Week 17, Days 4 & 5
April 29 – 30, 2022
Scripture: Matthew 16-17
14They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
15“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
16Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
17Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.
This is a familiar passage to us. It’s good that it is, it reminds us of our foundations. We believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.
This confession is what becomes the foundation for the Church.
18And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of death will not overcome it.
Jesus will build his church. I appreciate it that it is the role of our leader who will do the building. He will shape us, he will work with us, he will shape us into his church. He will keep drawing people to himself, for his glory.
God is building his church.
You are a part of this Church, if you confess Jesus as Lord. Death itself will not overcome the church. Evil will not overcome it. Nothing will separate us from the Love of God through Christ.
That’s the firm foundation in which our new life in the church is built.
Week 17, Day 3
April 27, 2022
Scripture: Matthew 15
““ ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’”” (Matthew 15:8–9)
Jesus quotes the prophet Isaiah in the context of a disagreement with Pharisees and the teachers of the law. They see his disciples eating with unwashed hands. Your momma and the Pharisees have the same rules!
Here Jesus addresses a common problem for all of us. What makes us righteous? Is it the outside appearance of things, or is it something from within? What makes us righteous?
Jeremiah prophesied of a day that would come where our hearts would be made new. That the heart of stone would become flesh.
Jesus makes an important point about the human condition. The issue is not that the hands need washing, it’s that we need cleansed from the inside out. Like Jesus said earlier, “It’s the overflow of our heart that our mouth speaks.” Here, the evil that comes out of us is what defiles us.
I’d still encourage hand washing. It’s a good hygiene practice. Looking at my life though, I have gotten myself into a great deal more trouble, not because of the dirt behind my nails, but the corruption of my heart. What I need is Christ to make my heart new. I need his Spirit at work in my life. This is what Paul calls the Fruit of the Spirit, and what John calls Abiding. My righteousness comes, not through my works, but the work of Christ. I abide and rest in Him in the work that he has done.
Take time today to pray to God, “make my heart new. Let my lips praise you, from a heart that is overflowing in your goodness, mercy and love.”
Week 17, Day 2
April 26, 2022
Scripture: Matthew 14
“But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”” (Matthew 14:27)
One of the most important things we can learn as Christians is to practice the presence of God. Consider your life. There are so many moments that are filled with great anxiety, frustrations, hurt, suffering, anger, grief, sorrow and so much more.
But Jesus’ words echo into those moments, and give us great comfort, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid!” The one who has the power to feed thousands, calm storms, still waters and walk on water, is present with his disciples.
He’s present with you, through His Spirit.
Consider the loving and faithful presence of God today. Find comfort, just give pause to your life and know that the one who gives us living bread, and the power to calm storms, is with you.
Week 17, Day 1
April 25, 2022
Scripture: Matthew 13
““The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. “Again, 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.” (Matthew 13:44–46)
We spend a lot of time being inundated with a message of what we need to achieve, pursue, and own. It doesn’t take long, and at the start of your day you will already be told that you need to look a certain way, own a certain item, and have a life insurance plan to compliment your worth and protect your family.
Thousands of messages each day, teaching us, shaping us to look at the world through what we don’t have and what we do.
The merchant finds a beautiful pearl, sells everything he had a bought it.
The man found a great treasure in a field and goes all in to buy the field.
All that they acquired up to that point in their life, paled in comparison to the pearl and treasure.
When we find Jesus and His kingdom, we discover that all we have acquired, all that we own, all that we’ve pursued – it’s worthless by comparison. The greatest treasure is the Kingdom of God. It’s worth everything.
The Kingdom is worth everything. When we discover that, the behavior of the merchant and man doesn’t seem that crazy. We can keep pursuing everything in the world. We can find our value and worth in the acquisition of the world. But the kingdom, is worth everything.
I need this reminder. I get caught up in the rat race. I get shaped by the message. I feel like my worth is tied to the things I own, the money I have and the accolades achieved. The merchant is our inspiration. Seek the kingdom, and when you find it, lay it all down. Sell everything you have. Burn the bridges, throw away the nets, - go all in with Jesus.
Week 16, Day 5
April 22, 2022
Scripture: Matthew 12
““Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. Good people bring good things out of the good stored up in them, and evil people bring evil things out of the evil stored up in them.” (Matthew 12:33–35, TNIV)
Dallas Willard, one of my favorite authors says in his book The Great Omission: The Cost of Non-Discipleship, “If you tend to the tree, the fruit will take care of itself.”
I have committed that to memory, as it ties directly to what Jesus is teaching here in Matthew 12, “Good people bring the good things out of what is stored up in them… Make a tree good…out of the overflow of your heart, your mouth speaks” This teaching settles into my heart and mind and Willard’s gives a nice directive to it.
Tend to my life Jesus!
If what I hear out of my mouth seems ungrateful, crass, bitter, or angry – then there is probably a need that is unmet, a wound that needs healed, and bitter root that needs removed, a sin that needs confessed and forgiven. When evil fruit comes out of my mouth, there is something that needs tending to in my soul. When the evil that is within me, comes out of me, I need Jesus to do his work. Tend to my life Jesus!
Discipleship is not only following Jesus but also allowing Jesus and inviting him into our lives to transform it. I want Jesus to transform me from the inside out. This, I think, is what it means to tend to our hearts.
How does Jesus tend to your heart? When does he care for your heart? Do you take the time to consider your ways and Jesus’ way? Is he given authority over your life?
Do you do the will of God the Father?
Do you pay attention to the words coming out of your heart?
Where do you need healing today?
Is there a bitterness inside of you bearing an ugly fruit?
We all have things that need attention by the caretaker of our souls. Let Jesus tend to your heart today.
Week 16, Day 4
April 21, 2022
Scripture: Matthew 11
“When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”” (Matthew 11:2–6, TNIV)
From time to time, it is good for us to give pause and reflect on our life. John the Baptist spent his life sharing the hope of the coming Messiah. While in prison, he probably had quite a bit of time to reflect on his life. He asks a question, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”
It’s strange that John would ask this question, especially after baptizing Jesus.
He seemed quite certain that Jesus was the one back then, but now he asks the question “are you the one, or is someone else coming?”
Jesus tells John’s disciples to just give a report about what they are seeing and hearing about the Messiah. He is healing the sick, announcing the Good News of the Kingdom, and so much more.
John was right, this Jesus is the Messiah.
Pause and reflect today. What is it that God is up to today? Are there people being helped? Is the Good News being proclaimed? Are the sick healed? The poor cared for?
Jesus is still at work, for us and through us. This Jesus really is the Messiah, the Savior of the World. Trust in Him.
Week 16, Day 3
April 20, 2022
Scripture: Matthew 10
“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:29–31)
““Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves a son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:37–38)
There is both the most comforting of verses in Matthew 10, and one of the more troubling. I’ve shared them above. The comforting passage is the reminder that God not only knows the number of hairs on our head (insert bald joke here) but he cares deeply for us. We have no reason to fear, we are loved and treasured by God.
Moments later though, we are told, “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me…” Yikes!
Separated from its context and purpose we might think Jesus is a hard dictator of a leader. But holding these two tensions in their proper balance we see something beautiful.
You can trust that Jesus loves you and cares deeply for you. Just as the Father cares for the sparrows, consider how he will care for his children. Consider how he will care for you, his child.
I need this encouragement, because it is often difficult to have courage and take up the cross. It can be difficult to join the disciples in the mission of God. I can be crippled by the unknown, fear over the uncertainties of life. I don’t know that I always get my priorities and heart in the order Jesus prescribes here.
But to those who will lose their life, find it in Jesus.
Lay it down, and trust that he will not let you fall outside of his care.
I can lay it down, with a little more confidence and courage when I balance it with knowing that the one I lay my life down for will also be the one who picks me up and cares for me.
Week 16, Day 2
April 19, 2022
Scripture: Matthew 9
“Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”” (Matthew 9:37–38)
Today, let’s join together in praying for workers in the harvest. Would you join me in praying for schools like Great Lakes Christian College and others that are training up workers? Pray also for Lake James Christian Assembly, they are a huge part of encouraging students to become kingdom workers.
Pray for our church as well, for our children as they grow. These are our current and future harvesters, who will go and become kingdom witnesses.
Perhaps even listen and pray today for yourself, “God, the harvests are ready, where shall I go? Here I am, send me.”
Week 16, Day 1
April 18, 2022
Scripture: Matthew 8
Jesus has the authority to forgive sins, heal the sick, calm storms and cast out demons. He is doing this to proclaim the breaking in of the kingdom of God. The new age of the kingdom is upon us in the presence of Jesus. He has all authority on earth to forgive, to heal, to raise, to drive out.
Jesus invites disciples to come and follow him, and trust in his authority. Does Jesus lead your life?
There were some who were willing to follow, but they found themselves torn between earthly responsibilities and priorities.
Christ calls for our complete devotion. Will we follow him today and trust in his authority over our lives.
This is part of what it means to take up our cross, and follow him. We give our lives to God and trust in his authority.
What helps us in this is to know that he uses his authority for our good. He calms the storm, heals the sick, and drives out evil.
Lord, let your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. Your will be done, in me, I will trust in you.
Week 15, Day 5
April 15, 2022
Scripture: Matthew 7
““These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit—but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock. “But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a stupid carpenter who built his house on the sandy beach. When a storm rolled in and the waves came up, it collapsed like a house of cards.”” (Matthew 7:24–27, The Message)
I could go on and on about the words behind the words. I have a whole host of resources that I can investigate the Greek and Hebrew (original languages of the Bible) that I could share with you. You’d be so impressed!
But if those words never make their way into my life, they are really just words. It’s an empty way to live.
Jesus looks at his sermon and says, “Alright, listen up, I want you to live this out. Don’t just talk about it, live it!” Jesus desires us to love our enemies and pray for them, to fast in a way that others don’t know about it, remove the planks from our eyes, and seek first God’s kingdom. Simply put, Jesus wants us to love everyone and care for our souls in the process. He wants us to seek the will of God and trust in him. He teaches us to not be anxious and filled with worry. To do that, he inspires us to seek the Kingdom of God and a genuine righteousness that comes from him.
There is plenty for us to do. The purpose of it, it seems, is for us to get to know the Father and help others to get to know him as well.
That’s our life. Knowing Jesus and sharing him with others. Knowing God our Father and sharing him with others. The Spirit leads us in this endeavor, to know Father and Son.
We are called to live Jesus’ sermon(s). Build your life on the Rock, our salvation. It sermon closes with a comment from Matthew, “They were amazed at his teaching because he taught with authority.” Does Jesus have authority over you? The way that is made evident is if his teaching has found its way into your everyday life. They aren’t just nice words, thoughts or ideas. They are a way of life.
Jesus would live out his sermon. He prayed the Lord’s prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. He loved his enemies and prayed for them on the cross. He didn’t judge and condemn. He laid down his life and saved.
Let us walk together with Christ and live this sermon as well!
Jordan Ickes, Minister of Etna Green Church of Christ.