens their own agendas. This is what Jesus' presence did. His security and confidence in Who He was made people uncomfortable. Therefore they persecuted Him and eventually killed Him. This is precisely what Jesus was talking about in two of the beatitudes. When you hunger and thirst for righteousness and righteousness begins to show, then you will be persecuted for it. Why? Because your new experience and example of walking in righteousness (walking with Jesus, the Righteous One) will inevitably make others feel very uncomfortable and those people will be very critical of you and what you've done.

Have you ever helped someone, only to be criticized by others for your efforts. Or even worse, have you done something good for another person and that person later turns against you for some reason. How does this ungratefulness make you feel? I've struggled with this for years. The answer to this dilemma? I am not working to please people or to win a popularity contest. I work for Jesus and only seek His approval. Just as Jesus sought to please His Father, so I am to please Him.

Jesus wants my faithfulness, not my successfulness. He wants my heart, then He will take care of what happens. You see, we work for an audience of one. His name is Jesus.

Matthew 8:18-27


18 Now when Jesus saw a crowd around Him, He gave orders to depart to the other side of the sea. 19 Then a scribe came and said to Him, ``Teacher, I will follow You wherever, You go.'' 20 Jesus said* to him, ``The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere, to lay His head.'' 21 Another of the disciples said to Him, ``Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.'' 22 But Jesus said* to him, ``Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead.''

23 When He got into the boat, His disciples followed Him. 24 And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being covered with the waves; but Jesus Himself was asleep. 25 And they came to Him and woke Him, saying, ``Save us, Lord; we are perishing!'' 26 He said* to them,``Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?'' Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm. 27 The men were amazed, and said, ``What kind of a man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?''

NOTE that when Jesus sees the crowd, He departs in another direction. What is it that He is thinking when He does this? It sure is different than any church growth thinking and example on the scene today.

In the presence of the Messiah real follow-through and devotion is required. 1. Scribe-wants to be a follower of Jesus, but apparently came across as if it was going to be a great ride. Well, following Jesus is a great ride, but it is filled with some discomforts and sacrifices along the way. That's Jesus' response to his excitement.

2. Another disciple-to "bury his father" meant to handle all of the affairs of the family since his father's death seems imminent. Jesus' response was that someone else can handle those things. When you're in the presence of the Messiah, total devotion is required!

Why do you think Jesus took His disciples on a boat ride? I think it was a field trip! The theme of this mini-retreat? It was devotion again, but this time it was measured by how they trusted Jesus in the midst of a crisis. And what was their response? It was to panic and see only the negative-"We are perishing!" Jesus got up, rebuked the winds and the sea became perfectly calm. What kind of response was Jesus looking for?

As then, Jesus still is inviting His followers to trust Him. Think about it! 1. Jesus took them on a boat ride. 2. It was obviously the place He wanted them all to be in. 3. Now, what's the problem?

I WONDER if their response should have been to wait on Him rather than be in a panic about it all? You see, everywhere Jesus sends you, He is right there with you. So, don't panic. He knows and is very capable of getting you through all of the tough waters you may encounter.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Matthew 8:14-17


14 When Jesus came into Peter's home, He saw his mother-in-law lying sick in bed with a fever. 15 He touched her hand and the fever left her; and she got up and waited on Him. 16 When evening came, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed; and He cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were ill,. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: ``HE HIMSELF TOOK OUR INFIRMITIES AND CARRIED AWAY OUR DISEASES.''

AGAIN the touch of Jesus, just as with touching the untouchable leper, Jesus' touch is powerful, therapeutic and miraculous! The immediacy of its effect is most always there. NOTE that as soon as she was whole again, her immediate response was to serve Him. Do you remember when you first believed and couldn't do enough? Now that you're older and more spiritual "mature", that initial excitement seems to have faded into a little callousness and maybe, at times, has transitioned into being a little cynical about life and now a spectator, not "waiting" on Jesus as Peter's mother-in-law's response? Also NOTE how the word spread, by word of mouth! Not a newspaper add or a door-knob hangers. Word spread by people sharing what they had seen and heard. The best "promotion" is "attraction" to other people sharing their experience, strength and hope.

NOTE the family dimension here. I love it! All of us who are believers are brothers and sisters, we know, but this has a little more down-to-earthness about it. Peter, Jesus' spiritual brother, becomes like a blood brother through the compassion expressed by Jesus toward other family members. We enjoy this so much. We feel like family to so many people out there and therefore feel empathy toward all of the family members in the bunch. I think of the Feenstra/Kellenger clan, Hahns, Sanders, Buskeys, Page, Teran, Ramynke, Thornbro, Nassaney, Peykoff, Calhoun, Klopfensteins, Kurjans, Kucheras and the Kegel's, just to mention a few. I love it!

One more thing about "the touch". This paragraph demonstrates how God used the differing personalities to write the Gospels. Mark, who in his Gospel presented Jesus as the Messiah-the Servant, said the Jesus "helped or assisted" Peter's mother-in-law. Luke, the physician presenting Jesus as Messiah-the Son of Man in all of His humanity, said the Jesus "cured" her. And here, Matthew presents Jesus as Messiah-the King, says that Jesus "touched" her as the touch of the King.

WDJD? What Did Jesus Do? is most important to know in your life. WWJD? What Would Jesus Do? The question is really the answer! Then, you can move into WWYD? What Will You Do? to be and do like Jesus in the world around you today? He wants you and me to be family in as many relationships as we can to reach out and touch those family members who are sick to bring them back on track. WWYD?

Matthew 8:5-13


5 When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. 6 "Lord," he said, "my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly."

This was a bold move by the centurion. A Roman centurion was a high-ranking military leader within the Empire of Rome. He was concerned for one of his servants who had become paralyzed and was suffering from it. Jesus quickly responds to his request. 7 Jesus said to him, "Shall I come and heal him?"

The centurion's reply back to Jesus was: 8 The centurion replied, "Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, 'Go,' and he goes; and that one, 'Come,' and he comes. I say to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it."

By his response he was expressing his high respect for Jesus and His authority and power. Note how Jesus views the centurion's response: 10 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, "Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith."

Jesus was so impressed with this man's faith and Jesus claims this is the greatest expression of faith he has seen in all of Israel. What makes this so powerful and shocking is that this incredible expression of faith is not coming from any of the Jewish community, but from the Roman world. The Romans served many gods in their culture, including their emperor. Now NOTE what else Jesus says:

11 "I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

Jesus clearly says that many non-Jews will come from throughout the world and from many other cultures to be followers of Jesus. And, on the contrary, many of the Jewish faith and culture will not even be allowed to join in the great feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom. If you were to translate this into a more contemporary expression, Jesus is saying that the people of faith who will ultimately sit at the table of faith in the Kingdom will not all be Christians and from a Christian culture.

This is one of the key passages from Jesus that shows His attitude and teaching regarding sharing God's Messiah with the many cultures of the world.

13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, "Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would." And his servant was healed at that very hour. What I think is most curious here is that Jesus pronounces this man as a most significant man of faith and implies that this man and many others like him will come to the table of fellowship and faith. To me, it is even more important what Jesus does not say here. Jesus does not warn him to deny his Roman culture and gods nor did Jesus invite Him to come to a synagogue class where he can get his doctrines straight. Why? Because it's all about a person's relationship with Jesus and not a system or list of beliefs, nor is it about converting a person away from his native culture into the Christian culture.

Jesus is looking for people to follow Him and by following Him you will learn that His ways are full and meaningful for your lifestyle and in the process of following Jesus you will come to know the God of gods. In fact, it's in following Jesus that God, the Father and the Spirit will have the opportunity to transform your life inside out. I like that song, "It's All About You". In this song it says, "We made it something else, but it's really all about, Jesus." It's all about your response to Jesus.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Matthew 8:1=4


In Matthew 5-7 Jesus answers the question that was in the minds of those who had been observing His actions and hearing His words. That question was, "Jesus, how does your teaching differ from what we've been taught growing up?" Jesus answers this question in a most powerful way by articulating His new Kingdom manifesto.

Then, Matthew sets aside chapters 8 through 12 as the miracle section of his gospel message. Remember, the gospel of Matthew presents Jesus as the King to a Jewish audience. Within the Jewish community over the years lots of traditions were accumulated. One of these traditions had to do with the miracles the Messiah would perform when he showed up. There were three of them:

FIRST-The Jews believed that when the Messiah shows up, he will be able to heal a person who is born blind. SECOND-When the Messiah comes, he will heal a person of leprosy. THIRD-When the Messiah comes, he will be able to cast demons out of a person who cannot hear or cannot speak.

In Matthew's miracle section he begins with the healing of a leper here in chapter 8 and he ends the section in chapter 12 with the healing of a man who couldn't hear or speak. Let's check out how Jesus deals with the leper who comes to Him.

1 When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. 2 A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean." 3 Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. "I am willing," he said. "Be clean!" Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy. 4 Then Jesus said to him, "See that you don't tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them."

This miracle will prove to be a real tip-off that this new Rabbi is not just another teacher making his way around the community. This one is very different. NOTE what Jesus says to the leper after He immediately cleansed him. He says, "See that you don't tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony."

Here's my thinking on this. Jesus was using a very reliable marketing practice. You see, every priest had learned how to perform all of the sacrifices that were given in the Mosaic Law. They all had learned the appropriate thing to do to declare a leper genuinely cleansed. But up until this point, no priest had ever performed this ceremonial cleansing, because no leper had been cleansed. Now, if you were the local priest and a leper came to you with his request for ceremonial cleansing, what would you do? You're going to be the first priest ever to perform this ceremony. Don't you think you would call the local papers and news agencies? I mean, this is news, big news and you would let everyone one you ever knew know about this unique happening. This was ingenious!

The three miracles the Jews were looking for the Messiah to perform were based upon their traditions. These weren't set forth in the Scriptures as THE THREE miracles the Messiah was to perform. These were the three that stood out as the most popular traditional Messianic expectations. What I think is most interesting here is Jesus was not bound to perform these miracles. He performed them as an accommodation to the Jewish people and their culture. This is why Jesus is so attractive and irresistible. Jesus is relentless in His efforts to reach out to everyone everywhere! He'll use every opportunity to touch every person on the planet.

Remember, all Jesus requires is that you be interested. And, in the words of Jesus being interested is having ears to hear and eyes to see. Simply put, this means ears to hear what Jesus says and eyes to see what Jesus does. Once you see what Jesus does and hear what Jesus says, there is only one proper response and that is to practice what you hear and see in your own life-to be like Jesus wherever you are.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Matthew 7:24-29


2 GATES, 2 GUIDES, Now, 2 foundations. 24 ``Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 ``And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. 26 ``Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 ``The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell-and great was its fall.''

NOTE similar things about each one: 1. Each person hears the words of Jesus. 2. Each person faces the same rain, floods, and blowing winds slamming against them.

NOTE the differences between the two: 1. Each person responds differently to the words he has heard-one by acting upon the words of Jesus & the other by not acting upon them. 2. Each person experiences a different result-one does not fall down and the other falls flat!

I am now convinced that most of us most of our lives have lived our lives founded upon the sand. It's what I call the "sandcastle lifestyle". What Jesus is saying is so simple and so profound. Jesus wants only two things from us:

1. He wants each of us to listen to His words. Instead of talking all of the time when you pray, try sitting still and waiting for Jesus to speak to you. You'll know what He wants from you. You'll know what His will is for you.

I regret to say that I have spent most of my life talking and not listening. Therefore, I have missed out on what Jesus is attempting to say to me. It's as simple and as tragic as that!

2, He wants each of us to act upon what He says to do. Listen to Jesus and do what He says to do, no more and no less. This is why we have included the 3rd habit for our lives-waiting on Jesus to lead out.

NOTE THE RESULTS: 1. If you hear His words and are careful to do them, no matter what comes in against you, your house will not collapse!

2. If you hear His words and don't do them (the very same rain, floods, and winds), then your house will fall flat, dramatically!


28 When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; 29 for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.

Jesus spoke so powerfully that it amazed all those who heard Him. This Jesus is for real! Jesus is so attractive! Jesus is the most irresistible One ever!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Matthew 7:15-23


In the last paragraph Jesus spoke about 2 gates and now He opens up 2 different kinds of guides. 15 ``Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 ``You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 ``So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 ``A good tree cannot produce bad fruit nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 ``Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 ``So then, you will know them by their fruits.

Unfortunately, false prophets don't wear an FP on their sleeve or on their forehead. Jesus warns that there will be false prophets who seem harmless, but are out to destroy. He says that you can decipher them by their fruits. But even this may be difficult to judge (conclusively judge) whether or not a prophet is false or genuine, because many false prophets show a certain kind of fruitfulness in what they do. That's what makes them so attractive!

But NOTE what the test here really is. The term fruit is the operative word here. In order to check out a prophet's fruit (not their show or outward demonstration), you need to observe the person and ministry over a prolonged period of time. It takes time to produce fruit. There is no instant fruit. So watch for the fruit over a long period of time and you'll know.

Now NOTE what these false prophets actually do. This is amazing! 21 ``Not everyone who says to Me, `Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 ``Many will say to Me on that day, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' 23 ``And then I will declare to them, `I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.'

Jesus says that there will be people who come before Him in the last days, calling Him Lord, but will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Just using the right language will not get a person into the kingdom of heaven. HOWEVER, the one who does the will of the Father will enter-the person who not only talks a good game, but walks it and proves it out by his actions.

These people, Jesus says, will do 3 things that will make it all the more difficult to discern whether or not a person is a false prophet. They speak in the name of Jesus-- "did we not prophesy in your name?" They cast out demons in the name of Jesus. They perform many miracles in the name of Jesus.

WOW! These are some powerful things that the false prophets do. So how can you tell the difference between the false and the genuine. The only answer Jesus gives here is that you will know them by their fruits, so watch what they do.

The deceptiveness of these false prophets is another good reason why it's necessary to keep: 1-Walking with Jesus 2-Walking with others


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Matthew 7:13-14


13 Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 ``For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.

2 GATES: 1. Narrow gate 2. Wide gate

2 RESULTS: 1. Narrow gate leads to life! 2. Wide gate leads to destruction!

2 CHOICES 1. Narrow gate that leads to life will be found by a few! 2. Wide gate that leads to destruction will be entered by many!

NOTE the narrow gate is small and therefore difficult to go through. NOTE the wide gate is wide and therefore easy to go through.

NOTE also that Jesus begins with the command urging us to enter in through the narrow gate. Remember, the entire Sermon on the Mount is answering the question, "How does your teaching differ from what we've been taught, Jesus?" His answer here is that to follow Him and His teaching will be difficult, but will lead to life. To choose not to follow Him and His teaching will be the easiest thing to do, because the masses are going in that direction. Don't follow the crowd. Follow Jesus!

This passage reminds me of living JUST FOR TODAY:

Just for today I will live through the next 12 hours and not tackle my whole life problem at once.

Just for today I will improve my mind. I will learn something useful. I will read something that requires effort, thought and concentration.

Just for today I will be agreeable. I will look my best, speak in a well-modulated voice, be courteous and considerate.

Just for today I will not find fault with anyone. I will not try to change or improve anyone but myself.

Just for today I will have a program. I might not follow it exactly, but I will have it. It will save me from two enemies-hurry and indecision.

Just for today I will exercise my character in two ways. I will do a good deed and will keep it a secret. If anyone finds out, it won't count.

Just for today I will do two things I don't want to do, just for exercise.

Just for today I will be unafraid. Especially will I be unafraid to enjoy what is beautiful, to love and to believe that those I love, love me. I will remember that as I give my best to the world, the world will give back to me.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Matthew 7:1-12


This passage seems to say "No judging!" and is commonly quoted in this way. However, there are so many other passages in the Scripture that imply the necessity for making judgment calls in a variety of ways. There has to be sound judgment in our world, otherwise there would be chaos, confusion, attractive cults and cultishness, rampant lying throughout our society and immorality reigning on every hand. But wait a minute! That's exactly what we have now! It's because of the misunderstanding of what this passage really means.

There are two types of judgment: 1-Condemnation judgment-a pronouncement of condemnation, reserved for God only. 2-Conclusion judgment-making a judgment call after examining the evidence, a personal responsibility for us.

This passage isn't saying not to judge, but when you judge (make conclusions about things and people) conduct your judgment in the proper way. Here are 4 steps for doing this:

#1-JUDGE WITH THE PROPER SPIRIT 1 ``Do not judge so that you will not be judged. 2 ``For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.

When you judge (conclusion judgment), understand that you will be judged by others in precisely the same area. If you are critical of another's parenting style, you will be critically analyzed for your parenting prowess.

#2-JUDGE WITH THE PROPER STARTING POINT 3 ``Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 ``Or how can you say to your brother, `Let me take the speck out of your eye,' and behold, the log is in your own eye? 5 ``You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.

When you judge (conclusion judgment), look at yourself first. Don't go after the speck in your brother's eyes, until you have taken the log out of your own eye. It's all a matter of perspective. Once you remove the log out of your eye, then you will be able to see clearly how to take the speck out of your brother's eye. What's interesting is that when you haven't dealt with your own "stuff", you tend to pick away and condemn others for whatever their "stuff" happens to be. The favorite indoor sport for most churches is to confess the sins of the world!

#3-JUDGE WITH PROPER SCREENING 6 ``Do not give what is holy to dogs and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

When you judge (conclusion judgment), don't just randomly make your judgment calls wherever you might be. For instance, don't walk into a bar and start making pronouncements against drunkenness and alcoholism. This will be throwing your pearls before swine. They not only will not appreciate your words, but they will not be able to hear them at all. In turn, having grounds to criticize you.

#4-JUDGE WITH THE PROPER PERSPECTIVE 7 ``Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 ``For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 9 ``Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? 10 ``Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? 11 ``If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!

When you judge (conclusion judgment), don't rely only on your insights and wisdom. Be sure to seek God's perspective on the matter. Ask for wisdom on the matter!

Ask and keep on asking. Seek and keep on seeking. Knock and keep on knocking. and your heavenly Father will give you what you need!

12 ``In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets. Jesus ends this teaching segment with what we know as the "golden rule."

I call this teaching of Jesus THE PERSPECTIVE PRINCIPLE. This principle requires that you be a judge-bringing discernment into our world!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Matthew 6:34


34 So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

I've said it many times. YESTERDAY is a cancelled check! TOMORROW is a promissory note! TODAY is the only cash you have!

Alcoholics Anonymous and all of the other Anon groups operate upon the theme of "ONE DAY AT A TIME." This is exactly what Jesus is saying here-one day at a time. Worry has little to do with the past, but mostly has to do with the future. We worry over what might happen or what might not happen. It's not in our control, but we spend lots of energy as if our worry could make a difference in the outcome. Jesus says "Don't bother!" Each day has plenty of trouble of its own without worrying about tomorrow's.

Jesus is teaching that if you are seeking His kingdom and His righteousness, He will take care of everything else you need. He will do this ONE DAY AT A TIME. This is what He did with the children of Israel about one month into their 40 years of wandering. He rained down bread from heaven-manna-each day, except on Sabbath. Each day the manna came down from heaven. Each day they were to gather enough for the day, never thinking of storing up some for tomorrow. Each day there was enough. Jesus is the "new manna in town." Jesus is our daily bread. The word "manna" means a surprise like "What is it?" I see Jesus giving each of us a surprise of His manna, His leadership, His sustenance each and every day for those who seek first His kingdom and His righteousness.

This is again why we practice the 3 habits: Walking with Jesus Walking with others Waiting on Jesus to lead out.

We practice these habits in order to gather the manna for today, which helps in minimizing our worry factor.

Have you noticed that when you think about tomorrow or next week, then the worries become overwhelming? I have to constantly focus my thinking and reflection upon today. This goes along with the message of the book of Ecclesiastes. King Solomon had tried everything to full his life with satisfaction and all was found to be empty-luxury, liquor, lust, etc.

He sums up his life's search with two summary truths: Fear God and keep His commandments. Enjoy your blessings every day!

That's living life ONE DAY AT A TIME.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Matthew 6:25-33


25 For this reason I say to you, NOTE the connection to earthly and heavenly treasures. Now "for this reason" DON'T WORRY!

Do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?

26 ``Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow nor reap nor gather into barns and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? 27 ``And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?

So Jesus says, "Stop worrying about earthly treasures!" Stop Your Worrying about EARTHLY TREASURES! Such as your life-(eating and drinking) Look at the birds (26) implies that worry is natural. Worry is useless (27). You can't add anything to your height or years to your life.

28 ``And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, 29 yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 30 ``But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Such as your body-(clothing).

Observe the lilies (28-29). If God takes care of them, He will most surely take care of you. Worry is faithless (30). When you worry, you take everything into your own hands, which is not trusting in God.

31 ``Do not worry then, saying, `What will we eat?' or `What will we drink?' or `What will we wear for clothing?' 32 ``For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 ``But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Seek His Righteousness of HEAVENLY TREASURES! Since God already knows your needs and is not surprised when something happens (or doesn't happen) to you, seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all of these things (eating, drinking and clothing) will be taken care of by God Himself. This is what is meant by "walking with Jesus." It's the principle of plenty.

The principle of plenty says that with God there is always enough. Without Him there is never enough! Trust God, enjoy the plenty. Trust anything or anyone other than God, and you will surely have a perpetual state of dissatisfaction! When you come to the end of yourself, then and only then will you come to the understanding that God is ENOUGH!

Look around you and be distressed. Look within you and be depressed. LOOK TO JESUS AND BE AT REST.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Matthew 6:19-24


19 ``Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. 20 ``But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Remember, you were created to be dependent upon God. This is at the core of what that means. Jesus speaks more about money and how to handle it than most any other subject. That's not because He is taking up an offering or running a pledge drive. He has plenty without yours! It's because money and material things-earthly treasures-are the easiest to become dependent upon, the earthly treasures that most easily distract us away from God. So, here Jesus contrasts only two options. You can invest your life storing up heavenly treasures or you can invest your life storing up earthly treasures.

NOTE that earthly treasures are full of insecurity and the heavenly treasures will be secure! And NOTE that your heart will always reveal what your true treasure really is. In fact, your treasure leads the way for your heart!

22 ``The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. 23 ``But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

The focus of your eye determines the health of your inner-side. If your eye is clear (has a clear focus upon heavenly treasures), then your entire inners will be full of light, wholeness and health. If your eye is bad (unclear-having a focus on earthly treasures), they your inners will be full of darkness, stressfulness and emptiness. I see this as your spiritual focus that will directly affect your psychological (and later physical) well-being, all due to your focus!

24 ``No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.

Now, Jesus gives the ultimatum of it all! You cannot serve two masters! We tend to think that we can get away with it, but we can't. We tend to make Jesus the Lord of the general, but make ourselves the Lord of the specifics. I have a masters degree in doing this. I call it "doing things my way for Jesus." Believers tend to talk about standing on the Rock of Ages, but their actions look like they are clinging to a piece of driftwood!

Jesus introduces a most dynamic principle. It's the PRINCIPLE OF PRIMARY FOCUS or SINGLEMINDEDNESS!

AN UNEXAMINED LIFE IS NOT WORTH LIVING. Walking with Jesus always moves you toward evaluating every dimension of your life. Try on a couple of simple steps in applying this paragraph.

#1--RELEASE YOUR EARTHLY TREASURES! You must remember that you came into this world naked and will go out in the same way. After you die, there will be a large garage sale. You have been entrusted with what you are and what you have to be the manager of it all while you're on planet earth. There will be an accounting review!

#2--REFOCUS ON YOUR HEAVENLY TREASURES! What are you doing that will last forever? Think about it!


Matthew 6:16-18


16 ``Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 17 ``But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face 18 so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

Fasting is the 3rd illustration of the abuse of practicing righteous acts that were meant to be before God only and practicing these acts to be noticed by others. We have seen giving, praying and now FASTING. He is saying that "when you fast", don't mope around with a long face, looking disheveled in order to show off the fact that you are fasting before the Lord.

FASTING is not simply nor necessarily to abstain from food, but from anything that hinders your communion with God. Fasting is the ultimate in practicing the principle of private focus. It's a discipline of removing all things that take your attention away from the Lord. We tend to spend most of our time talking to God in prayer and not listening. Fasting is a great way to force your self to be quiet enough and focused enough to really listen to what the Lord wants to communicate to you at the deepest levels.


#2--REMEMBER THE TORTOISE AND THE HARE! Faithfulness means successfulness, living life long-term.

#3--RECRUIT GOD AS YOUR TEAM-MEMBER! It is said that if you want to win the high jump, you want to find one person who can jump 7 feet not 7 people who can just 1 foot. When you practice private focus, these three righteous acts (giving-praying-fasting) must be done in secret. Then God will reward you openly.

#4--RESERVE TIME ALONE--JUST YOU AND GOD! Taking the time to focus on God and your heart before Him--read, pray, contemplate, take the time for fasting. We are urged, "Be still and know that I am God."

God wants to enlighten, empower, encompass, & encounter you! He will do these things as you meet Him through fasting.

You must practice the presence of God! And when you practice the presence of God, you'll know where He is at all times. And when you know where God is, then you'll know where you stand.

Throughout Jesus' teaching He is encouraging you and me to get our support from God and relate to Him in a quiet, personal way. You see, in most cases believers operate in such a way that they have NO INVISIBLE MEANS OF SUPPORT.

Try taking the time to fast. Start with a half day and use the time to focus totally on your relationship with Jesus. See what happens when you practice the principle of private focus.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Matthew 6:14-15


14 ``For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 ``But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions."

I don't think there is a more penetrating statement in all of scripture! If you don't forgive others, God will not forgive you! Your relationship with God is integrally part of your relationship with others and vice versa.

We are all desperate for it, but we are also confused with what true forgiveness really is. First, it's important to understand what forgiving is not:

- Forgiving doesn't mean you must go back or reunite. - Forgiving doesn't mean we tolerate the wrong he did. - Forgiving doesn't mean we want to forget what happened. - Forgiving doesn't mean we excuse the person who did it. - Forgiving doesn't mean we take the edge off the evil done. - Forgiving doesn't mean we surrender our right to justice. - Forgiving doesn't mean invite someone to hurt us again.

Forgiveness involves three primary stages. First, HURT! There is no need for forgiveness without the pain of hurting. Don't try to minimize this stage. It's important to really feel this pain.

Second, HATE! It's like clockwork. You will have some degree of anger over the hurt. There's nothing wrong with this response. It's natural! The problem is not the anger, but not dealing with the anger. If you allow your anger to fester, this natural anger turns into a toxic resentment in your gut.

Third, HEALING! This third stage is the way it's supposed to go-toward some level of healing. This brings us to what forgiveness actually is. It's the final form of love. It's being willing to pay for the offense yourself and not get even with the one who hurt you. When you forgive, you take the pain yourself! Forgiveness is the final form of love. There are five steps in forgiving another person: i. Remind yourself that this person is only human!

ii. Relinquish your right to get even! The truth of the matter is that it is impossible to get (exactly) even. You will either not get back at them enough or you will overdo it. There is just no way to get even!

iii. Be ready to hurt in order to heal! You must take the pain all by yourself! This is the real secret to the dynamic of forgiving someone. You must pay for and not demand that they do!

iv. Wish them well! This could be the best real evidence that forgiveness has taken place. Try praying for them-for their success!

v. You may have to repeat the process! Jesus was asked how many times a person ought to forgive another. His answer was 70 X 7 or 490! By the way, this doesn't mean that at 491, you can go get even with them!

This is all well and good, but what is the primary motivation to forgive anyone-especially your enemy? The answer is FREEDOM! As long as you refuse to forgive, you are in bondage to this person who hurt you! In bondage! You are his/her slave for as long as you don't forgive!

Years after her concentration camp experiences in Nazi Germany, Corrie ten Boom met face to face one of the most cruel and heartless German guards that she had ever contacted. He had humiliated and degraded her and her sister. He had jeered and visually raped them as they stood in the delousing shower. Now he stood before her with his hand outstretched and said, "Will you forgive me?" She writes: "I stood there with coldness clutching at my heart, but I know that the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. I prayed, Jesus, help me! Woodenly, mechanically I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me and I experienced an incredible thing. The current started in my shoulder, raced down into my arms and sprang into our clutched hands. Then this warm reconciliation seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes. 'I forgive you, brother,' I cried with my whole heart. For a long moment we grasped each other's hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I have never known the love of God so intensely as I did in that moment!" To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover the prisoner was you!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Matthew 6:9-13


9 ``Pray, then, in this way: `Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 10 `Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.11 `Give us this day our daily bread. 12 `And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 `And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil."

Jesus just said not to use meaningless repetitions and many words and now teaches us to pray a 30 second, 65 word prayer to pray! Although this is commonly known as the Lord's Prayer, it is really the disciples' prayer. Jesus gave it as an example on how a disciple should pray. [The real Lord's Prayer is found in John 17.]

There are 6 requests or petitions listed here. The first 3 are for God's glory and the second 3 are for man's good. This is a great balance! Let's take a look at each of these 6 requests:

FIRST-Hallowed be your name. Another way of saying this is "May your name be sanctified." To sanctify God's name is to set His name apart from all other gods, from everyone and from everything else. "Father, may your name be set apart in my life and by my life."

SECOND-Your Kingdom come or may your Kingdom come. "May your Kingdom come here on earth as it is in heaven." We are not only to be living our lives in such a way that we set God apart, distinct from everyone and everything else, but we are to be about His Kingdom and its movement to be here on earth more fully.

THIRD-Your will be done or may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. If God's name is set apart from all else and His Kingdom is making its way into the lives of people on earth, then God's will is working itself out in our lives as well. We are to be praying for His name to be set apart in this world, for His Kingdom to make itself fully realized and for His will to become more and more of a reality here on earth.

The first three are primarily prayers for God to have His will and His way right here among us on earth. The second three have to do with our needs on earth.

FOURTH-Give us this day our daily bread. This is one of the most dynamic and practical principles of trust ever written. Jesus is referring His audience back to the wilderness where God fed the children of Israel one day at a time. We are to pray in the same way. We are to look for and count on God to come through on our behalf-daily, as we have need. This doesn't cover all you want, but what you need.

FIFTH-Forgive us our debts as we have also forgiven our debtors. As we are counting on God to come through on our behalf on a daily basis to meet our basic needs, we need God's grace in forgiving us and setting us free to be. But NOTE that there seems to be a condition-as we have also forgiven our debtors. We will see more about this in tomorrow's session in verses 14-15.

SIXTH-And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. This is a prayer for protection while we are living between the two kingdoms-God's and man's.

Three requests that will bring glory to God as His Kingdom comes down to earth and He dwells among us. Then, three requests specifically for our good. God's glory will always bring about good for us. As we focus on God-His name, His Kingdom and His will, we will discover what's best for us. I'm finding that doing things God's way is always the best way for us. It's like the principle of gravity. If you go along with it, all will be well. If you try to go against the principle of gravity, all will not be well for you. When you break God's universal laws, those laws will break you in the process. So, I pray, "May your name be set apart from all others in me!" "May your Kingdom come down to earth more fully in me!" And, "May your will be done in me!" In me, right here, right now, every day.