Matthew 7 – 10/25/17

Learning to Include Jesus: Reading through Matthew’ Gospel

Thirty First Day – Wednesday of Fifth Week 10/25/17

Matthew 7 – Can I trust God?                                                                                                                                                                   
               Can I trust God to “take care” of what’s wrong with others without thinking I need to fix them myself (1-5)?  Can I trust God to provide me with what I need (7-12)?  Can I trust God when so much distracts me (13-14) and when the religious teachers I like simply tell me what I want to hear (15-20)?  Can I trust God enough to live for him rather than just talk about him (21-23)?  Can I trust God enough to build my life on him (24-27)?

                Can I trust God and include Jesus today?



Matthew 6 – 10/24/17

Learning to Include Jesus: Reading through Matthew’ Gospel

Thirtieth Day – Tuesday of Fifth Week 10/24/17

Matthew 6 – Matthew 5-7 is often called “The Sermon on the Mount.”  Another possible name is “Motives on the Mount.”  The gist of Jesus’ teaching presses past religious motions to spiritual motives.  Without pure motive, religious motion is pointless (cf. 1Cor 13:1-3).  But, in God’s kingdom, the motions can lead to healthy motives.  Listen to writer Annie Dillard:

God does not demand that we give up our personal dignity, that we throw in our lot with random people, that we lose ourselves and turn from all that is not him.  God needs nothing, asks nothing, and demands nothing, like the stars.  It is a life with God which demands these things.

          You do not have to do these things; not at all.  God does not, I regret to report, give a hoot.  You do not have to do these things – unless you want to know God.  They work on you, not on him.

          You do not have to sit outside in the dark.  If, however, you want to look at the stars, you will find that darkness is necessary.  But the stars neither require nor demand it.  [from Teaching a Stone to Talk]



Matthew 5 – 10/23/17

Learning to Include Jesus: Reading through Matthew’ Gospel

FIFTH WEEK

Twenty-Ninth Day – Monday of Fifth Week 10/23/17

Matthew 5– When you stand on your head for very long, you’ll eventually get a headache. Our bodies simply weren’t designed to live upside down.

      Maybe the reason most folks we encounter – ourselves included – seem uncomfortable and stressed much of the time is that we are all living unnaturally. We are living upside down from how God designed us to live. That’s the reason Matthew 5-7 sounds so strange to us. The red letters of these chapters describe how we were created to live. But they are backwards – or upside down – to how we regularly live. For most of us, being meek, merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers, happy in persecution (3-12) – that is absolutely not how we live — or want to live!
      But this is how Jesus says his followers do live in the kingdom of God – in the “country” where God is king and our lives are lived as he desires (and makes possible).
 
      Read on these next few days – and be sure to Include Jesus in your reading. It will be a tough go without him.


Matthew 4 – 10/22/17

Learning to Include Jesus: Reading through Luke’s (and Matthew’s) Gospel

Twenty Eighth Day – Sunday of Fourth Week

Matthew 4 – You go to the restaurant and sit at the linen-covered table.  As you place your napkin in your lap, you notice the shine of each piece of silverware placed by your plate – except for the knife.  The blade that you’ll need to cut your food is dull, streaked – and has a crust on its edge!  Someone failed in their inspection duties.  That knife needs to be clean before it can be used!

                As Jesus began his ministry, he committed himself to be used by God as the promised savior.  So Jesus went alone into the wilderness and submitted to God’s inspection.  Matthew says that Jesus was “tempted” (1).  “To be tempted” simply means “tested.”  Just as silverware needs to be inspected, or tested, for uncleanness before it’s used (by most of us, anyway), anyone who gives themselves to be used by God will be inspected or tested.  Jesus proved himself to be clean and pure in his commitment to his Father.  He was ready for God’s use.

                Today: where would inspection of your life show a need for cleaning?  Worship today may be the perfect time to commit yourself to the Lord’s cleaning!  “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and absolutely right to forgive us our sins and clean us from all of our unfaithfulness” (1 John 1:9).

               Including Jesus in our lives allows him to inspect and test us to put us in the best shape for his use.  But it also puts us in the best shape for our own good – living the quality of life only God gives.



Matthew 3 – 10/21/17

Learning to Include Jesus: Reading through Luke’s (and Matthew’s) Gospel

Twenty Seventh Day – Saturday of Fourth Week

Matthew 3 – Promises, promises!  We’re used to hearing bold statements about what someone promises to do.  We’re also used to being disappointed by unkept promises. 

                God promised to use the descendants of Abraham to heal his broken world.  But it was a long wait for his promise to come.  God’s people, just like the rest of us, didn’t always wait faithfully for God to keep his promise. 

               Matthew had assured his readers that Jesus was the fulfillment of God’s promise [see 1:1-18].  He assured them again in the account of John the Baptist.  John was the fulfillment of a promise in Isaiah (3): someone would come to get God’s people ready for his great promise to finally come. But to receive God’s promise, John said, all people needed to change the focus of their lives and turn to God. 
 
              Are you waiting for God to keep a promise?  Are you waiting for God to work in your life and “heal” part of your life? What needs to change in your life for you to be ready to receive God’s promise?


Matthew 2 – 10/20/17

Learning to Include Jesus: Reading through Luke’s (and Matthew’s) Gospel

Twenty Sixth Day – Friday of Fourth Week

Matthew 2 – There can be no doubt about it – the whole world needs a savior!  God promised that he would send a descendant of the Jewish people to offer salvation to the entire world.  God kept his promise in Jesus. 

       Matthew wrote about some non-Jewish astronomers (magi) who lived far away from Israel.  Even as non-Jews, they recognized that God was doing something big in Jerusalem.  So the astronomers traveled hundreds of miles to see for themselves.  They endured challenges: a long, hard trip; a dangerous and deceitful king (3-8); a warning dream so serious, they changed their route (12).  But they saw the promised king, Jesus, and worshiped him (10-11).  They saw God’s kept promise for themselves. 

         The whole world needs a savior.  And many people throughout the whole world are open to — even looking for — a savior.  Matthew tells us Good News — the savior’s name is “Jesus.” 

          How can you tell the world that God has sent the savior that all people need?  Will you tell the people of the world who live right around you this week?



Matthew 1 – 10/19/17

Learning to Include Jesus: Reading through Luke’s (and Matthew’s) Gospel

Twenty-Fifth Day – Thursday of Fourth Week

Matthew 1– I’m told that, with a simple DNA kit, you can learn what part of the world your ancestors came from. While curious, people in our culture are not typically so concerned about their past. In Matthew’s world of scripture and Jewish heritage, however, the past held hope for the future.  God had promised to use his people, Abraham’s descendants, to bless the whole world [see Gen 12:1-3].  God had also promised that a descendant of their greatest king, David, would lead God’s people forever [2Sam 7:12-16].  There was even hope that this king would save the whole world! 

                So when Matthew began his story of Jesus, he had to show Jesus’ credentials as the savior.  He had to show that Jesus’ ancestry made it clear that he is the Promised One.  Matthew began in a way that often loses modern readers.  He began with a genealogy!
                The ancestral line in that genealogy, however, assures any reader that Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promised plan to heal his broken creation.  Jesus is the one who “will save his people from their sins” (v. 21).  That is Good News!  God is faithful!  God offers salvation!
               

Today – do you trust the faithful, forgiving God? 



Luke 24 – 10/18/17

Learning to Include Jesus: Reading through Luke’s (and Matthew’s) Gospel

Twenty fourth Day – Wednesday of Fourth Week (10/18/17)

Luke 24– Biographies of the same person may each present a different perspective, but the core facts about that person are plain in each account.  As we end Luke’s account of Jesus, we read of Jesus’ resurrection.  All four Gospels are clear about that amazing event.  Each one, however, supplies different details and insights.  Luke offers scenes not found in any other Gospel: 

** Jesus appeared, unrecognized, to two of his followers on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus (13- 32). 

** Jesus appeared to his eleven remaining closest disciples.  He even ate fish to prove that he really had a body (36-43). 

** Jesus led his followers outside of Jerusalem and then “left them and was taken up into heaven” (51). 

                As you have read Luke these past weeks, what have you learned about Jesus from Luke’s unique perspective?  How will what you’ve learned show in how you live day to day?  How will you Include Jesus in your life?


Luke 21 – 10/15/17

Learning to Include Jesus: Reading through Luke’s Gospel

Twenty-First Day – Sunday 10/15/17

Luke 21– Give all you can (God knows).  Trust God with the end (God knows that, too). 

Reflection: Where do you spend more energy fretting about the end of time than in praying about how you can share what God has given you in this time?

God didn’t give us the doctrine of the Second Coming to involve us in some great “sky watch,” but to free us to live for him today – knowing that he has the future well in hand. – Bill Pinson



Luke 20 – 10/14/17

Learning to Include Jesus: Reading through Luke’s Gospel

Twentieth Day – Saturday 10/14/17

Luke 20 – Based on many of the characters in the Bible – I think God can handle any of my questions without being angered or offended.  Questions can deepen relationships – even when there aren’t quick answers – because questions express honest feelings and thoughts from one person to another.  Without that kind of honesty, there can be no real depth of relationship.  
     Of course, questions can be posed to challenge and resist a relationship rather than to understand and deepen it.  Jesus met those kinds of questions in this chapter.  Those asking thought they “knew the right answer” – they were just trying to show that Jesus didn’t!
     The questions were about legitimate concerns for any worshiper of God in that day. But I think the most challenging question in this chapter was the one that Jesus posed to them (41-44).  He basically asked them: “Are you so caught up in your pride and confidence in your religious views that you can’t recognize that your scripture is fulfilled in me?”  Jesus was asking what he had earlier asked his disciples: “Who do you say that I am?”  And, sadly, he knew their answer.  Their questions already indicated they weren’t interested in a relationship with Jesus.  What he was offering would cost too much of what they already had.  As Jesus said in 5:39: “No one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.’”

Reflection: In what new ways does Jesus challenge you to view your relationship to your government?  To view your hope for life beyond death?  To view Jesus himself?  After twenty chapters, what is different in your life as you include Jesus?

We have neither humility enough to be faithful, nor faith enough to be humble.

George McDonald, The Miracles of Our Lord