What Rule Book Are You Following…OUCH!

ImageIn any sport there are rules which are listed in a play book. Players need to memorize them and abide by them. The Pharisees had their rule book and to be a “righteous” Pharisee one studied it religiously!  In Matthew 12 it seems that the Pharisees and their religiosity or legalism surfaces more clearly than ever before. It is almost as if they ripped out the verse from Isaiah 28:10 “For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept, Line upon line, line upon line, Here a little, there a little.” As they followed Jesus through the grain field they reminded him that we must be doing things in such and such a way. They whipped out their “rule book” to discipline the disciples, but failed to discipline themselves. They may have carried their rule book around with them as judgmental sticks but failed to see the context of Isaiah’s words. Their critical spirit is abundantly clear, in fact more so than ever before in the book of Matthew and our author has captured their critical eye as well as their vociferousness. According to their “rule book,” one may only walk 2000 paces on the Sabbath which leaves us to wonder—what they were doing in the middle of the grain field on the Sabbath?

But, moving on, the crux of this chapter is heard in our Master’s words: If you had known what this means: ‘I want mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. From the grain field to the synagogue they follow our Lord. It is here, once again, that we see the lack of mercy all because Jesus spoke a word of healing…note that!!! Jesus spoke not touched the man with the withered hand…but again….*sigh* it was after all the Sabbath. Jesus asked them, where are your priorities? Is your  mercy greater for an animal that has no soul but you are unwilling to show mercy to a man so in need that he can work and take care of his family? Matthew leaves no doubt in our minds as to what the Pharisees were truly seeking. They really did not care about this man, they wanted  a way to assassinate the Lord of the Sabbath. They were unwilling to care for a man who thus would no longer be a burden to society but were willing to assassinate/murder Jesus.  They refused to show mercy but were willing to murder. This leaves us again to wondering why? Jesus has the answer:  they are blind and they are leading the blind…both will fall into the pit. Their hearts are governed by the rule book rather than the love of God.

After both of these incidents Jesus pointed to the real reason for their hatred and rejection. It lay in their heart. Jesus used the illustration of a fruit tree to capture this to the listening audience. He said: One could know one’s fruit by observing and listening to their words; For the mouth speaks from what fills the heart. And then he added this warning: you will give an account for every worthless word and by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.

Out of this chapter there are several applications but one comes to mind that are applicable even now. It is my “ouch.” How often do I fail to show mercy just because it is inconvenient, it does not meet my time schedule? How often do I take verses out of context to show my reason why something should be thus and so? I have been called a “rule oriented” person! :-(Today may I demonstrate the Fruit of the Holy Spirit in showing God’s mercy and justice rather than a myriad of sacrifices, line upon line, precept upon precept, rules upon rules which are piling up on my altar thinking this is what God wants.

Thanking God for His mercies! They are new every morning…great is His faithfulness!




Me n’ Jesus makes a Majority…Matthew 10

ImageDid you ever see the Apostle Matthew as humble and unassuming? Yep, he was and in chapter 9 we see a short snippet of his calling. Here he was minding his own business…the tax business that is and along comes this radical preacher dude and says “Follow Me.”. Hmmmm Choices! Choices! Yet, this humble man who was wealthy beyond all the others around him not only followed him but had a banquet to celebrate his new “calling.” No longer would he catch tax evaders but he would catch men to do the same thing as he did. No longer would he gather $$ to fill his coffers but he would gather souls for the kingdom.

So what has he been doing in these past few months or even short years? He has been listening and watching, observing and memorizing passages of scripture, been eating with the other dudes who were also called. Let’s see, there were fishermen, and zealots. There was the sweet Andrew who loved kids and his brother Peter the big and burly guy who thought he knew better but often had “foot in mouth disease.” Yet all had heard the call “Follow Me ” and they had made the choice. And now? Now the mentor who has lived shoulder to shoulder, life on life, in close proximity with them moment by moment has chosen to challenge them in the only way He knew they would know the way of the Master. He chose to send them out two by two. And look at who his partner is going to be…Thomas. Yep the one and only: Doubting Thomas. Wonder what their diary read after being together for a week or more? But, then the greatest diary read had to be Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot. Wonder what their time as a team was like.

So into this motley mix of “dudes” Jesus summons them and says I am sending you on a mission. And this is what he said and how he prepared them:

I am giving you My authority…heavenly authority. As such you will now bear the emblem of the heavenly to do heavenly work. You now will have power over the unclean spirits, power to heal and to touch the lepers and make them clean. You will have the anointing power of the Spirit to preach the word to Israel that were like sheep without a shepherd. You have the good news and My authority to share it with all of Israel.

Then Jesus  instructed them prior to their being sent out. He said: stay in Israel, preach the message that the kingdom is at hand, heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Trust God for all of your daily provisions just as you have seen me do with you. Even though I have had no place to lay my head, my Father has provided for my every meal, my place of rest when I am weary, my every need and He shall do the same for you.

And lastly, Jesus also warned them of what lay ahead for discipleship is costly. You will  meet unsavory characters, the enemy’s servants, and those who will persecute you for your message and lifestyle. So you must be as wise as a serpent…that is prudent and shrewd, and yet innocent or inoffensive as a dove. Your character must have both sides of the coin to meet all and any situation you will meet. Three times he told them “do not fear” thus reminding them that although they were men the enemy is the fallen archangel, Satan, and he will set traps to cause even grown men to become fearful.

But the chapter does not end there. Tucked at the end is this verse: Matt 10:42 “whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple, I tell you the truth, he will never lose his reward.” I wonder if they remembered that as they walked the dusty roads of Israel? I wonder if they talked about the authority, the instructions, the warnings or concentrated on this verse? It is at times like this I want to be a fly on the wall and see and hear and experience what they did…but *sigh* that was then and this is now. It is really up to “Me n’ Jesus” to get this job done. Will you join us? Where two or three are gathered in His name we are truly a majority. Come join me on this journey!



I Would See Jesus…..Matthew 9

ImageMatthew has us walk with him as the “Son of Man” encounters those who are in need of healing (disease-death-demon possession). Not only does the “Son of Man” encounter those who need physical healing but those who are in need of spiritual healing. One of the keys that is noted in this chapter is the word “faith.” We read in Luke: “Your faith has saved you;” It is this faith that God sees as He observes our actions, our countenance and our words. This brings us to the first of the healing miracles in Matt 9.

Having been sent from the presence of the Gadarenes, Jesus returns to Capernaum. It is there that we are brought face to face with the first of many healings. Note the circumstance: a paralytic lying on a stretcher. We know from the other gospels that 4 friends of his have taken it upon themselves to bring him to Jesus. This is a first important lesson for us. We too have “paralyzed” friends and we must bring them to Jesus who is the great healer. Secondly, Jesus “saw their faith.” Question to ask: Does Jesus see my faith?

In contrast the experts in the law who came as observers saw not with eyes of faith but eyes of criticism. We too will face those who will say we do not need to bring our paralyzed friends to Jesus. Satan would have us leave them paralyzed and destitute of their needs. But, James notes that we prove our faith by what we do and these 5 men stood apart from the religious leaders bound by legalism.   Note the words of Jesus: have courage. The paralyzed friend needed words to persevere in times when he stepped out in the arena of living faith in the sight of the religious leaders. They took a step of faith towards the Master.  Question to ask: Are we willing to stand apart from those who do not think we need to speak or do? Jesus added that his sins were forgiven. Jesus sees our hearts and needs and this man had a sin problem along with his physical problem.

Jesus noted the reaction of the experts in the law, these who knew the jots and tittles of each and every verse. What they said in their hearts, “he is blaspheming” registered upon their countenance. Again Jesus “saw” their lack of faith; in fact it  was null and void.

The crowd of observers “saw” and were afraid, amazed, and honored God unlike the experts in the law. When we “see” the transformation of a life are we amazed? Do we honor God?

Lastly the Master told the paralytic to take up his bed and walk as a testimony to all that the “Son of Man” has authority. He is the True Messiah. When we meet the Messiah, do we then take up our bed and walk? Matthew now has provided concrete evidence that Jesus is the promised Messiah, he is the
Son of Man and he is the Son of David. Will you accept Him?


Revenge or Forgiveness ..Your Choice

ImagePsalm 69 is one of the three most quoted psalms in the NT in reference to “The Messiah.”  (e.g. Those who hate me without cause [Jn 15:25], vinegar to drink [Matt 17:48]. Thus it is fitting that we walk through this psalm as part of our study in the book of Matthew about our True Messiah. This psalm and the life of Christ will teach us the two paths before us and our choices when we too face times of despair.  

David begins his psalm with an analogy of physical drowning using it to show God how he is coping with the enemies that are about him. David compares his drowning to Jeremiah or Joseph in a pit with no way out. In vs 5 to 12 we feel his pang of loneliness and as we read the story of Joseph we recall the brothers as they stood before Joseph: “we saw how distressed he was when he cried to us for mercy, but we refused to listen.”

In vs 13 to 15 we see a change in David’s tone as he reminds himself of God’s lovingkindness and compassion, his saving truth, the fact that he alone is one’s redeemer. But even as he recalls this he also seeks revenge for what these enemies of his soul have done. From David: [vs 24-28] from God upon his enemies [pour out your judgment upon them, do not vindicate them, may their names be deleted from the scroll of the living].  In contrast to David’s outburst we move to the NT and see the higher way to seek justice. Jesus becomes our example as on the cross he cried out “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” [Luke 23:34]

Today may we choose the higher path, the path of our Savior, our True Messiah.


The Kingdom Mindset

ImageLong ago I thought I had learned what a mindset is but then again…we all need a refresher course once in a while. So today while gathering my thoughts for Matthew 7 I was struck with this phrase: “Everyone who hears these words of mine and does them is wise.” It was an aha moment. It is not just being busy about the doing, I must have the mindset to hear and then to apply. I then remembered the words in Revelation these words which are repeated over and over: “blessed are those who hear and obey the things written in it,” So not only will one be wise but also blessed if they hear and then obey/do.

Remember the book “Secret Garden” with its intrigue and wonderful imagery? Matthew 7 is much like a secret garden. Jesus walks us down the paths of life sharing the beauty of one whose mindset is keyed into righteous kingdom living. As Jesus teaches he uses several illustrations which would be familiar sights to the listeners to not only garner their attention but also as a visual reminder when they meet these same examples in their daily life. For example: beams of wood, doors and knocking, gates—both wide and narrow, paths that are smooth and paths that are filled with pebbles, sheep and wolves, healthy vs unhealthy trees, foundations of homes—rocks or sand, rain and wind. The point of his teaching was to show those who wish to follow Him must consider the cost and the path they want to follow. One path leads to destruction, the other to blessing…the “aha moment.”  If we  hear his words and do them we will be wise as opposed to those who hear but reject. The rejecters are like the fools of Proverbs.

In essence Jesus is giving us these four kingdom principles/paths:

(a) Seeing yourself first before you “open mouth-insert foot” in your criticism of another. Therefore, remove your own speck or beam before you judge another.  

(b) Knowing when to share the holy gospel message and when to walk away—there will be dogs and hogs who knowingly choose to trample, bite, devour and those who enjoy wallowing in the mud rather than accept the holy message of redemption. Therefore, be discerning.

( c) Pray with a kingdom focus in mind: asking, seeking, knocking. Answers come to those who are willing step out and begin at the beginning: asking. God is the Father of Lights in whom is no variableness of turning and He gives good gifts to those who ask. Trust Him for this.

 (c) Applying the Golden Rule as a basis of life—in other words have the “Law of Kingdom Choices” mentality. Dwell on whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise. [Phil 4:8] Whatever we focus on will be the guiding principle of how we respond to others and they in turn to us.  

As Jesus taught this chapter the crowds were rapt with attention and so should I be. My mindset should be focused on His words and His teaching…but often my mind wanders. He is the true Messiah with the words of life and I must make the choice to listen, heed, and obey if I want to be wise and also to blessed. The beginning point for me is the asking, seeking, knocking.


Worthless vs Ideal Words [ Matt 12 &Prov 16 ]

ImageI love this picture to the left because it reminds me that even if I am faithless He is faithful.

I don’t know if you can relate but often have I cringed at something I have just said and the verse in Matthew 12 comes back to convict me.  It is then that I am reminded that I do need to more carefully choose what I say so that I am honoring God and my fellow man.

Pro 25:11 Like apples of gold in settings of silver, so is a word skillfully spoken.

Proverbs chapter 16 begins with these words: The intentions/plans of the heart belong to man but the answer of the tongue comes from the Lord;  but Jesus teaches:  Mat 12:36 I tell you that on the day of judgment, people will give an account for every worthless [idle] word they speak. It almost seems that these two sides of the coin teach opposing views. It seems like really we have no choice as to what we speak.  But is that true? We know that God does not contradict Himself. So our question is….Why are some words worthless and how do we harmonize these two verses?

 When men plan/think/reason using the gift that God has given them and trust Him to guide them then the responses we give will be His for we are His workmanship, created to accomplish good works [Eph 2:10]. If however, we refuse to plan, decline to consider, are unwilling to listen to wise counsel, are unwilling to see ourselves in need of wisdom, and allow pride to govern, then our words are idle or worthless and for these we will held accountable. A biblical truth is that God has graciously given us the ability to think and reason. Therefore, it behooves us to ponder and seek that godly wisdom that is given to men who desire His will and way. In that way we will speak and honor Him with ideal words that bring Him glory.

Father, Today may I be certain and give you praise for You because You care about each word, each direction, each decision that I  make. I can know that because you say so: ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love. That is why I have continued to be faithful to you. May I seek your will and your way that we bring glory to you alone. May I  boast that I know and understand that You, the Lord, act out of faithfulness, fairness, and justice in the earth. [Jer 9]


Authentication and Proving Required

ImageSo far in the book of Matthew, we have walked through the first three chapters and seen that as a superior researcher and writer, Matthew has given us three areas to prove that Jesus was the Messiah. First was the genealogical record, second his birth, thirdly, the world’s reception, and now in chapter 4 we will see his power over temptation.

 Job may have been God’s “s”ervant  who proved to be blameless but Jesus is the “S”ervant who not only proved blameless but left us with the truth of how to face the arch enemy of our souls.

The Holy Spirit anointed Jesus and led him into the wilderness. The Israelites were proven to be faithless but Jesus will prove His faithfulness. Sometimes we too are led into the wilderness to be proven. It is in these times of barrenness that we either rely upon God and His trustworthiness or succumb to the enemy’s bait.

We say Satan doesn’t get it, but in reality he does get it. He is persistent and his one aim is to destroy and change the plans of God. Allen Ross wrote: The temptation episode was God’s way of showing that Jesus was the perfect man, that He could resist sin, that he could defeat Satan.  He has conquered and therefore can intercede for us. [Heb 4:14-16].

And so the temptations begin with Satan dangling his bait just as he did in the garden, in the wilderness, did with Peter and does with us today. Jesus was discerning and so we should be as well. Hebrews reminds us to be feeding upon the meat of the Word, memorizing it so when he comes calling, disguised as an angel of light or otherwise, we can discern him for what he is: a liar and a thief. We are told by Paul to put on our armor for we will be wrestling not against flesh and blood but against the spiritual forces of darkness.

 A truth we can count on: Satan sees only one side of God’s coin, he is not omniscient! Satan saw a garden destroyed but Jesus saw a wilderness–that is you and I, ready to be redeemed. Satan saw an earthly pinnacle but Jesus saw heaven’s portal – I am the Way, the Truth, the Life [ John 14:6]. Satan sought temporary worship of warring conflicting kingdoms but Jesus sought to bring men into God’s eternal kingdom exhibiting peace.  Through it all, Jesus proved He was Conqueror and Victor, because He knew the right choice of scripture better than his tempter and He would not be deterred to be removed from God’s eternal plan for mankind. He was steadfast and immoveable [1Cor 15:58].

ImageUpon the completion of the temptation angels came and ministered to Jesus. So when we have found our way of escape from the tempter’s grasp [ICor 10:13], we will be fed the manna of heaven or angel’s food as Irving Jensen called it.

While I or you face these temptations how will we be sustained? By the Word or by the flesh? Do we face the path of least resistance or are we ready with our sword and shield of faith etc. When the storm is passed how do we revel, in God’s glory or our own? Thoughts to consider.

But while we face these proving trials we must ask: What is it that sustains us in these times? When tempted and tried are we joyful and seek wisdom? [James 1]. Can we resist with scripture so the enemy must flee? [James 4:7]. Do we give God the glory when the storm has passed and we see His rainbow calling us to His work?




Hail King Jesus…Worship or Ignore…how say you?

ImageThe Apostle Matthew introduced us to the genealogical record of our Messiah in chapter 1. At the end of that chapter we know that two times the angel of the Lord came to righteous Joseph to lead and protect the divine conceived Messiah in Mary’s womb. In chapter 2 we see once again his immediate obedience. Joseph is a role model for all of us who seek to be obedient to Messiah.

Matthew wants us to focus in on one thing: the OT prophecies were inspired, true, and fulfilled “right on schedule.”  First note the timing—King Herod is the ruler of Palestine from 37BC to when he died 4BC. Also, it was at this time that the census was ordered according to Dr. Luke in chapter 2. Secondly, note the  geographical location, Bethlehem of Judea or Judah. Thus Christ, as we noted in chapter 1, had not only the legal right of inheritance to the throne of David but he was born in that province to therefore claim it.  Thirdly Matthew as a master researcher listed three sets of people and their reactions.

The Magi. Coming to Jerusalem from the east, which would thus give us the clue as to their ethnicity: Gentiles. Gentiles were “dogs” to the Jews, if we remember from our study of Jewish history. Thus the populace were alarmed.

“King” Herod, thus noted here but after this never noted as “king.” He ruled by fear and brutality. He was a half-Jew, Idumean or Edomite by birth. His ancestry line was from Esau who hated Jacob. Just as Pharaoh sought to eradicate the Jews through infanticide, so did Herod.  Our newspapers and blogs are filled with the numbers of abortions. Infanticide has been the enemy’s tool and is even today.

The religious leaders were apathetic even with the scriptures before them. They knew the scriptures  to the last detail about the birth of the Christ but beyond this did nothing. Matthew is showing us that to just know the scriptures is not enough, we must act upon them.

What are the lessons Matthew wants us to glean?

  1. God’s ways are not man’s ways. [Is 55:8] He orders and brings about His plan for His glory. Both in 2Kings and Isaiah we read: In ancient times I planned it; and now I am bringing it to pass.
  2. Jesus is the King of the Jews no matter the response made by men. He was so noted by the Magi who worshiped him. He was ironically noted the same by the ones who crucified him and the title over His cross was God’s testimony.
  3. Jesus’ kingdom includes all men regardless of their lineage. Jesus told the disciples to go and make disciples of all nations thus fulfilling the blessing given to Abraham.
  4. Men are held accountable for the knowledge they are given. The Magi had the stars and perhaps the writings of Daniel and pursued it. The religious leaders had the OT with the revelation of prophecy and rejected it. [Job 21:14 21:14 “So they say to God, ‘Turn away from us! We do not want to know your ways.’”
  5. The OT prophets sought to understand and put the puzzle together. In the end they noted: 1Pet They were shown that they were serving not themselves but you… Even though we sometimes find ourselves in the same frame of reference we can be certain of this: 1 Cor 13:12 “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then we will see face to face.”

Today the question is before us: how have you responded to the evidence before you? Is Jesus the Messiah and if yes, are you following Him?


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?