Matthew 18 – 11/5/17

Seventh Day – Sunday of Sixth Week

Matthew 18 – In lessons on humility;                      

in parables about lost sheep and showing mercy;            

in warnings to take our own sin seriously, especially because of its effects on others;   

and                                                                        

in steps for healing offenses within the Christian community,
 
Jesus’ main theme percolates to the surface: be merciful to another.
 
Reflection: God has shown us such great mercy in the cross!  We are never more like our Father than when we show mercy to others (Mtt 5:7, 9; 6:43-48).  Include Jesus in your relationships today – show mercy.


Matthew 17 – 11/4/17

Learning to Include Jesus: Reading through Matthew’s Gospel

SIXTH WEEK

Sixth Day – Saturday of Sixth Week

Matthew 17 – God is working in your life – and he is working for good in your life.  Life’s painful experiences can make us wonder, however.  In chapter 16, Jesus began to teach his disciples that he would be killed in Jerusalem.  He would not stay dead, however, but would rise from the dead (16:21-23).  Of course, none of that made any sense to the disciples.  From their experience, death was final.  

           In the tough times, we need assurance that God is still in control.  So, as if to assure the disciples that he was still in control, even of his coming death, Jesus allowed three of them to see his divine glory (1-8).  He was “transfigured” – transformed – right in front of them.  Then God spoke and blessed Jesus (just as he had at Jesus’ baptism).  God said clearly that Jesus was the one to listen to, above everything else, even Moses and the prophets.  There could be no doubt: whatever Jesus said, God was behind it!  

          Then, once again, Jesus taught about how he would go to Jerusalem and die and rise again (22-23).  There was no avoiding the suffering; but the suffering would be followed by life!  

 Reflection: God’s loving work in our lives doesn’t mean we will never suffer.   But God’s loving power does mean that suffering does not have to be the final word for those who trust him.  Include Jesus – even in your pain.

 



Matthew 13- 10/31/17

Learning to Include Jesus: Reading through Matthew’s Gospel

Thirty-Eighth Day – Tuesday of Sixth Week 10/31/17

Matthew 13 – The Good News of Jesus is that God is being faithful to forgive and heal his broken world in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  But the world sure still looks sick!  Has the Kingdom of God really come in Jesus?  If so, why don’t things look more like God is in control?

                In this chapter, Jesus speaks to those very questions.  The people in his day wondered exactly what we do now.  So Jesus spoke about the various responses to God’s message (3-23).  He talked about God’s restraint, but assured his action, in his response to the evil in the world (24-30; 36-43).  He talked about great things coming from small beginnings (31-35).  He said the Kingdom of heaven is like a buried treasure or one extraordinary pearl lost among many average ones.  God’s kingdom may not be obvious, but it’s worth anything you have to be part of.

                “’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord” through the prophet Isaiah (55:8).  Jesus emphasizes that truth with everything he says and does!

               
                Even when God seems absent, awkward, or AWOL – include Jesus!  You’ll find that’s exactly where
                God is.
 
 


Matthew 12 – 10/30/17

Learning to Include Jesus: Reading through Matthew’s Gospel

SIXTH WEEK

Thirty-Seventh Day – Monday of Sixth Week 10/30/17

Matthew 12 – The darkness of your house at night can sometimes be so black, you can lose your equilibrium simply walking to the kitchen for a middle-of-the-night snack!

                In Matthew 12, Jesus warns how a spiritual darkness that rejects him can cause a person to lose their spiritual equilibrium, as well (7-8; 10; 14; 30-32; 49-50).  The refusal to listen to all of scripture (7); the rejection of the merciful power of God (13-14); the insistence upon one’s own way to the extent of condemning God’s way as satanic (24); the insistence upon “signs” of one’s own choosing (38); the retreat into family rather than faithfulness to Jesus (48-49) – each of these points to a spiritual darkness that needs to be opened to the light.  But that’s what causes darkness in the first place – closing doors to any light.

                Keep the doors of your heart and mind open to God’s healthy surprises – include Jesus!

               For as the surest source of destruction to men is to obey themselves, so the only haven of safety is to have no other will, no other wisdom, than to follow the Lord wherever he leads. — John Calvin



Matthew 11 – 10/29/17

Learning to Include Jesus: Reading through Matthew’ Gospel

Thirty-Sixth Day – Sunday of Fifth Week 10/29/17

Matthew 11 – “He can’t win for losing!” my grandfather used to say.  Jesus must have felt that to be true about himself in Matthew 11.  Even the grand marshal of his kingdom parade, John the Baptist, was wondering if Jesus was really the messiah after all (2-3).  Then Jesus felt the sting of rejection from the towns where he did most of his miracles (20-24).  Jesus, the messiah sent by God, couldn’t win for losing.
          
              But not everyone questioned or rejected Jesus.  He gave thanks for the ones who did receive him, as simple as they might be: “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children” (25).
             
              If you and I don’t sometimes have questions about Jesus, we’re probably not paying close enough attention!  He is the Son of the Father (27) – but he’s not like everyone expects God’s Son to be.                
 
               Pray to be childlike enough to trust what you do know and Include Jesus.


Matthew 10 – 10/28/17

Learning to Include Jesus: Reading through Matthew’ Gospel

Thirty-Fifth Day – Saturday of Fifth Week 10/28/17

Matthew 10 – Have you noticed that not everyone wants what God is offering?  Have you noticed how you don’t always want what God is offering?  In this chapter of Matthew, Jesus sends his twelve closest followers out to do what he has been doing: tell everyone that God is acting now to heal this world; and then heal to show their message is true (1, 5-8).  Travel lightly, he tells them.  And then he tells them about the responses to their message they will receive: a lot of people aren’t going to like it!  Government authorities will have them arrested.  Families will turn against each other.  They’ll be accused of being of the devil.  Their lives could be threatened.   But don’t worry, Jesus tells them.  God knows you and values you more than the least of his creation.  Just don’t bail out on him and quit!

             Lord – don’t let me be afraid to include you in my life – even if others don’t understand.



Matthew 9 – 10/27/17

Learning to Include Jesus: Reading through Matthew’ Gospel

Thirty-Fourth Day – Friday of Fifth Week 10/27/17

Matthew 9 – The need around Jesus was overwhelming – paralysis; guilt; death; long-term illness and isolation; lack of sight and speech.  As Jesus reached out to the sick, the sinners, and the tax collectors, he heard the criticism of those who couldn’t celebrate the blessings of salvation for stumbling over the generous ways that they were shared.  Jesus admitted that his focus was on encouraging the folks who felt separated from God rather than on inflating the ones who felt secure in their spiritual certainty (12-13).  He also admitted that his new focus might call for a new framework (16-17).  
           
           Overall, though, Jesus didn’t really spend much time responding to his critics.  He didn’t instruct his disciples to, either.  What Jesus did tell his disciples to do is “Ask the Lord of the harvest . . . to send out workers into his harvest field” (38).                                                                                                                                                 
            As you Include Jesus this week: Can Jesus better use you if you focus on doing what you see him do about the needs around him in Matthew 9 – OR — if you spend time answering and defending yourself against everyone who will watch and tell you how to do it better? 

                “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field’” (36-38).



Matthew 8 – 10/26/17

Learning to Include Jesus: Reading through Matthew’ Gospel

Thirty – Second Day – Thursday of Fifth Week 10/26/17

Matthew 8 – From a dictionary: “tomorrow (noun) – a mystical land where 99% of all human productivity, motivation and achievement is stored.”                                                                                                                      
    
     In a chapter with six scenes from Jesus’ life, five scenes present miracles of healing diseases, casting out demons, or calming storms.  One scene, in the middle of them all, presents Jesus’ encounter with two different men.  Both indicate their intentions to follow Jesus, but neither one can immediately because of other concerns in their lives.  They ask Jesus to wait, to let them join him later, to watch for them down the road.  Jesus cuts them no slack. The time to follow him was in the present.  No excuse was good enough to procrastinate.                                                                                                              
     Jesus knew where he was going.  If anyone intended to follow him, they needed to decide where they were going, as well, and do it quickly.  Don’t push Jesus into the mystical land of tomorrow.                             
 
      Today – right now – include Jesus.