Week 19, Day 4
May 12, 2022
Scripture: Matthew 26
“Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!” Immediately a rooster crowed. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.” (Matthew 26:74–75)
Jesus is betrayed and arrested following his prayer in the garden. Jesus pleads with God that His will would be done. If there is another way forward, Jesus would sure appreciate it at this point. Jesus gives his life into complete surrender to the will of God.
The story of Jesus’ arrest and betrayal turns towards a specific disciple, Peter. He becomes the focal point of attention from Matthew. There are certainly other happenings with the disciples who have all turned in one way or another from Jesus. But Peter takes center stage, and his conversations are captured for us here and in other Gospels.
The reaction is one we are familiar with. The abandonment and denial of Jesus, the fire, the rooster crowing…we remember this Bible story. But we also identify with it personally.
We’ve all fallen short, and denied Christ in one form or another. We are all like Peter, when our hearts, actions and attitudes say emphatically, “I don’t know the man, Jesus.”
But my heart joins with Peter in the follow up: “he went outside and wept bitterly.”
I have felt that pain and shame myself. I am a kindred betrayer with Peter. He is my brother in betrayal, he is also my brother in Grace. We both can say, “I was lost, but now I am found. I turned from God, but I’ve turned back to him.”
The story of the Bible is filled with people who have failed. Peter, is chief among them. But God’s grace abounds for him. It abounds for you and me too.
Perhaps you have found yourself crying as well. You’ve fallen short, turned from God. We’ve all wept over our sin and betrayal. That weeping, is the first step back to a life with God. Cry over our sin, let our grief and shame turn our hearts back to Jesus. The only one who can save.
The first step back to God is falling to the ground in our grief. Knowing we’ve sinned, and fallen short, our grief leads us back to the one who already forgives.
How quick did God forgive David’s sin? Look it up.
How quick does he forgive yours?
Week 19, Day 3
May 11, 2022
Scripture: Matthew 25
““Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’” (Matthew 25:24–25, TNIV)
It is common for us to think of God the way the man who received one bag feels about God. After all, he got the one bag, and so the Master is obviously not as generous and kind as he was to the others. He must be a hard man if he isn’t as generous with me as he is with those people.
He figures that the Master will take and get as he pleases, wherever he pleases.
So, the one-bag man misunderstands the Master, and he also lives afraid of the Master as well. He’s a hard man. He sees the Master as harsh, and he takes as he pleases.
This perspective on the Master shapes his behavior, his trust and his understanding.
When we misunderstand God, our tendency is to follow a similar path as this man. Perhaps we didn’t get as much as we want in the talent department. Perhaps we don’t have the wealth we were looking for. Perhaps we have had several setbacks in or life – all shaping our view of God as a hard and difficult Master.
I get it.
But I would simply invite you to see the goodness and generosity of God. To those who understand God as the generous and benevolent Master, more was given to them.
Is that offer possible for the man who received the one bag?
I think one could have turned into more. Don’t you?
The Master would have blessed it more, had the posture of the servant wasn’t as it was.
We can spend our lives with an ill-view of God, fearful in ways that lead us to mistrust and misunderstanding God. Or we can see him as the benevolent Father who cares for us, in all circumstances, in little or much. See Paul in Philippians, who knows what it is to have little and to have much, but Christ is all!
Trust in God. Walk with Him. Live generously. Encourage people to see God for who he is, and one day, we will all come together and enjoy our Master’s happiness. Walk in Faith, trusting in the love of God, our Father.
Week 19, Day 1 and 2
May 9 and 10
Scripture: Matthew 23-24
“The greatest among you will be your servant.” (Matthew 23:11)
“Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold,” (Matthew 24:12)
Today my reflections take me to my own personal heart and faith. Do I love Jesus genuinely? Does my heart match my outward actions and appearances? There are, of course, failures and disparity.
I don’t know that I will ever get the inside to match the outside, and vice versa, but that seems to be the heart of what Jesus is doing in Matthew 23. There is significant disparity between what is seen in the lives of the Pharisees, and what is in their hearts. There is the appearance of righteousness, but inside they are dead.
Reading 23 and going right into 24 opens my eyes to something that I think is intentional on Matthew’s part.
Genuine faith will sustain us in life’s difficulty. If what is inside us is rotten, well, it won’t sustain us when there is an increase of wickedness around us. I must grow in the character of Christ to endure and walk faithfully amid the wickedness of the world. As the wickedness in the world increases, the wickedness that is within me, must decrease.
It’s one thing to say that, and it’s another to grow in Christ. Spiritual training is not something we are accustomed to, but they are activities and training exercises that help us grow in Christ. They can be things like; Lectio Divina, which is the careful, repetitive reading of God’s Word, or there’s closed-door and distraction-free prayer. Another training exercise is Bible reading plans, and Bible studies. You can also grow a lot and strengthen your faith by sitting in silence. These are all ways in which we practice the presence of God and grow in Christ. These help us in tearing down the sins that so easily entangle us, and help us in running the race of faith well.
As the pressure on the world increases, it provides an excellent opportunity for us to solidify our faith. I think of the 3 friends in the furnace in Daniel. What Azariah and company experience is wickedness in the world, and an opportunity to show the character of their faith.
Let us grow in Christ to face the trials and wickedness of the world. Don’t let the wickedness of the world cause your love to grow cold. The way we do this is shown in Matthew 23, grow deeper in love with God, genuinely and truly. So that when the pressure comes, what is in you – Christ - will shine.
Week 18, Day 5
May 5, 2022
Scripture: Matthew 22
29Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.
30At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.
31But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you,
32‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”
37Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’
38This is the first and greatest commandment.
39And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
40All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Jesus is presented a scenario trying to discredit the resurrection and new life. The scenario is a woman who would have undergone some of the worst sorrow one could ever experience. She married and remarried 7 times because all of her husbands died.
I can read through that story and just think of it as a made up scenario meant to trip up Jesus. But what great sorrow that would have been for a woman to have no children and experience that much death.
Resting in that for a moment, that tension, Jesus’ words give us great comfort. “God is the God of the living, not the dead.”
God is raising up new life. It’s a point forward to what is to come in the resurrection of Christ. The only thing that can get us through this mess of death, the resurrection, is the very thing the Sadducees are interrogating Jesus over. They are focused on death. Jesus is focused on new life. He is making all things new.
This scenario is followed up by the Greatest Commandment. The whole law is summed up in this, Love God and love others. This is where we find life and enjoy it. This is where we find strength in the midst of great trials, is that there is a loving God whom I love. He’s rescued me and is my greatest hope.
Find new life in Christ today. Believe in God, His Word and his power!
Week 18, Day 4
May 4, 2022
Scripture: Matthew 21
43“Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.
John the Baptist preached, “Produce fruit worthy of repentance.”
That was John’s message to the Israelites, and Jesus here continues that message. Jesus is challenging the leadership of Israel to say to them that they must respond to this news that is breaking into their world. The Kingdom of God is here, bear fruit that comes from turning from yourselves and towards God. Turn your hearts back to God.
In their mind, and often in ours, we don’t need to turn back to God. But there is a deep and sincere need for us to bear fruit of hearts given to God.
Which leads me to consider today the conditions and the desires of my heart. Jesus is rebuking hearts that have hardened to the work of God. The warning echoes to us today. Turn our hearts to God and bear fruit worthy of repentance. Continue to show evidence in your life that the Kingdom of God takes center stage and focus in your life. Seek first the Kingdom of God.
Week 18, Day 3
May 4, 2022
Scripture: Matthew 20
“Lord have mercy on us!”
“Lord, give us our sight!”
Two prayers that we can take into every day of our life.
Lord, have mercy on me. Care for me and lead me to you. Let the sin that has entangled me, tripped me up, no longer keep me from walking with you.
Lord, give me sight today to see what you want me to see. May it lead me to love others as you have loved me.
Week 18, Day 2
May 3, 2022
Scripture: Matthew 19
Is Christ and His Kingdom the central focus of your finances, your marriage and your life?
Jesus is addressing all sorts of issues that essentially come to our hearts. What is it that we love? Who is it that we love?
We are going to have trouble inheriting eternal life. No one is good but God. All have sinned. We may read this chapter and feel incapable of having eternal life. We will never be good enough. We have had failures in our marriage, perhaps even divorced, and have struggled with riches and looking out for ourselves rather than giving what we have and caring for the poor.
We read this passage and we often walk away saddened like the rich young ruler. I don’t want to give it all away.
There’s a lot to see about ourselves as sinful failures. It feels impossible to measure up, doesn’t it?
The disciples ask, “Who then can be saved?”
Jesus said, “With human beings this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (19:25-26)
In our efforts we will fall short, we will miserably fail. I know I have. It’s not an excuse to give up, and stop pursuing a life with God and following His ways. Rather, it’s a call to love God and seek him. Marriage and Money are two areas where we all need a lot of grace. But I need just as much in my attitude towards others, my love for self and pursuits caught up in the kingdoms of this world.
I will struggle with sin, but I hold on to this promise, “All things are possible with God.” It is only by his grace and love that I can ever hope to be “good.” I’ll take that. His goodness is better than anything I could ever muster on my own.
Trust in His goodness today.
Week 18, Day 1
May 2, 2022
Scripture: Matthew 18
The single lost sheep matters to the Shepherd.
God seeks out the lost, redeems and forgives. It is this message that encourages the rest of the chapter regarding forgiveness. God is seeking us, forgiving us, and bringing us home.
I don’t know where you are in your relationship with God, but he desires for you to come home.
There is love, grace and forgiveness for you.
Jordan Ickes, Minister of Etna Green Church of Christ.