Devotional Reading for January 22, 2022

Matthew 14:22-36

Jesus frequently goes off by himself to commune with God. If He needed to do it, how much more do we?!?!?!?

Many focus on Peter’s lack of faith when he saw the wind and the waves, and rightly so, because Jesus rebukes him for it! It reminds us that we shouldn’t allow difficult circumstances in our lives to cause us to doubt God’s goodness, purpose, or love. But at least Peter knew exactly what to do when he felt overwhelmed. He cried out, “Lord, save me!” In effect, we see those at Gennesaret understanding the same thing. They came in droves because they believed that Jesus could help them. What a difference from how those in His hometown behaved!

For worship:

Devotional Reading for January 21, 2022

Matthew 14:1-21.

Herod the tetrarch is Herod Antipas, one of Herod the Great’s sons. He ruled Galilee and Perea after his fathers death. He can function as a warning for us. Steeped in worldliness and sensuality, he ends up killing someone he seems to grudgingly respect because of a hasty promise. And it haunts him. He hears about Jesus, and his thoughts immediately go to John the Baptist, the man he had killed! So, how are our lives? Are they steeped in regret from bad decisions we’ve made? Are we trying to live our lives to bring glory to God, or do worldliness and sensuality control us?

The feeding of the 5000 shows us Jesus’ compassion but it also teaches us an important lesson about ministry. The disciples are overwhelmed with the need, and only see the lack of resources. Jesus understands the greatness of God’s resources and the wonder of His grace. We need to see things the way Jesus does!

Devotional Reading for January 20, 2022

Matthew 13:33-58

So, what is a parable anyway? The term “parable” comes from two Greek words: para which means “alongside,” and ballo which means “to throw.” A parable is thrown alongside real life. It is a slice of life that is used to illustrate a spiritual truth. Unfortunately, as we’ve already discussed, the Spirit has to do the illuminating to reveal “what has been hidden from the foundation of the world.” Jesus fulfills that role here, as the disciples come and ask Him to interpret the parables.

Jesus reveals that the parable of the wheat and the tares illustrates that good and evil will coexist in this world, but one day evil will be punished and the righteous will “shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” The parable of the net has a similar meaning. The parables of the treasure in the field and the pearl of great value are both reminders of the preciousness and pricelessness of the kingdom.

There are two parables that aren’t explained by Jesus. The parable of the home owner isn’t as clearly delineated, but still revels a truth about the kingdom. Just as a homeowner shows off both his new and old treasures, someone who believes in Jesus’ teaching about the kingdom rejoices because it is the culmination of what the Old Testament teaches, and is willing to share that truth. The parable of the yeast describes both the hidden and transformative nature of the kingdom. It starts small but infiltrates everything!

In verses 53-58 we see how difficult it is for people to change their understanding and preconceived notions about Jesus. Even with having been told about His actions and hearing His teaching, they choose not to come to him for help: “He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief.” There is perhaps a lesson here for us too. When we change, sometimes it’s those closest to us that have the most trouble accepting or understanding it. We may have to quietly persist in our faith before others until they are finally willing to see the truth about us!

Devotional Reading for January 19, 2022

Matthew 13:1-32

Here Jesus teaches us about the kingdom. Although God does use intermediaries to proclaim the kingdom, it is the ministry of the Spirit that allows us to understand and enter! It is the Spirit who gets the soil of our hearts ready (13:1-23).

Romans 10:14-15 “How are they to call on one they have not believed in? And how are they to believe in one they have not heard of? And how are they to hear without someone preaching to them? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How timely is the arrival of those who proclaim the good news.’

John 16:7-11 “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I am going away. For if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you, but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong concerning sin and righteousness and judgment—concerning sin, because they do not believe in me;concerning righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.”

1 Corinthians 2:11-12 “For who among men knows the things of a man except the man’s spirit within him? So too, no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things that are freely given to us by God.”

Unfortunately, we live as a part of the kingdom in the midst of a world of unbelievers. It isn’t until the end of the age that the righteous and the unrighteous are separated (13:24-30).

Revelation 20:11-15 “Then I saw a large white throne and the one who was seated on it; the earth and the heaven fled from his presence, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne. Then books were opened, and another book was opened—the book of life. So the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to their deeds.The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and Death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each one was judged according to his deeds. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death—the lake of fire. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, that person was thrown into the lake of fire.”

But we should not despair. God continues to build His kingdom (13:31-32). We see the literal fulfillment of this parable today. What started out with a few disciples in Israel has grown to millions of adherents around the word today (actually billions who identify as Christians), not to mention the believers throughout history!

Devotional Reading for January 18, 2022

Matthew 12:22-50

Wow! Let’s do the easy bits first…

In 13:33-37 we’re reminded that righteousness begins in the heart and is shown by words and actions!

In 13:38-42 we see that people are looking for a sign/reason to believe. We are given a sign – the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-5)!

In 13:46-50 we’re reminded that when we believe we become a part of a new family, and we show that we’re a part of the family by following God and His Word!

Let’s take 13:43-45 next. Jesus makes it specific to that generation. They are experiencing the grace of God through Jesus and His ministry (the unclean spirit is gone!). If they end up rejecting Him as a nation, then what happens next will be truly horrible. We see that with the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 70 A.D.

I believes this plays into 13:22-32. Jesus is continually challenging the religious leadership and the lack of belief in that generation. In the context of Jesus defending His ministry and pointing out the Pharisees illogical assumptions, Jesus makes a statement about the Spirit: “For this reason I tell you, people will be forgiven for every sin and blasphemy, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven. But whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.” Jesus makes these comments right after sharing that He is able to cast out demons by the Spirit of God and not by the power of Satan. I have come to believe that the best way to understand this verse is to see it as specific to that time and context. In other words it could happen precisely because Jesus Christ was physically ministering on the earth at the time, in the power of the Spirit, and the Pharisees were saying that He was casting out demons by the power of Satan. If we are worried about an unpardonable sin in our generation, it is simply an unwillingness to believe in Jesus Christ.

John 3:36 “The one who believes in the Son has eternal life. The one who rejects the Son will not see life, but God’s wrath remains on him.

Devotional Reading for January 17, 2022

Matthew 12:1-21

Here Jesus confronts the hypocrisy of the religious leaders. They claim to be experts in the law, and yet they don’t consider the example of David or the priests when it comes to the Sabbath. And they would have more compassion for a sheep on the Sabbath than they would for a man! By his actions and teaching Jesus shows that mercy and love should rule the Sabbath, and in truth should rule the law:

Romans 13:10 “Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”

Jesus is identified by several names here, all of which point to His authority, dominion, and even divinity! First of all, He is the Son of Man, which has several implications, the most important from the book of Daniel:

Daniel 7:13-14 “I was watching in the night visions, And with the clouds of the sky one like a son of man was approaching. He went up to the Ancient of Days and was escorted before him. To him was given ruling authority, honor, and sovereignty. All peoples, nations, and language groups were serving him. His authority is eternal and will not pass away. His kingdom will not be destroyed.”

Jesus is also the suffering servant from the book of Isaiah (the suffering servant songs in Isaiah are found in 42:1-4, 49:1-6, 50:4-7, and 52:13-53:12). Here Matthew quotes from Isaiah 42:1-4 to explain Jesus’ secrecy, but he also shows that the Jewish messiah will also bring hope to the Gentiles! I believe the best understanding of His secrecy is that He has a divine timetable to adhere to, and He’s keeping the Jewish authorities at bay.

Finally, Jesus identifies Himself as the Lord of the Sabbath, which I believe is subtle claim to deity. Yes, He’s claiming authority to declare how the Sabbath should be obeyed, but who has the authority to do that? Only God, because it is His Sabbath (Exodus 31:13; Leviticus 19:3; Ezekiel 20:12 and 12 others)!

The bottom line? We should listen to Jesus when He proclaims the importance of mercy and compassion.

Sermon outline for 1/16/22 (Radio broadcast 1/23/22) — “Who should we love?”

NOT all the Questions in the Bible
“Who should we love?”
Matthew 5:43-48

I) Jesus tackles a popular ________________________

     A) Jesus has been focusing on _____________ interpretations

     B) Here He takes on ______________ misrepresentation

     C) God is clear that love is a __________________!

II) Jesus helps us to properly ___________________

     A) The prior verses focus on ______________ love

     B) Now the focus is ____________ love

III) Jesus reveals the ____________________ of love

     A) _____________ someone means:

          1) If someone curses you, speak ____________ back

          2) If someone hates you, do ___________ to them

          3) If someone treats you badly, _________ for them

     B) And that shows ___________ we are!

     C) It also shows our ________________

     D) We are _____________ for our love

     E) We are supposed to be _________ from the rest of the

IV) The call to love is a call to ______________!

     A) ____________ in this life means maturity

     B) Full _____________ comes later

Devotional Reading for January 16, 2022

Matthew 11:2-30

John isn’t finding Jesus’ yoke easy or load light! He is the greatest prophet from OT times. He is the one who is preaching to prepare the way for the coming Messiah. He is the forerunner, Elijah as was foretold, for those who take his message to heart. And yet he is in prison, and he’s beginning to wonder if everything he thought about Jesus was wrong. So he sends some of his disciples to ask Jesus a question: “Are you the one who is to come?” Jesus responds by reminding them of Isaiah 61:1 (11:4). Jesus is doing exactly what God said the Messiah would do! And that is an important reminder to us. Whenever we are hurting, whenever we are doubting, whenever we are in despair, we need to turn to the Word. The Word reminds us of who God is and what God does. The Word reminds us that God is at work. The Word reveals fulfilled prophecy, and the Word predicts what is in our future. The Word provides directions for our lives, and the Word provides perspective for our lives. The Word comforts, encourages, and gives us hope!

Jesus also reminds us of another important truth: as great as John was, those who believe are greater! John is a transitional figure between the Old and New Testaments. He is preparing the way for the coming Messiah. The era of law effectively ends with Jesus death, and the era of grace begins. John dies before the era of grace begins, so he can only look forward to it without fully understanding everything that it means, and we see that confusion here. We are blessed because we can fully understand and experience that grace in our lives! And there is a warning here: if we refuse to believe and repent we face judgment. Are there degrees of judgment suggested here (11:24)? I would suggest that it’s probably just dramatic hyperbole for effect. Judgment is judgment, and it’s not pleasant. No-one should want to experience it.

Devotional Reading for January 15, 2022

January 10:26-11:1

Jesus continues with His encouragement here. Everything will one day be revealed and everyone will know the truth, so we should stand up for it now! We don’t need to fear anyone, not even those in our family who are against us, because God cares for us. He even has the hairs on our heads numbered! In fact, God’s care even extends to those who are willing to receive us. He declares that they will receive a reward. But those of us who truly know and love Jesus will receive an even greater reward. If we live for and acknowledge Him, He in turn promises to acknowledge us, and there is no greater reward than that!

For worship:

Devotional Reading for January 14, 2022

Matthew 10:1-25.

Note that in 10:1 we have the “12 disciples,” and then in 10:2 we have the “12 apostles.” I think that helps us to make a certain distinction between the Twelve and us. The term apostle means “one who is sent,” and can be used as a title on occasion (Acts 13:2). But most often it seems to be used to describe an office: i.e. someone who fulfills a very distinct and specialized role. There seem to be two unique qualifications for those who fulfill the office of apostle. First, they have seen the risen Lord:

1 Corinthians 9:1 “Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord?”

Acts 1:21-22 “Thus one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time the Lord Jesus associated with us, beginning from his baptism by John until the day he was taken up from us—one of these must become a witness of his resurrection together with us.”

And second, they must display the signs of an apostle:

2 Corinthians 12:12 “Indeed, the signs of an apostle were performed among you with great perseverance by signs and wonders and powerful deeds.”

Therefore I believe that the apostolic office was time and situation specific. Revelation 21:14 also seems to support the idea that the Twelve were special and fulfilled a specific role:

Revelation 21:14 “The wall of the city has twelve foundations, and on them are the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.”

While the apostles may have been special, we are all called to be disciples. And although this passage contains much that relates to the specific mission of the Twelve (both immediately and perhaps into the era recorded by the book of Acts), there are specific truths that apply to all disciples:

  1. All disciples are to share the gospel.
  2. All disciples are to rely on the Spirit.
  3. All disciples should expect persecution.

And regarding that persecution, Matthew 10:23 causes a lot of discussion and consternation! “I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.” Does this refer to then? Does it refer to the end times? Has it happened? Are we still waiting for it? How are we to understand this verse?

One way that people interpret this verse is to speculate that Jesus might not be talking about His literal return, but the “Son of Man comes” may be a description of the coming judgment of God which seems to fall on Israel in A.D. 70 when Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed. The book of Acts would then be seen as fulfilling the description of events in Matthew 10:16-20.

However, I believe there may be a better way to understand it, if we allow for Jesus’ words to be a little figurative rather than strictly literal. He may be speaking to His disciples in a way that would mean something to them then, but in reality providing hope and encouragement to all His disciples in all ages. He says, “People will dislike you. They will betray you. They may even hate you! You will have to give an account of your faith before authorities. You will face pain, persecution, and death. Members of your own family will even turn against you. But the Spirit will guide you! You will be protected! You will persevere! Continue on mission! Be faithful! Because I am coming back!”

Maranatha! Come quickly Lord Jesus!