Devotional Reading for January 25, 2022

Matthew 16

1-4: Our generation is looking for a sign too, but we receive the same sign of Jonah that they did. The resurrection!

1 Corinthians 15:3-8 “For I passed on to you as of first importance what I also received—that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as though to one born at the wrong time, he appeared to me also.”

5-12: The disciples are being dense again, and Jesus challenges them about it. “How could you think that I was talking about literal bread? Don’t you think based on what happened before that I could take care of that?!?!” They finally realize that he is talking to them about the false teaching of the religious leadership, and it reminds us to be on our guard as well.

13-20: The “keys” were also given to the other disciples (Matthew 18:18). By declaring the confession that Jesus is the Messiah they open the door to heaven. They forbid (bind) or allow (release) entrance based on the divine decree that only those who believe can get in (will have been bound/released in heaven). The same is true of us. We present the gospel, we provide the key to a right relationship with God, and if others believe they will be saved!

21-28: We’re reminded here that pain is a part of discipleship, and Jesus is our example. Life isn’t perfect, and we have to endure hardship. We take up our cross daily and follow Jesus. Although rebuked here, Peter learned his lesson.

1 Peter 2:21 “For to this you were called, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving an example for you to follow in his steps.”

Finally, how would some of them see Jesus coming in His kingdom? I think that it’s significant that the next thing Matthew records is the transfiguration!

Devotional Reading for January 24, 2022

Matthew 15:21-39

“But He did not answer her a word.” Scary words. Worrisome words. But they describe a phenomenon that many Christians have experienced throughout history: the dark night of the soul. Maybe you’ve experienced it too. You cry out, you plead, you are desperate, but the gates of heaven seem closed. That peace of God that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7) evades you. Could it be that God is doing this deliberately? He does here! By not responding immediately, and by challenging her, Jesus tests her faith to see if she’ll persevere, and He elicits a greater testimony from her. So, when we find something similar happening in our lives, we can rest assured that God has a purpose in mind.

Didn’t we just read about a miraculous feeding? Yes we did, and it seems that the disciples didn’t learn anything from the first one! Why does Matthew include two? Well, it does remind us that Jesus can provide, but, more than that, I think that he records the disciples being dense for a reason. It gives us hope! When we’re slow to learn important spiritual lessons in our lives, God gives us the opportunity again. And perhaps we do see some progress here. They go from, “send the crowds away,” to “where can we get enough bread.” But note that Jesus prompts them for that – they don’t come to Him because of their own compassion for the crowd. That’s why I think that they are being dense, but at least we see a glimmer of growth by their response. May we experience those same glimmers in our own lives!

Sermon outline for 1/23/22 (Radio broadcast 1/30/22) — “Who is my neighbor?”

NOT all the Questions in the Bible
“Who is my neighbor?”
Luke 10:25-37

I) The ___________

     A) A test for ___________

     B) Turns into a test for the ________________

II) The question of the ___________

     “And who is my _______________?”

III) The _________

     A) The ____________

     B) A ___________ passes him by

     C) A ___________ passes him by

     D) A ____________ stops to help

IV) The ___________ to the question

     “The one who showed him _________.”

V) Our _________

     “Do ____________”

Devotional Reading for January 23, 2022

Matthew 15:1-20

It’s always a challenge to determine if we do what we do because we’ve always done it that way before, or we’re doing it because we’re obeying God’s Word. The Christian church has always struggled with that, and the Pharisees did too. Here Jesus chastises them because they are concerned about keeping their traditions to the point that they ignore what the Bible says. They claimed that if someone dedicated their resources to God that they didn’t have to use it to help out their parents, where Scripture is very clear that we are to honor our parents.

Jesus continues with a parable that the Pharisees believe is about them, and they are right! Their tradition teaches that eating with unwashed hands is wrong, but Jesus says that it won’t defile them. What defiles comes out of the heart: evil ideas, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony and slander. If their hearts were in the right place, they’d understand and teach that. He flat out says that the Pharisees are blind guides that shouldn’t be listened to! And that is our take away from the passage. How do we guard our hearts and keep from sin? We don’t listen to blind guides! We listen to teachers who are true to the Word of God.

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.