The Man Matthew

ImageIt has been intriguing to study the man called Matthew and to dig beneath the surface. He probably never thought anyone might be so interested but here I am on the quest. Just who was he and why did the Holy Spirit inspire him to write such a lengthy book filled with so many details?

This is what I found out so far: Matthew was not just a tax collector for Rome but he was a tax collector extraordinaire and gained great wealth from this less than desirable occupation it seems. In fact he was so wealthy that Luke tells us he threw a great banquet after deciding to follow Jesus. 

But digging further. He knew the who’s who because he was not only innately endowed with observation skills to know who is real and who is a fraud but his skill is shown in his writing. As we wander through this marvelous book we will be given insights that only a man who had been educated, was fluent in two languages (Aramaic and Greek), had mastery of the monetary system of the  Roman government, was an observer of men, and lastly one who moved amongst those in power as well as the poor who came by his tax booth in Capernaum could know. Yes, he had compromised his Jewishness by working for the Romans and thus was castigated by the populace that he extorted. But one day the Master happened by his way and called him to leave all and follow Him. From that point on we see the most radical change of all of the apostles, leaving all and willing to face the scorn of the Romans as well as the religious leaders of his time. He was fully committed to the very end. This is the man who will introduce us to the ways of Jewish society and ultimately the Messiah Himself.

He was also a researcher as we see by the first chapter in which he introduces us to the lineage of Jesus. He traces the OT line to the monarchy and exile and back to present time. He is bold in including five women! Women were never included in the lines of descent in any rabbinical genealogical records but Matthew would have none of this exclusion. He noted prostitutes, would be prostitutes, Moabites who were idolators, women who were used for sexual favor that we may see God’s love and tenderness for the most vulnerable.  Matthew wanted his audience to know that no matter your history God has a plan for you and He will use you in that plan.

Matthew is a master story teller as we see in just the first chapter. “and this is how it all began” he might say today. Sit with me and I will share with you my journey with the man I call the Messiah, the man who called me from the tax booth to follow Him. What an adventure!

Now I have to ask myself, what gifts has the Lord given to me that He wants me to use to challenge others to follow Him? Am I using them as Matthew used his ? How about you?


Living Life to the Fullest!

ImageThe second command is to “love your neighbor as yourself.” The author of Hebrews exhorts us to live that command before unbelievers and the world that they may see the Jesus Christ who is the same yesterday as He is today and will be forever! The world needs for you and I to show that truth in and through us.

First personally spread your joy to others in all situations that God brings to you each and every moment of the day. Remember that as you show brotherly love you might just be entertaining an angel sent from the Father. Abraham did such and received the blessing because he chose to show hospitality, willing to give without considering what he might receive in return. Throughout your walk, learn as Paul did to be content and then live that principle.

Secondly, pray and imitate the wise leaders that God has placed over you. Be discerning as to their needs even before they are spoken and meet them. That means we need to keep our eyes and ears open so that we can share out of our abundance. Pray diligently that they are pure and holy representatives for the kingdom.

The adventure has just begun, the past is behind us, the future lays before us. Are you ready to persevere? Are you ready to live out the first as well as the second command? Take the truth of the Book of Hebrews and spread it far and wide! Will you join me?


Gardening 101 Skills

ImageI love to garden, and daily I find I am out there weeding. It is a never ending occupation in the summer months here in Georgia. But, I am thankful that my garden is flourishing because I know that my efforts are paying off. Yes, gardens need tending and weeds, which are remarkable for their tenacity, must be removed so that the productive plants can flourish. We can remove them by digging in the earth or apply the discipline of poisons to destroy. The problem with the latter is that often the good plants suffer as well.  But if we are wise we will tend the garden with the tenacity of the weeds so our gardens are pure. There are four weeds the author of Hebrews notes in chapter 12 that must be eradicated so that we can persevere to the very end.

The Drifter Weed (Ch 2 and Ch 12:12 & 13) This is the believer who is weak and lame. He/She drifts into the path and robs the good plants of sunlight. The solution has already been given in Heb 3:13 “exhort one another daily.” It must be an ongoing process to eliminate this weed.

The Bitter Weed (12:15) It looks like the real thing but if tasted it is bitter and causes trouble. The solution? Heb 12:2 keep our eyes on the one who ran the race with excellence: Jesus Christ. Rom 12: 1-2 Do not be conformed to this world!

The Fornicator Weed (vs 16) This is the weed of immorality.  Solution: Heb 10:22 Check your heart. Is it sincere?

The Godless Weed (vs16) This is the weed of Esau, who sold his birthright. If not eradicated quickly their roots become entrenched and are removed only with much effort. This weed can and will destroy.

There is a nursery rhyme that goes:

Mary, Mary, quite contrary
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells and cockleshells
And pretty maids all in a row.

So is our garden blossoming or filled with weeds?


Believers are God’s Tapestry [Eph 4]

ImageTapestry; what a beautiful word to describe the body of Christ, His church. A tapestry is a form of textile art, imitating paintings, which is woven so that there are two sets of interlaced threads, the warp which runs parallel to the length and the weft which is passed back and forth across all parts of the warps.  A tapestry is weft-faced weaving, in which all the warp threads are hidden in the completed work, unlike cloth weaving where both the warp and the weft threads may be visible.

We as Christ’s church are a tapestry, being woven together uniquely. We are the weft of beautiful colors which make up a glorious representation which is on exhibit to the principalities and authorities in the heavenly realm as well as here on earth. And just as a tapestry utilizes many colors, many strands of threads to complete this “painting” so it takes many believers in Christ to be the strands, the threads,  used by the Holy Spirit to weave together Christ’s church. Thus, Paul charges the Ephesians and us in turn to be a weft thread by demonstrating the gifts of humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another in love, and to make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit.

When you work on a tapestry you must have adequate light. The Holy Spirit is our light which illumines our understanding and allows us to see each thread for its color and beauty. If we work in the dark we are unable to see our design, the colors, the next warp to go under. So too when we are not in unity in the Body, Paul says we give the devil an opportunity and thus mar the tapestry being woven. Therefore, “he turns from exposition to exhortation, from what God has done (in the indicative), to what we must be and do (in the imperative), from doctrine to duty . . . from mind-stretching theology to its down-to-earth, concrete implications in everyday living” [Stott].

Speak truth, be angry and sin not and in fact do not let the sun go down upon your anger! Put away all bitterness, anger, wrath, quarreling and evil, slanderous talk. Instead, weave the threads of kindness one to another, compassionate, forgiving one another, Just as Christ also forgave you. Thus, “Christians must preserve the unity between believers that God has created in the church.”[Constable]

As a believer in Christ you are a weft thread.  Precious ones, let the Holy Spirit illumine your weaving so you are a glorious and beautiful tapestry for the entire world and those in the heavenly realms to see!


“The Father’s Soul Surgery” Ps 51-53

ImageKing David wrote all three of these psalms at different times in his life. One truth jumps off the page and onto our radar screen: When we sin it does not just affect us but it affects everyone. In fact, as David reveals to us; when we sin we are sinning, despising, rebelling, and are walking independently against The Lord God Almighty. Just as David had allowed his affection to turn inward, we do the same more often than we would like to admit. He had fallen: lust of the eyes led to adultery and then to murder of an innocent man. For a year he had been silent but then when continually unrepentant, God used the prophet Nathan to confront him. Hearing he was “the” man David confessed his sin and opened his heart gate to God. These psalms reflect his thinking and his actions. May we learn from him so we do not have to “do another lap around the wilderness.”

One truth comes forth from David’s repentant heart: 51:4 Against you – you above all – I have sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight. So you are just when you confront me; you are right when you condemn me. Notice David recognized where he was spiritually and that is key for us as well and that God was just in His confrontation through Nathan. David’s heart was soft to hear the words of God. Are our hearts the same?

Secondly, David sought cleansing and a renewed heart which is key to restoration: 51:10 Create for me a pure heart, O God! Renew a resolute spirit within me! Do we pray and ask God to change our heart?

Thirdly, David sought help from God: 51:12 Sustain me by giving me the desire to obey! How often do we admit our sin, seek cleansing but fail to implement this third step?

Fourthly, when we are restored, God does not want us to waste this experience but to teach others, to testify: 51:13 Then I will teach rebels your merciful ways, and that is what God wants for us. Do you have a story of restoration that you can share to encourage others who are going through these steps?

A practical side benefit to this psalm is that if we are open to walk through these steps, God can and will use us in His service to carry forth His message of love, forgiveness, mercy, and grace.


“Are You Worth the Taste Test?” Colossians 4

ImageThere is an old adage which says “open mouth, insert foot” which has the meaning of speaking before thinking. So how does that fit with today’s reading in Colossians? It shows us that no matter where God has placed you, you can be a Paul! Sequestered in a Roman jail, Paul used every opportunity to teach his beloved followers so that they may carry on the work. Thus, Paul gives his readers three imperatives with one need:

Imperative: Be devoted to prayer. The word devoted has the idea of pursuing a particular passion. The synonyms of dedicate carries with it a solemn purpose and consecrate gives us the idea of being set apart. Believers are to determine that they will be devoted. Adam Clarke: “Prayer requires more of the heart than the tongue.” This prayer devotion must be accompanied by alertness and thanksgiving which reminds us of Jesus in the Garden prior to His trial. Mat 26:41 Stay awake and pray that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Need: Pray for us in your time with God. Pray that God will open a door for us so we can proclaim the message of Christ. Charles Finney “ Effective prayer is prayer that attains what it seeks. It is prayer that moves God, affecting its end.”

Imperative: Conduct yourself with wisdom toward outsiders. You may be the only Bible unbelievers read so be on guard as you walk and talk and 1Pe 3:15 But set Christ apart as Lord in your hearts and always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks about the hope you possess.

Imperative: Let your speech be seasoned with salt. As you season foods to preserve them and to add flavor so you should be seasoned with the Fruit of the Spirit. We might ask ourselves: Are we just tasty enough to lead people to crave more? That is the picture Paul is presenting here.

Today, did you spend time in prayer for yourself, for others, for the lost? Watch yourself today and listen to your words. Be on guard as the world is watching and the time is short.


“Lions in the Road: BEWARE” Col 2

ImageToday I received a note from someone whose persuasive arguments sound lofty and “right” but in reality are false through and through. As the believers in Colosse had to deal with these that came right out of the “pit of hell” to promote their self-righteousness, so has this person. Listen to this:

quote: And – at an advanced level – soaked in the Enlightening Shower at the Union – instant elimination of all ignorance, barriers, individual human sufferings and sorrows and all fears (fears are born out of ignorance) – including the Fear of Death; and Gift of Illumination, Oneness, Joy and Pleasure and Eternity unknown to most of us.

But in reality my heart aches for this person for he/she does not know the preeminence of Christ nor the fullness of having been as Paul so eloquently says in chapter 1: “delivered  from the power of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of the Son he loves,” This person who wrote me is still dwelling in the domain of darkness and if died today would encounter the fury of hell itself. This is what drives me to write and share! If only he would see the beauty of Christ, ….so enough said….here’s what Paul is teaching the Colossians….

Who is Christ to you and more importantly to me? Paul clearly focuses our attention on who He is and from when He came to rescue us from our sins. If we know Him and are reconciled to Him then those who claim “truths” which sound noble, but are in fact arguments which foster self-reliance, can be filtered and discerned by His Spirit who indwells us. Joh 16:8 “And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong concerning sin and righteousness and judgment –”

Christ: He is the supremacy of God eternal, invisible, God only wise, He is Creator of that which was before eternity; He is the head of the Body, the Church for which He laid down his life on a cross and shed His blood for you. He is the firstborn of the dead. Kenneth Wuest writes regarding “firstborn”:

“The Greek word implied two things: priority to all creations and sovereignty over all creation. In the first meaning we see the absolute pre-existence of the Logos. Since our Lord existed before all created things, He must be uncreated. Since He is uncreated, He is eternal. Since He is eternal, He is God. Since He is God, He cannot be one of the emanations from deity of which the Gnostic speaks…”

Those that would lead us progressively astray use three tactics, one of which are persuasive arguments which sound reasonable. If we fall prey to those arguments, we find that our mind, body and spirit are now captivated by these false arguments. And lastly, these that would provide these false arguments begin to judge us according to what we eat or what we touch. Vs 23 “Such things sound impressive if said in a deep enough voice. They even give the illusion of being pious and humble and ascetic. But they’re just another way of showing off, making yourselves look important.” [MSG]

Because of this it is vital that we recognize our “enemy,” the “lions in the road,” and his weapons so that we can employ: 2Cor10:4-5 “for the weapons of our warfare are not human weapons, but are made powerful by God for tearing down strongholds. We tear down arguments and every arrogant obstacle that is raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to make it obey Christ.” We must know; study to show ourselves to be approved workmen; be in the Word so we can discern truth from error. Sounds like a Berean!




The Church at Colosse….chapter 1

ImageIrving Jensen has been like a mentor to me over the years and his study guide on Colossians is by far one of his richest. In the first lesson Jensen gives a task: Write a list of the good traits which you think a local church should exemplify. After you have completed your study of 1:1-12, go back to this list and see how the Colossian church rated.

 Paul knew about these precious saints that he had never met through word of mouth and the testimony of Epaphras. This dear saint came to Rome and shared with Paul, now in a Roman prison under guard, who they were. From that we read Paul’s desire for them as believers in Christ.  

Paul’s list that he had gleaned from Epaphras: They had faith in Christ, They had love for all the saints [the setting apart of the individual as one of the company whom God,] They have a hope laid up in heaven vs 4 and an inheritance in the light vs 12 [1Pet 1:4 that is, into an inheritance imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. It is reserved in heaven for you], The gospel message has borne fruit within their midst and continues to bear fruit;, once strangers/enemies of God but now reconciled to Him through Christ; therefore Christ is in them, the hope of glory.

Now Paul turns from who they are to what his prayerful desire is for them: God to fill them with the knowledge of His will [In the broadest sense, the will of God is the whole purpose of God revealed in Christ. Dr. Constable]; God would give them spiritual wisdom and understanding [“‘Wisdom’ and ‘understanding’ probably should not be treated separately but should be looked on as expressing a single thought, something like practical wisdom or clear discernment.” Dr. Constable];

And now the “why”… They might live worthily; Please the Lord; Bear fruit; Grow in the knowledge of God; and Display or show to the world: patience, steadfastness and joy.

Back to the first question: The church at Colosse was rich beyond measure.  If you rated your church how do they stack up against the Colossians?

They were rooted and grounded in Christ but we will see that their roots were being attacked by the enemies of the cross. This is why we need this book today! Today we are seeing the very foundations of our churches being stripped by those who espouse a gospel that is works plus grace or a gospel of “feel good, a gospel of intolerance for the things that are the very bedrock of our faith.” Many are sliding down a slippery slope of worldliness. As Paul prayed for this church, may we stop and pray for our churches and for their message to be true to the Word of God, true to the simple gospel message and true to Christ? For it was because of Christ. who is the very image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all,  the Creator, the Alpha and Omega, the head of the church, the reconciler through the blood He shed on the cross that both they and we are “who we are, who we need to be.”