Week 15, Day 4
Week 15, Day 4
April 14, 2022
Scripture: Matthew 6
“Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.” (Matthew 6:33, The Message)
In 1905, George Knight first published his book, “In the Secret of His Presence: Helps for the Inner Life When Alone with God.” You can find copies of it on the internet, free pdf even of it. You can also just ask me for a copy of it, and I’ll happily share it. It’s about how Jesus teaches us to pray in Matthew 6. We are to pray alone, in the secrecy of God’s presence.
Chapter 15 offers us guidance as to why the practice of private prayer might give us comfort in the everyday mundane. Here’s what Knight has to say:
Sometimes it is the pettiness of our ordinary life that weighs us down: and sometimes it is the disappointing ineffectiveness of our efforts to serve God worthily.
"This endless struggle just to live," we say, "this weary round of uncongenial work day after day, this endless buying and selling, this ceaseless toil of mere housekeeping, this narrowing down of my thoughts to the petty details of food and clothing; this irksome monotony of life, where I have the same small things to attend to day after day, all the year through, unable to get above them or devote my energies to loftier things — why does God tie me down to a life like this? Why does He not give me work to do in which I could better serve Him, and at the same time better satisfy my own idea of what a noble life ought to be?"
He will tell us that what we call the drudgery of our common days is meant to do two great things that are absolutely indispensable, first "to humble us," and next "to prove us, and to see whether we will keep His commandments or no."
There is another and a keener discouragement, too, over which nothing can lift us so easily and so completely as a quiet talk with God — the discouragement arising not from the pettiness of our lives, but from our disappointing ineffectiveness and want of success in working for God's righteousness in the world. The discouragement grows often into despair, and we cry, “Oh that I had wings like a dove, then would I fly away and be at rest!”
There are many such hearts in the world today; earnest Christian hearts, zealous for God, yet saddened by the feeling that all their efforts are in vain; not world-weary, nor sin-weary, nor sorrow-weary, but battle-weary; looking at the difficulties on every side, thinking of their own weakness to stem the rushing tide of evil, and looking forward to the long-drawn fight that is before them still, till their courage fails, and they shrink from the depressing prospect of useless battle to the very last.
But now let this depression be not nursed in the brooding mind, but taken into the secret place of communion with God, and how soon a different complexion is put upon the circumstances that cause it! What has He to say about it? What is His answer to the weary sigh? It is just to think of Christ. Who had ever so sore a fight as He, or more discouragements than He? Who ever kept up the fight to the very last as He? It was said of Him before He came, " He shall not fail nor he discouraged till He have set judgment in the earth," and He has fulfilled the prophecy. He has been waiting for His victory for nineteen hundred years, and is waiting for it yet, but waiting undiscouraged as well as undismayed, " expecting till His enemies be made His footstool." The unfailing and unfainting hopefulness of Jesus Christ may shame us out of our discouragement while following Him as " fellow-workers with Him unto the Kingdom of God." The one answer to all of our despondency is Christ.
There will be soaring days, when we get so high above the world that we can feel as if we had parted company for ever with its sorrows and its temptations, when we can not only outrun the vexations of life, but outfly them, and feel as if they did not exist. God means us sometimes to have hours like these; but they are not the ordinary experience even of the best of men. The ordinary experience is a lower, and yet equally comforting one — the fulfilment of the other part of the promise, "They shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Not so ecstatic an experience as the soaring, but quite as useful and possibly more safe, is this humbler experience given to those who know that they have no might in themselves, and wait for God's might to strengthen them.
Week 15, Day 3
Week 15, Day 3
““Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:3–4)
We usually say this when someone has fallen into a great situation. When someone gets a financial win, or a promotion, or a good thing happens to them, we say, “Lucky you!”
We don’t ever say, “Lucky you, you got persecuted!” or “People hate you, lucky you!”
I once heard that when Eugene Peterson took his first translation of Matthew 5 to the publishers they rejected it. He translated it, “You’re Lucky when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule. “You’re lucky when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.” (Matthew 5:3–4, The Message) The Zondervan publishers said, “We are going to stick with ‘Blessed’ instead of ‘Lucky’ on this one.”
The more I’ve thought about this, I wished Peterson pushed back on Zondervan. “Lucky,” in my opinion, better captures what Jesus is doing with the beatitudes.
He’s unveiling the kingdom of God, and in that he is showing us that the mournful, meek, and peacemakers are actually the lucky ones. Never have these unfortunate folks been considered the fortunate, blessed and lucky ones, but the unfortunate and hard pressed.
But in light of what new reality God is breaking into the world, the Kingdom of God, these folks are first in line. We will look at the mournful, the persecuted, the poor, and call them the “lucky ones.” Unincumbered by the wealth, popularity and power in the world, they will be first in line.
It challenges us to see that the kingdom of God is very much unlike the kingdoms of this world. We have spent most of our lives jealous and calling the rich, the well-to-do and fashionable, all of them we’ve said, “Lucky you!”
However, Jesus here reverses our understanding of who the fortunate ones are. Those who are most fortunate have a place in the kingdom of God. The down-and-out are in first place in God’s kingdom. The last are first.
We might call them, “Lucky!”
This becomes a part of our pronouncement of the Good News. We don’t seek to become mournful. That’s not Jesus’ intentions here. It is rather a part of our announcing and proclamation of the Gospel. We get to bring a word of comfort to people who are suffering, “God sees you, loves you and you have a place in his family.” That might help them know that they are not forgotten by God and unlucky. It’s just the opposite. God not only sees you, he has given you first place in His Kingdom.
Week 15, Day 2
Week 15, Day 2
April 12, 2022
Scripture: Matthew 4
“Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”” (Matthew 4:10)
Jesus is the Son of God. This affirmation immediately after his baptism, is under direct attack in the temptation.
“If you are the Son of God, then…”
Jesus continues to live out the story of Israel, particularly the Exodus story. He is now in the wilderness. Where the Israelites spent 40 years, Jesus spends 40 days. Jesus famished is now tested.
Will he prove himself to be spectacular, powerful and prestigious? Will he make for himself food, will he choose comfort over trust? Will he seek the fame of or endure the shame of the cross? All of this is at work in the temptation. He proves himself faithful, all the more affirming his identity as the Son of God. The very things Satan uses to compromise Christ become his testimony.
Where the Israelites failed to trust in God, Jesus proves faithful. He trusts in God, and we find our righteousness now in him alone. His faithfulness will become ours.
The suffering and endurance of faith in the wilderness prove Jesus to be the Son of God.
From this time forward, Jesus preaches, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” The rest of his ministry will be revealing this to be true. The sick are healed, the dead are raised. New life is breaking into the world. It will lead us to the cross and the resurrection.
Jesus is the Son of God, His kingdom has come, give your allegiance to him.
Week 15, Day 1
Week 15, Day 1
April 11, 2022
Scripture: Matthew 3
16As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.
17And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
Jesus continues the story of Israel, this time, through the Jordan River. It was this river that the Israelites crossed to enter the Promised land in the book of Joshua. John calls the Israelites back to this river to remember God’s call on their lives. He calls them to repentance and seeking the kingdom of God.
This is precisely in line with the heart of Jesus, who desires to remember the story of Israel and proclaim the Kingdom of God.
The Spirit of God descends, and Jesus is declared God’s Son. This miraculous moment sets the stage for what is ahead in the life of Jesus. Everything will further prove this event to be true. Immediately, Jesus will be tempted in the wilderness, just like Israel. The temptation will be to doubt the Spirit’s anointing and the Father’s blessing. But Jesus will prove faithful.
As for us, we too enter a baptism of new life, blessed by the Father, gifted by the Spirit with life in the Son.
We affirm this and enter into the story of God. We are his children, blessed. We too will be tempted, will we seek the kingdom and trust that God sees us as His?
Today, remember your baptism. You belong to the family of God, you have newness in life, gifted by the Spirit of God.
Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.
Week 14, Day 5
Week 14, Day 5
April 8, 2022
Scripture: Matthew 2
13When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
14So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt,
15where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
Matthew helps us see clearly how Jesus’ life overlaps with Israel. Jesus enters into the life of Israel, sharing in their temptations and struggles throughout their journey. Here is the most obvious to us, young Jesus going to Egypt. He was driven there by a madman ruler looking to kill children. The difference between Jesus’ story and Israel’s is that Herod is what drove Jesus to Egypt. Pharoah’s killing is what instigated their departure out.
It is still an important connection for us today. As we read through Matthew there will be more overlapping stories and happenings. It will all culminate to seeing Jesus truly is the Messiah, the long-awaited rescuer who will deliver all people and bring them into the kingdom of God.
These connections are important as we find ourselves in the story of God. We are called out of the darkness and into a new life with God in his kingdom. We will ascend the mountain to learn from Jesus and have his law written on our hearts. We will come to find the bread of life, the nourishment and strength that comes from a life in Christ.
God cares for his son, and through his caring for his son we get a strong sense of God’s care for us. He sent his son into the dangers of a world gone mad, to rescue us forum our sins and conquer death.
Take heart, Christ is with us.
Week 14, Day 4
Week 14, Day 4
April 7, 2022
Scripture: Matthew 1
“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).” (Matthew 1:21–23)
The Genealogy is a fun way to start out a book, am I right?
It’s a long list of names that you may never have heard of, or how to pronounce. Frustrating and easy to skip over.
But there they are, and for very good reason. This genealogy places Jesus firmly into the people of Israel. Which means that Jesus is a part of the story of Abraham, and the promise given by God to him.
The genealogy also places Jesus into the line of King David. Giving Jesus direct connection to being the Messiah King.
There are more things happening in the genealogy. More connections that are important. Families and stories of faithfulness, love for God, and even those who don’t really belong. It is all a message that affirms for us what comes next.
This Jesus will save people from their sins.
He will be God with us, Immanuel.
There is so much said simply in a name: Jesus, Messiah, Immanuel. Jesus is the Savior Deliverer, the King, God with us. This should awaken our hearts for what is to come. Will we now find ourselves a part of God’s family, God’s people, God’s promise? Will we trust in Jesus to lead us and care for us? Will we come to understand him as the Savior of the world? Matthew is asking his readers to come an belong to the ongoing family tree of God’s Promise. Come and belong to the Kingdom of God.
Week 14, Day 3
Week 14, Day 3
April 6, 2022
Scripture: James 5
“You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter.” (James 5:5)
Anyone know a good dietician?
Week 14, Day 2
Week 14, Day 2
April 5, 2022
Scripture: James 4
“Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”” (James 4:13–15)
I’m reaching out to my friends who are planners. When I lack organizational skills, I’m just going to remind you of this verse!
All kidding aside. There is a level of arrogance that settles into our hearts and minds when it comes to planning out our days.
I am coaching both Audrey’s soccer and softball teams again, so I have a lot of planning and scheduling that needs to be done. I’m planned out the next couple of months. I know where I am supposed to be, and when.
But this is just the sort of thing that James warns about. We really don’t know what will happen tomorrow. The whole season could change with some unfortunate circumstances. We’ve experienced that in ways we never imagined the last two years.
James offers us something that alleviates a lot of the anxiety for us. A way to talk about the future and tomorrow, but also place everything in perspective: “If it is the Lord’s will.”
How much would it help us through all of the pressure of planning, scheduling, getting things done, if we would simply remind ourselves who is in charge? It’s not me. It’s Him.
It’s not my plans. It’s about his plans. My days are His days. Tomorrow God is with me, and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
I’ll keep making my plans, I’ll just be a little more certain to remind myself where to put my trust.
Week 14, Day 1
Week 14, Day 1
April 4, 2022
Scripture: James 3
“For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.” (James 3:16–18)
There is “earthly’ wisdom available to us. Get what you can from others, by any means necessary. Get what you deserve. Have what you want. Don’t wait, get!
We’ve observed and experienced this sort of wisdom many times. But we are called to something dramatically different. Not a life driven by envy and selfish pursuit, but a life from heaven above. We are to pursue wisdom from heaven, that seeks peace, mercy and forgiveness.
James doesn’t give us a how-to, but an ought-to here. I’ll suggest the how here. Take time to pray and set your heart and mind on God. We spend so much of our day chasing one activity, problem, program, event, meeting at a time that we can hurry our day way. Take time to pause and consider the heart of God. Pause. Reflect. Walk. Taking just a few minutes in your day to reflect on the heart of God can help us to set our mind on things above, not on earthly things. w
Pause and pray.
April 01st, 2022
Week 13, Day 5
April 1, 2022
Scripture: James 2
“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if people claim to have faith but have no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (James 2:14–17)
James is all about faith and deeds. He will encourage the church to express a love for God through a love for others. This challenge is one that we need to hear as we can fall into the trap of complacency. While we don’t earn our salvation through works, we do express a love for God through our works. We love because Christ loved us.
It’s important to remember that we aren’t saved by our works. We are saved by the work of Christ. What we believe about Jesus as Lord and Savior, inspires us to serve and love others. Our faith expresses itself in service, kindness and love. A faith in Christ, without love is no faith at all.
Let’s not get our works mixed up. We aren’t saved by works, but they are a way to express our love for being saved. Restore your faith in Christ and seek ways to express it in love.
Jordan Ickes, Minister of Etna Green Church of Christ.