Archive for the ‘Matthew’ Category

You don’t have to prove anything

February 11th, 2018 by Maureen

Just because Jesus asks one guy to do something specific it doesn’t mean he’s asking everybody to do that same specific thing. In context, the guy had just listed all the things he did right in order to prove that he was a worthy of consideration as a disciple. Jesus had just got through telling this same guy that nobody is good only God is good. When the guy pressed, Jesus told him to sell all his stuff. The point was that discipleship isn’t something you apply for and earn and do.

This conversation really wasn’t about laws. It was about understanding that we do not manufacture goodness through our behavior. Rather we are good because God is good and respond with good from the attitude and perspective that our identity is in Him. This means letting go of the things we do to prove our goodness to ourselves and to others.

It doesn’t say that the young man went away deeply offended or alienated either, just sad. Jesus didn’t shut the door on the guy because he wasn’t ready to accept what He said. I like to think what Jesus said to this young man sunk in later.

Lord, help me to bask in Your goodness and invite others into Your goodness.

Have yourself a stress-less little Christmas

December 19th, 2017 by Maureen

Rejoice and be exceedingly glad…Matt 5:13

Christmas is a season for rejoicing…and stressing. At some point during the holiday season, and often on the Big Day itself, everything gets to be too much. Sometimes its good to downsize our expectations of ourselves and our celebrations. This is, after all, a birthday party for Jesus. Getting uptight about the meals, the gifts, the decorations, the plans for gathering seems so Martha-ish.  This season is about relationships, love, peace on earth, goodwill toward all. Each hug, each conversation, each quiet moment staring into the yule log, each toast, each carol, each “thanks, I love it” after unwrapping a gift, and even each tacky piece of yard art can be a little Christmas all by itself. No pressure, just look for all the little Christmases and rejoice in Christ and in the ones who strike your happy.

Lord, help me to peace out instead of stressing out, Grinching out, or checking out.

Avoiding a tabloid gospel

December 8th, 2017 by Maureen

While he [Joseph], considered these things an angel of the Lord came to him in a dream and said, “Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.” Matt. 1:20

The Nativity story had the potential to become a very messy “he said-she said” tabloid tale. In the  The Gospel of Luke Mary and even her cousin Elizabeth get inside information from angels about Mary’s unexpected pregnancy. The Gospel of Matthew explains how Joseph took it when Mary gives her version of her pregnancy story. Though understandably hurt and confused, Joseph seems to have processed the situation with a gracious attitude even though the most reasonable explanation is that Mary cheated on him. It was only after extending grace and keeping an open mind that Joseph gets a dream and angels to offer clarity and confirmation. A reactionary response could have locked Joseph out of that experience. We don’t usually get dreams or angels to clear up ambiguity in our lives. What we do get is the opportunity to choose to manifest grace, to extend the benefit of the doubt, and to leave God room to guide our responses.

Lord, when I don’t have clarity (and even when I think I do) help me respond with a gracious spirit and an open mind.

“And…” is the door to staying young at heart and mind

October 18th, 2017 by Maureen

At that time Jesus prayed this prayer: “O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike.” Matt. 11:24

God puts an “And…” door in every single rigid box we humans try to use to contain our understanding and corral our hearts. His eternal, infinite love and intelligence won’t be contained by our need for definitive statements to explain or control. God’s higher, deeper, wider presses against the door marked “And…” until it bursts open. The nature of Christ invites wonder rather than analysis. We don’t have to fully explain God to experience Him or to invite others to experience Him with us. In fact, not having all the answers is part of the adventure of discovery that comes with being His child. Sometimes “and…?” is the biggest and best question we kids can ask.

Thanks, Lord,  I love being your child.

What does it mean to ask, seek, and knock?

September 9th, 2017 by Maureen

Keep asking, you will receive. Keep seeking, you will find, keep knocking and the door will open. Matt. 7:7

Nag. Nag! NAG!! Does the Father really enjoy 30 minutes of begging for the same thing? Is it in His nature to simply reward us for being persistent? Does asking God for the same thing every day until we get it really build faith muscles or it just playing the odds? Does going on a hunger strike obligate God to deliver.  Does quote scripture to God like magic incantations open up heaven? Are answers more likely to come if we round up more people to pray, gathering consensus for our cause, like circulating a petition? Maybe figuring out prayer is the secret to manipulating and obligating God into meeting our demands and fulfilling our agendas. Lots of books have been sold based on these theories.

And God promised. Right? It says so in the next verse: For everyone who asks, does receive; and those we are seeking do find, and the door is opened to the one who knocks. Matt 7:8

Matt. 7:7-8 are sandwiched between the part about taking the beam out of your own eye before judging someone with a speck in theirs, and the part that asks whether a loving father whose child asks for bread would give that kid a stone. So maybe the context isn’t about us demanding our agendas. Maybe “asking, seeking, and knocking” don’t mean what we think they mean.  If God already knows everything, loves us, and wants good for us, maybe prayer is about opening our hands, heads, and hearts to what the Father is giving us.

Lord, for myself and all the others I know who are experiencing loss, fear, uncertainty, and need, what are You giving us? What are you showing us? Which door have You unlocked for us?


Of rocks and roosters

August 6th, 2017 by Maureen

Upon this rock… Matt. 16:8 I tell you the truth, Peter—this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me. Matt. 26:34

Jesus: Peter, who do you say that I am?
Peter: Your are the Christ, the Son of the living God!
Jesus: On this rock I will build my church…” Matt. 16:15-18
Fast forward
Jesus: “Before the rooster crows Peter, you will deny me three times…”
Peter: “I don’t know what you mean…I don’t know the man…I don’t know the man.”
The rooster crows. Peter remembers Jesus’ words and goes somewhere he can weep in private. Matt 26:69-75
Fast forward
Peter stood before a crowd in Jerusalem and lifted his voice… Acts 2:14

Peter’s recognition of Jesus as the Son of God is the rock on which the church is built, not Peter himself. Later Peter walked on water then sunk, cut off a man’s ear to defend Jesus and got corrected for it, wimped out on the the night of Jesus’ crucifixion, and was picked to preach the first public sermon to the crowds after the Upper Room experience that launched the new faith. We all have rock moments and rooster moments. God defines us by Christ not by those moments. Neither our rocks nor our roosters have to power to change God’s love for us, our status as His children, or His desire or ability to express His love, grace, and truth through us. We do have the power to choose how to process our rock and rooster experiences. Roosters crow to wake us up, not to accuse us. Feeling the rock under our feet gives us confidence, perspective, and solid place to stand; we don’t have to be the rock.

Lord, thank you that I can experience restoration and transformation in all my rock and rooster moments.

Your booth is a trap. Knock down the walls. Walk away from it.

July 21st, 2017 by Maureen

Jesus Matthew sitting in the tax booth, and he said, “Follow me.”
So Matthew got up and and followed Him. Matt. 9:9

Imagine what it would be like for IRS personnel to have to sit in kiosks on the street, in shopping centers, or in
toll booths along the roadside. Imagine a country where taxation was heavy, extremely regressive, and done without representation or benefit to those being taxed. Imagine being the face of this countries’ IRS equivalent. Matthew must have hated his job even though it payed well, gave him power, and provided some leeway with the Romans that most Jews did not enjoy. Matthew and anyone who would be friends with him were what the Pharisees and upright citizens of Capernaum considered contemptible “scum.” Matthew probably felt locked into his life as it was, but two words from Jesus and Matthew was out of the booth ready to ditch whatever power and wealth was associated with staying in it because he understood how much he needed a change and trusted Jesus to be the change he needed.
That night Matthew threw a party so his lowlife friends could meet Jesus.
“What was Jesus thinking?” Peter mutters to James.
“Maybe Jesus doesn’t know everything after all,” says Nathaniel to Philip.
John and Andrew huddle together humming “Mama Told Me Not to Come.”
The Pharisees went to Jesus’ disciples, “This is no mixer for nice Jewish boys. Why is your teacher hanging with this crew?”
Jesus didn’t leave his boys struggling for an explanation. This was still new to them. He stepped in with His answer, “Well people don’t need a doctor. I didn’t come for the righteous and I’m not about sacrifice, I’m about mercy for people who know they need change.”
The Pharisees were interested in preserving their system and the power and status it gave them. They were counting on their own righteousness earned by their own acts of sacrifice. They were not about to leave their booths.
Some of the followers who had tried to carry their own little legalistic booths on the journey with Jesus had to knock down a wall or two that night to make room for Matthew.  (based on Matt 9:9-13)

Lord, help everyone who feels trapped in a tiny booth to abandon it for Your big, beautiful world and everyone in it.

The economics of the kingdom of heaven

May 24th, 2017 by Maureen

The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, He went away and sold everything he had and bought it. Matt. 13:44-45

This is a parable, a metaphoric story told to illustrate a lesson. On the one hand, it could mean the Father estimates our worth as equivalent to His own Son. On the other hand, it could mean that we humans are motivated to pursue the things we perceive as valuable and this invisible kingdom of heaven is worth everything else we value. Either way, in the economy of love and grace, there is an infinite, unique Godhead (Father-Christ-Spirit) with an eternal reign and limitless assets assigning great value to both the kingdom of heaven which seems to be this invisible, undefined awareness of the interconnected relationship of human beings with God and with each other borne of faith; and to each of the estimated 108.2 billion human beings who have ever lived, most of whom can’t quite fully grasp the concept of the kingdom even if they believe it is real.

Lord, thanks for valuing me.

Pirates called Moth and Rust

May 8th, 2017 by Maureen

Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Matt.6:20

Hours and hours of stress and energy are spent figuring out how to hold on to the things we treasure. Fear of loss can prevent us from fully resting in God’s grace, fully trusting in God’s provision, and fully surrendering control over what we love to the Father who loves us. There is a false sense of control and possession in holding tight and worrying over the stuff that matters to us, as though our efforts are all that’s keeping our treasure from slipping away. In reality, God is the maker and provider of treasure – and the One who helps us determine what deserves to be called “treasure.” Our misplaced priorities and efforts are the moths and rust that steal the joy and benefit from having treasure.

Lord, thank you for helping me see the pearl in the wound and the diamond in the coal already on earth as it is in heaven.


April 26th, 2017 by Maureen

No one could answer him. And after that, no one dared to ask him any more questions. Matt. 22:46

Is blind obedience the same thing as trust? The Pharisees didn’t want to be questioned. They didn’t want to consider or receive what Jesus was saying so they asked rhetorical questions they thought would trap Him into saying something they could use against Him. Instead of answering, Jesus answered their questions with questions they couldn’t answer. This shut them up. Does this imply that God doesn’t want us to ask questions? I don’t think God doesn’t want us to be curious or ask questions, but I do think He wants us to trust Him and He knows why we have the questions we do. If Jesus followers had been unsatisfied with the Pharisees’ answers; had they not been curious and asked questions, the Pharisees would still be exerting unquestioned authority. When you trust somebody you can ask them anything.

Lord, thanks for all the questions that got me where I am now.

Go native

March 10th, 2017 by Maureen

May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Matt. 6:10

Jesus came to make us citizens of a kingdom that already exists in His loving unity with the Father and Spirit. His will isn’t that we pass a citizenship test for the kingdom of God based on dogma, but that we experience a transformative reconciliation to God in our spirits enacted by His grace. Our actions, attitudes, and choices as kingdom citizens are reflect our spiritual transformation not our commitment to behavioral modification or continuous improvement.

Lord, may Your Kingdom be as real in my spirit and life as it is in Yours.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel…

December 24th, 2016 by Maureen

Angel of the Lord to Joseph: She will bear a son and you will call him Jesus…The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel. Matt. 1:21,23 and Is. 7:14

It is not our perceptions of Jesus that define Him, but how we individually process Who He Is does determine how each of us experiences His redemption and His presence.

יְהוֹשׁוּעַ – Hebrew – Yehoshua or Joshua literally means “he who saves, redeems, or delivers.” Even when we don’t recognize the ways in which we are threatened, bound, or limited, Jesus established freedom for us and continues His rescue mission into our hearts and minds.

עִמָּנוּאֵל – Immanuel means “with us is God.” Even when we don’t feel like He’s there, God is still with us to the very same extent that He is in those moments when His presence feels absolutely tangible to us. How can we be separate from Him in whom we live and move and exist?

Jesus came to ransom our captive souls and end our lonely exiles.

Oh come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Oh bid our sad divisions cease,
And be Yourself our King of Peace.

Healing words from Matthew and Micah

November 9th, 2016 by Maureen

Love your neighbor as yourself. Matt 22:39 Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly. Micah 6:8

The president does not dictate whether or not we can love our neighbors. The laws of the land do not decide whether we choose to treat one another with fairness and graciousness. The policies of a government do not decide whether we choose to be generous and compassionate. The attitudes of politicians, the press, our favorite celebrities, or our neighbors do not dictate our responses. We still have the same choices today that we have always had: to love, to embrace justice, to extend mercy, and to exhibit humility and humanity.

Lord, inspire and guide each of us in loving our neighbors, all our neighbors.

Famous last words

August 28th, 2016 by Maureen


If I want him to remain alive until I come back, what concern is that of yours? (Jesus to Peter concerning John)  John 21:23

Behold I am sending the promise of my Father to you, but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high. Luke 24:49

I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Matt. 28:20

Each of these gospels records different last words of Jesus, and each offers a different perspective. John records a personal conversation between Peter and Jesus, basically offering assurance that Jesus is interested and involved in our individual stories. Luke offers assurance that God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit continue to communicate with us and will be our source and inspiration. Matthew simply says that no matter what happens throughout history, or through the passages of our own lives, Jesus is always, always with in.

Jesus, thank You for communicating to humans through Your life, Your words, and Your Spirit.

Squinting through life

August 11th, 2016 by Maureen

Your eye is a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light. But when your eye is bad, your whole body is filled with darkness. And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is! Matt. 6:22-23

Nearsighted people tell stories about seeing trees for the first time through corrective lenses and being able to make out individual leaves and branches. We base our insights, responses, and plans on what we think we are looking at. If we are squinting distorted lenses of selfishness, fear, anger, inflexibility, hopelessness, and confusion then we may never know that the green blob we’ve been calling a monster is really a tree. In Christ we can see and respond to our world through His loving, truthful, hopeful, wondrous, and gracious 20-20 vision.

Lord, correct my flawed vision.

Transformation is not the same thing as improvement

July 14th, 2016 by Maureen

May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Matt. 6:10

Jesus came to make us citizens of His kingdom not to give us a citizenship test we have to pass. His death and resurrections accomplishes transformative reconciliation to God.We can’t cause this change through successful adherence to disciplines and practices, through behavioral modification, or through improvement programs. Not to say those things can’t be valuable in improving our lives and relationships, but only Christ transforms us or make us new creations.  Our actions, attitudes, and choices as kingdom citizens reflect our awareness of our spiritual transformation, our adoption as sons and daughters, and our citizenship in His kingdom so that we become on earth as we’ve been made in heaven.

Lord, help me experience the reality of Your kingdom come. Give me greater insight into who I am in heaven and help me reflect that transformation in who I am on earth.

The currency of forgiveness

July 11th, 2016 by Maureen

And forgive our sins [trespasses, debts] as we have forgiven those who sin against us. Matt. 6:12

If the currency of forgiveness is not the cross – total, complete, unearned, and restorative – we are all screwed. Some of us have trouble forgiving because we ourselves are guilt-ridden and haven’t forgiven ourselves or felt forgiven by God or someone else. And some, in our pride, never feel the need to be forgiven. And some of us just enjoy feeling justified in our offended. Like so much else Jesus said to His friends who relied on law for redemption, the Lord’s prayer contained impossible challenges that only the power of Christ Himself make possible. We don’t earn forgiveness by forgiving others. While we still needed forgiveness, Christ forgave us. The powerful result of Christ’s loving, gracious forgiveness is reconciliation to God Himself. It is from the storehouse of this same abundant, unmerited grace that we draw when we forgive and seek forgiveness.

Lord, let me live and breathe Your grace.

If love defeats death and evil, it certainly can defeat hate

July 9th, 2016 by Maureen

I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. Matt. 5:44-45

From the sidelines it’s easy to label heroes and villains and to give out praise and judgment. But followers of Christ are called to love our neighbors be they police, protesters, victims, law-breakers, rioters, politicians, reporters, facebook posters, bystanders, or racists. In fact, manifesting His Love helps us eliminate the “us-them” mentality that must assign blame, justify ourselves, or categorize others. Eliminating “us-them” changes the way we look at and respond to one another. Any hope any of us have lies in the same love, the same three nails, the same empty tomb, the same risen Christ who came for each and every one of us.

Lord, when I don’t understand, when I don’t relate, when I simply don’t have another person’s perspective on the situation, let Your love and grace be my first response.

Counting hairs instead of splitting them.

July 7th, 2016 by Maureen

And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. Matt. 10:30

God has intense, personal love for each one of us. It’s reassuring and amazing to look at any crowd of people and realize that God knows how many hairs and tears and longings are represented. The Holy Spirit is always opening hearts and minds to the love and grace of Christ and inspiring other hearts  and minds to express His love and grace. Often the Holy Spirit brings together those who need to experience God and those who need to express Him. When that happens, when we get to be one of those people, counting hairs is way more important than splitting them.

Lord, let some unsuspecting head be filled with the wonder and beauty and magnitude of your love!

Sometimes you just have to rip off the band-aid

June 21st, 2016 by Maureen

How often I have wanted to gather you children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me. Matt 23:37b

We all have our own emotional band-aids which may make us feel better temporarily, but are actually counter-productive to real healing. Covering the sore spot protects it the way our emotional band-aids offer temporary protection when we feel vulnerable and hurt. We sometimes resist the very things that would ultimately bring about healing because letting go of the things we’ve been using to cover the pain feels like ripping off a band-aid. Often healing the sore spot requires exposing it, examining it, treating it, and releasing it. God made our emotions and His kind and gentle love and wisdom can lead us to real emotional health and healing. He may immediately heal us or He may lead us to experiences and people who He can use to help us. Then don’t need the band-aids anymore.

Lord, show me how to accept your healing, help and protection when all I want is band-aids.