Archive for the ‘Matthew’ Category

One-sided enemies

January 31st, 2016 by Maureen

but I say to you, love your enemies, bless those cursing you, do good to those hating you, and pray for those accusing you falsely and persecuting you. Matt 5:44 YLT

We cannot help it when people consider us their enemies but we do have a choice about whether we consider them our enemies. The relationship that others think they are having with us does not have to define the relationship we are having with them. When people show animosity towards us our knee-jerk respond in kind. Love and blessing and goodwill may not seem like our default setting but these are the very responses that lie within the new creation that Christ has made us. What would change about our most stressed relationships if we simply stopped viewing people as enemies?

Lord, thank you that I don’t have to make enemies of those who have made an enemy of me.

Being human in God’s image

December 30th, 2015 by Maureen

God created us in His own likeness and image. Gen. 1:26

I’ve heard the relationship between God and man compared to a human and an ant. None of these descriptions of what it means to be human sounds very ant-like:

He set eternity in our hearts. Ecc. 3:11

He has given us, as His disciples, all authority in heaven and earth. Matt. 28:18

Whoever believes in Jesus will do the works He did and even greater things…Jn. 14:12

His Holy Spirit to teach us all things.  Jn. 14:26  and guide us into all truth. Jn. 16:12

We can have the mind of Christ in us. Phil. 2:5

The same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead dwells in us. Rom. 8:11

Jesus has given us the glory the Father gave to Him that we might all be one with the Trinity together. Jn. 17:22

We are partakers in His divine nature. 2 Pet. 1:4

The full picture of our destiny is not yet clear but we know this much, when Jesus appears we will be like Him because we will see Him just as He is. 1 Jn. 3:2

Certainly none of us will ever be God, nor should we aspire to be, but perhaps what He wants us to experience and to become is more profound and transcendent than ants have the capacity to envision but are within the realm of what a child can envision for him- or herself when imagining what it is to be a grown-up. Embrace all it means to be a human child of God.

Lord, I want for myself everything You want for me. I open myself to all the possibilities You offer.

Unwrapping gifts from Jesus

December 25th, 2015 by Maureen

Jesus gives us gifts, some of which we use on a daily basis, some we take out of the box once in awhile, some we look at, say “thanks” but have no idea what to do with them, and some we never even unwrap.

abundant life Jn. 10:10

supernatural love Jn 13:1

complete joy Jn. 15:11

overcoming peace Jn. 16:33

truth and freedom Jn. 8:32, 36

healing for broken hearts Luke 4:18

and bodies Matt. 10:8

significance Luke 12:7

empowerment Acts 1:8

fearless belief Mark 5:36

every possibility Mark 9:23

His own glory Jn. 17:22

Thank you, Lord, for giving me these gifts.  Show me how to fully realize them in my life.

 

 

Stars and other directional phenomena

December 14th, 2015 by Maureen

starAnd the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. Matt. 2:9

By the time the Magi got there, Jesus, Mary and Joseph had moved out of the stable. Jesus might have been over a year old. God wanted the Magi to find Jesus. The star was a classier version of a giant flashing neon arrow leading straight to the house where Jesus was. Sort of like the Holy Spirit, the church, and individual followers of Christ are lights in the world guiding, illuminating, and pointing the way to relationship with Jesus.

Lord, thank you for sending all sorts of stars and directional phenomena to point me ever closer to You.

Be a player or get benched

December 12th, 2015 by Maureen

In the Christmas story angels appear to two different guys, Joseph and Zechariah, telling them not to be afraid and explaining that their wives’ pregnancies are results of miraculous circumstances.” Joseph’s story is told in Matt 1:18-22 and  Zechariah’s in Luke 1. Elizabeth and Mary were already players having received angelic visits of their own. Zechariah got a face-to-face angelic appearance while Joseph got an angel in a dream. Zechariah was asked to believe that his wife Elizabeth would get pregnant in old age while Joseph was asked to believe that his fiancee Mary was pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Zechariah’s immediate response was to question and object. Before the angel ever showed up in the dream Joseph’s attitude was already to show mercy to the woman who may have cheated on him. Seems like Joseph had way more of a stretch but he chose to be a player in this amazing story and his response was to accept a reality that seemed impossible. Zechariah got benched for awhile for attitude.

Lord, I want to respond like Joseph when things seem illogical, incredible and impossible. An angel would help though, just saying.

 

Ours is a journey of faith and sight

December 6th, 2015 by Maureen

When they saw star [again] they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. Matt 2:10

The wise men saw Christ’s star “at its rising,” indicating that a king had been born. So they followed it. At some point they must not have been able to see the star anymore because they had to stop and ask for directions. There are some fascinating astronomical explanations for the disappearance and reappearance of the star, but the point is that losing sight of the star didn’t cause them to lose faith in the truth of who Jesus was or in their quest and desire to find and worship Him. But getting to actually see the star again was an amazing feeling. Though we walk by faith, not by sight, sometimes God gives us moments of illumination that validate, redirect, and re-energize our journeys.

Lord, thank you for guiding me by faith and for sometimes letting me see, feel, and experience amazing and beautiful confirmations of what I know is true

Take this sinking boat

October 22nd, 2015 by Maureen

Jesus said, “Come to me,” so Peter got out of the boat and walked toward Jesus on the water. When Peter noticed the wind he began to sink… read Matt. 14:22-33 for the whole story

Trusting Christ results in amazing experiences.  If we think about the surrounding circumstances, we’re sunk. If we think about our own resources and competencies we’re sunk. Knowing that something as ephemeral as faith and trust is what holds us up should not keep us in the boat though.  Eventually any boat we build to keep ourselves safely afloat – our best human shots at security – relational, financial, emotional, scientific, philosophical, theological security – are going to develop a holes. Besides Jesus didn’t send us out here to stay in the boat. Keeping our attention on Jesus is the only way to walk on water.

Jesus you are the solid rock, the way, the truth, the author and finisher of my faith.

There is no cosmic revolving door

October 17th, 2015 by Maureen

I am with you always – Jesus. Matt. 28:20

We have a tendency to associate His presence with our behavior, our attitudes, or our circumstances. There is no cosmic revolving door so God can duck in and out of our lives depending on who we think we are or how we think we are doing. The cross was and is a permanent fix. For Jesus “I am with You always” is the like the Father saying “I am that I am.” It is an eternal present tense, a state of being, the way it is.

Lord, help me remain fully aware of and responsive to Your presence with me always.

Unveiled

October 5th, 2015 by Maureen

At that moment the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. Matt. 27:51 Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away…And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. 2 Cor. 3:16, 18

Christ imputed His righteousness onto us at the cross the symbolic veil of separation between God and humans ripped apart. Individually the veils we wear, the masks of righteousness we put on out of shame or fear or even desire to imitate Christ, are also torn away. Even the best, most realistic mask can only imitate authentic glory. Only when our faces are unveiled can we see and reflect the image and glory of God. People who are unmasked and being transformed are not going to look the same under the masks. This is probably what scares most of us about being unveiled.

Lord, show me how to reflect Your glory instead of trying to imitate it.

Having to earn is exhausting, getting to seek is exhiliarating

September 27th, 2015 by Maureen

Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you. Matt. 6:33

Seeking keeps us actively engaged because we can’t be the source of His “kingdom,” “righteousness,” or “justification,” (the two words have the same root in the Greek dikaiosynē). Seeking takes away the pressure and the pride that comes with relying on our own performance-driven righteousness. Seeking holds constant adventure, discovery, and surprise because God is the source. He reveals His kingdom. He assigns His righteousness to us. He decides what the “added things” look like.  It may seem easier to define “righteous” and keep a scorecard. With a scorecard we can assess our own performance and demand our “added things” because we’ve earned them. Even if our motives are pure and the kingdom takes priority over the added things the scorecard approach seems like a negotiation in which God blesses us if we are good. That seems like being at work all the time instead of being with family.

Father, I’m so glad this is adoption instead employment.

 

Prayer is not magic incantation

September 14th, 2015 by Maureen

For when two are more are gathered I am there in the midst of them. Matt. 18:20

This verse is often used to imply that somehow corporate prayer is more effective than personal prayer. Read in context, Jesus was talking about a specific Hebrew tradition involving the need for witnesses in resolving disputes and reconciling the parties involved. While prayer with another person can cause His love and concern to feel more tangible, praying with others isn’t a magic formula for getting what we want from God. God is present in us so we don’t need a crowd to invoke His presence. God wants to communicate with us so we don’t need specific words, postures, or some magic number of participants in order to get His attention. It’s His great pleasure to give us His Son, His Kingdom, and everything we need. God doesn’t get off on seeing us beg.

Lord, thank You for dwelling in me and giving me good gifts even before I even ask.

If “come to Jesus” doesn’t mean rest, you might be doing it wrong

September 7th, 2015 by Maureen

Come to me all you laboring and burdened ones and I will give you rest. Matt. 11:28

Good thing today is a holiday, we Americans need the rest. The average employed American works 47 hours a week (including second jobs). On average, we spend over 2 hours a week working on household chores and in households with young children, another 2 on childcare activities (not play). On top of that, according to recent Gallup polls, 40% of us aren’t getting enough sleep. If those who engage in church activities and Bible study view those activities as “work” (and they certainly can be) we can add another 5 hours into the mix. Rest is the opposite of doing more or trying harder or focusing on fixing our failures. Those just add to the restless stress It means being careless in His care, relaxing in His arms, and focusing on His completeness and sufficiency for us.

Lord, show me how to rest in You even while I am in motion throughout the day.

 

God actually does get it

August 3rd, 2015 by Maureen

The tempter came to Him and said, “If you are the Son of God, turn these stones to bread…Jesus replied “Man does not live by bread alone.” Matt. 4:11b Father, if You are willing, take this cup away from me. Yet not My will but Your’s be done. Luke 22:42 [Jesus] can feel our weaknesses and been tried in every way, just as we are…Heb. 4:15

Our High Priest understands what its like to be human. He understands what it’s like to want one thing but choose something else. He also understands what it was like to endure suffering and face pain when there is no choice. Jesus knows what it’s like when we are the one holding the cup. The Father knows what it is to have to stand by and let a loved one drink from it.

Dear Lord, thank You for being there when I don’t want to be there but have to be there.

Turn around

July 23rd, 2015 by Maureen

From then on Jesus began to proclaim, “repent (or metanoeó – change your mind)* for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matt. 4:17

Jesus came to bring good news. He came to open the doors to His astonishing and delightful kingdom to us. It’s hard to feel excited about discovering what’s in the kingdom Christ has invited us into when sadness and fear are running the show.** Change usually requires some self-reflection and letting go of damaging ideas and practices, but change doesn’t happen by focusing on regretting past failures and avoiding future failures. When we turn around (metanoeó), the way we think and respond changes because our focus is now on exploring Christ’s kingdom and experiencing His presence.

Lord, the way I’ve repented has kept me running in place. I repent.

The current Webster’s defines “repent – to feel or show that you are sorry for something bad or wrong that you did and that you want to do what is right.” * Strong’s defines”metanoeó – to change one’s mind or purpose.” There is a word, “metamelomai,” also translated “repent,” that does convey the ideas of remorse or sorrow that we currently associate with repentance.” The word has evolved to incorporate this regret or emotional self-flagellation, and that seems to be the emphasis associated with “repent” in much Christian thinking.

** Referencing Pixar’s Inside Out which offers a simplified visual on the inner workings of the mind. Here’s my review on it.

Nothing to prove

July 22nd, 2015 by Maureen

When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. Matt. 14:14

Jesus was motivated by compassion and love.  He wasn’t trying to prove anything to God, to earn favor with religious leaders, to meet some goal He’d set for Himself, or to respond to the expectations of His followers. He wasn’t using healing as a PR campaign to amass more followers, though that was a result. He wasn’t proving His divinity or testing others’ faith through miracles, though belief was a factor in experiencing the miraculous. Jesus’ primary motive for the works He did, miraculous or otherwise, was love and compassion.

Lord, I want my primary motive for anything I do, especially “in Your name,” to be love and compassion.

We need stories

July 15th, 2015 by Maureen

This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see and hearing they do not hear. They do not understand. Matt. 13:13

Research suggests that reading fiction improves empathy. We live narrative lives so it stands to reason that we relate to stories. Most of the time I remember the illustration in a sermon or lecture instead of the points. Often the story that illustrates a complex or abstract idea is the closest we can get to understanding, identifying, or internalizing that idea. Jesus not only used stories to make His points, He lived the narrative that illustrates the love, redemption, and restoration God wants us to internalize.

Lord, thank You for my story. I can’t wait to see where it goes next.

It might be behind door number three…or four

July 13th, 2015 by Maureen

Ask it will be given, seek and you will find, knock and it will opened for you. Matt. 7:7

God is not the only active participant in this asking-seeking-knocking exchange. Sometimes we ask and God answers soon and obviously. The door is right in front of us and opens wide. Sometimes there’s a waiting period or a timing issue, but we keep knocking and eventually the door opens. Sometimes, though, God unlocks the door but we’re the ones who need to knock it open. And sometimes we have to seek out the unlocked door by trying a bunch of locked doors. Just because getting something is hard doesn’t necessarily mean that God isn’t helping us get it or doesn’t want us to have it. “Asking, seeking, and knocking” are active verbs.

Lord, I tried door number one and gave up. Strengthen and guide me on this renewed quest for an open door.

The kingdom of heaven has suffered violence

June 18th, 2015 by Maureen

And from the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent are taking it by force. Matt. 11:12 (Mounce Interlinear)

The terrible tragedy in South Carolina makes it feel like hatred and violence are winning. Not so. Something happened after Jesus spoke these words to His disciples that reframed everything. Jesus conquered death, hell, and the grave. Jesus overcame evil with good. Jesus became Victor and Rescuer for victims of hatred and violence. The reasons the kingdom still suffers violence have been debated since Jesus rose from the dead, but for the victims inside that Charleston church, death is swallowed up in victory, even if victory is not apparent to us. The kingdom of heaven belongs to Jesus and cannot be taken.

Jesus, help me to recognize Your ultimate victory and deliverance when the kingdom of heaven suffers violence.

Personally universal, universally personal

May 16th, 2015 by Maureen

Not one of sparrow falls on the ground without your Father knowing; the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Matt. 10:29-30

“God is love,” “God so loved the world…” The implication is a sort of universal benevolence, a love directed toward all. But love, by its very nature, is more than a universal concept. Love is personal. The fall of an individual sparrow is specific. God loves the world but He also loves each one of us on the planet specifically. I like sitting toward the back of church so that I can see the backs of people’s heads. I imagine the Father counting hairs the way loving parents count baby toes and fingers. I imagine His specific concern about what’s going on in each one of those heads and His specific delight in each individual.

Lord, I bask in Your universal and personal love.

I think I can, I think I can

May 15th, 2015 by Maureen

Come to me all who labor and are heavily burdened and I will give you rest. Matt.11:28

Sometimes we are crazy busy with the emphasis on crazy. There never seems to be enough time and yet the work seems to stretch on forever and weigh a ton and a half. God knows. He offers rest, strength, and perspective when we are exhausted, weak, and out of patience. We can do whatever it is we have to do because the God who loves us never runs out of power, energy, or grace.

Thank you for the rest and the renewed motivation!