Jonah & Matthew 11

This morning we look at two very different books of the Bible in one way, but similar in others.

John the Baptist is in jail. He is doubting whether Jesus really is the Messiah. He has done everything right and yet he is sitting in a Roman prision. So he sends his disciples to ask Jesus if He is the One. Jesus doesn’t scold or belittle him, He points him to what He has been doing… the marks of the Messiah. And then as John’s disciples leave Jesus says this:

11 Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. (Matthew 11:11-12 [ESV])

The old King James reads, Since the days of John the Baptist till now the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing and forceful men (women) take hold of it. I like that rendering better. Kingdom work is not for whimps. When I stop to think of it I can think of at least nine people who have given their lives for the sake of the kingdom. One theologian has said, “The church advances on the blood of its martyrs.” Now that gets your attention doesn’t it.

Jonah was thinking of himself and John was thinking of the kingdom. When you think of your place in God’s kingdom are you thinking of yourself or the kingdom? Do you think of what’s in if for you or how your work will further the kingdom? John died in that prison through events that seem totally repulsive to us. Jonah was spared his life and yet in the end pouted about it. He would rather have died than seen God’s kingdom prevail.

Paul Carlson (Congo), John & Betty Stamm (China), Nate Saint, Ed McCully, Roger Youderian, Pete Fleming, and Jim Elliot (Equador) all gave their lives so that the kingdom could advance. We stand on their shoulders today and the shoulders of countless others. What’s your approach to God’s kingdom? Will you stand firm and partner with Him in moving it forward? Let’s pray for one another as we serve our Lord each day.

Father God, Thank you for including us in your kingdom work. Help us to serve you with all we have and to be the people of your kingdom that joyfully moves it forward instead of running from it. In Jesus strong name I pray, Amen.

PS: If you’d like to hear the story of John & Betty Stam, click on this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wdFslNA-jQE

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Joel 1-3, Matthew 10

Over the years as I’ve read through the Bible, I saw hints of Jesus in the Old Testament. Today’s pairing of Joel and Matthew 10 remind me of Revelation, whether that was intended or not. In Joel, there is scarcity, darkness, mourning, and fire.

Let everyone tremble in fear because the day of the Lord is upon us. It is a day of darkness and gloom, a day of thick clouds and deep blackness. Suddenly, like dawn spreading across the mountains, a great and mighty army appears. Nothing like it has been seen before or will ever be seen again.

Fire burns in front of them, and flames follow after them. Ahead of them the land lies as beautiful as the Garden of Eden. Behind them is nothing but desolation; not one thing escapes. They look like horses; they charge forward like warhorses. Look at them as they leap along the mountaintops. Listen to the noise they make—like the rumbling of chariots, like the roar of fire sweeping across a field of stubble, or like a mighty army moving into battle. (Joel 1:1b-5, NLT)

An army moves in like a flood over the land, consuming. Earth quaking, heavens trembling, the sun and moon grow dark, and the stars no longer shine. It reads like the trailer to End Times.

The Lord is at the head of the column. He leads them with a shout. This is his mighty army, and they follow his orders. The day of the Lord is an awesome, terrible thing. Who can possibly survive? 12 That is why the Lord says, “Turn to me now, while there is time. Give me your hearts. Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning. 13 Don’t tear your clothing in your grief, but tear your hearts instead.” Return to the Lord your God, for he is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He is eager to relent and not punish. (Joel 2:11-13, NLT)

In Matthew, Jesus prepares The Twelve. He doesn’t speak of a simple task. In fact, this mission comes with risk, and he is clear about it.

16 “Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves. 17 But beware! For you will be handed over to the courts and will be flogged with whips in the synagogues. 18 You will stand trial before governors and kings because you are my followers. But this will be your opportunity to tell the rulers and other unbelievers about me. 19 When you are arrested, don’t worry about how to respond or what to say. God will give you the right words at the right time. 20 For it is not you who will be speaking—it will be the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21 “A brother will betray his brother to death, a father will betray his own child, and children will rebel against their parents and cause them to be killed. 22 And all nations will hate you because you are my followers. But everyone who endures to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 10:16-22, NLT)

26 “But don’t be afraid of those who threaten you. For the time is coming when everything that is covered will be revealed, and all that is secret will be made known to all. 27 What I tell you now in the darkness, shout abroad when daybreak comes. What I whisper in your ear, shout from the housetops for all to hear! 28 “Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:26-28, NLT)

These passages from both readings show me a mighty Lord. Focused. Authoritative. Clear.

34 “Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword.

35 ‘I have come to set a man against his father,
    a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.
36     Your enemies will be right in your own household!’

37 “If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. 38 If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. 39 If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it. (Matthew 10:34-39, NLT)

In the preparing, in the warning, there is an underlying message of turning to the Lord. Of following him. In the hindsight of history, I can wonder why Adam and Eve would ever question God in the garden–why they would make such a grave error of choice, and yet, every day that choice is offered to me: am I going to follow Jesus or not?

Lord, you told the disciples to go out and tell your people that the Kingdom of Heaven is near. Help me to keep that focus as I live my life.

Courtney (66books365)

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2 Chronicles 24; &2 Kings 12; Psalm 50; Matthew 9

2 Chronicles 24; &
2 Kings

One of the reasons the scriptures were written by men inspired by God was because God wanted us to learn from the achievements and mistakes made way back through the biblical times.

In these two chapters we read about Joash the boy King and how he was hidden by Jehoiada the Priest and his wife in the Temple against the wicked queen Athaliah who sort to kill him. As a result of this Godly influence before the age of 7, Joash started his kingship well by doing what was right in the sight of God. We can see in both chapters that God was with Him and His reing prospered.

Unfortunately once Jehoiada died Joash turned to the ungodly officials of Judah. This resulted in him turning away from God, worshipping other gods and making catastrophic decisions including killing Zechariah son of Jehoiada. All these bad decisions eventually eventually cost him his life!!

I learn here that the moment one takes God out of ones life it will result in making unwise decisions which will be very costly. Also if one surrounds oneself with Godly influence and good company their are endless positive benefits.

Psalm 50;

This psalm in a nutshell talks about the majesty of our God and the consequences of turning against him. God talks about His promise to His people one of which is to rescue them and answer them when they called if they obey Him by keeping their vows and offering a sacrifice. He also talks here about the wicked and their reward

Matthew 9

This chapter is full of Jesus’s miracles and a demonstration of His wisdom when answering questions.

In most of the miracles recorded here Jesus required the people involved or their families to demonstrate faith in His ability to heal them. This he required through their actions or through the things they declared.

The Bible says Jesus went around proclaiming the good news and healing the sick. His agenda is still the same today as it was then as He intends to use us as vessels to demonstrate His love and compassion. So let us make ourselves available to Him so He can use us to glorify His name

In Christ
BM

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2 Kings 11; 2 Chronicles 22-23; Psalm 131; Matthew 8

Today’s readings are a study in contrasts.  Pride vs humility.  Disbelief vs faith.  Athaliah, the wicked queen who was prideful enough to take matters into her own hands and commit murder in order to place herself on the throne of Judah.  Jehosheba who, along with her husband, the priest Jehoiada, was faithful and trusting enough to essentially kidnap her nephew, Joash, from his grandmother, Athaliah, in order to save him and preserve the line of David.  David in Psalm 131, displaying maturity even as he wrote of his childlike trust, his choice to be content and rest in God. 

Then, in Matthew 8, the leper, a diseased outcast who audaciously approached Jesus asking for healing.  He wasn’t prideful or arrogant; he simply believed that Jesus could heal him and was brave enough to say so.  The Centurion, a high-ranking Roman officer who most Jews would have considered an enemy recognized Jesus’ authority and had faith that Jesus could heal his servant.  The citizens of Capernaum, many of whom were healed and relieved of demonic influence simply because they came to Jesus believing He could do miracles for them.  The scribe and the disciple described in Matthew 8 SEEMED genuine.  They asked great questions and probably assumed Jesus would respond with “Great!  Let’s go!”  But their pride and unbelief were evident when they didn’t like Jesus’ response.  And then there are Jesus’ own disciples.  The very same guys who gave up everything to follow Jesus.  Surely their faith and humility would be apparent!  Yet even they questioned Jesus as they feared for their lives.  These same men, (including several experienced fishermen who were no doubt used to storms on the sea!) who had just seen Jesus perform numerous miracles still doubted!  And, finally, the citizens of Gadarenes.  Jesus had performed yet another miracle, casting fierce demons out of two men, yet they just wanted Him out of their town.

Do any of these describe me?

Am I like Athaliah?  Do I sinfully presume I can handle things on my own and take matters into my own hands, hurting others and missing God’s greatest blessings?

Am I like Jehosheba?  Am I willing to take a risk and do what is right even if my desired outcome is a long-time coming?  Jehosheba and Jehoiada hid Joash for SIX years!  Am I faithful even when it seems like an answer will never come?

Am I like David?  Have I matured spiritually to the point that I calmy and quietly trust that God’s plan is best?  Am I confident that He is always working even if it doesn’t seem that way?

Am I like the leper?  In my pride, do I really think I can hide my sin and faults from God, or am I humble enough to bring them to Him and trust that He will forgive me and heal my heart in the process?

Am I like the Centurion?  Do I acknowledge God’s supreme authority in my life? Do I care so much about others that I’m willing to go out of my way to help them and petition God for them even if that puts me in a difficult position?

Am I like the citizens of Capernaum?  Am I willing to simply come to Jesus and ask for help, believing He can and will answer?

Am I like the scribe and the disciple?  Do I know all the right words to say, the right questions to ask but, when the rubber meets the road, am I ready to make the sacrifices required to follow Jesus?

Am I like Jesus’ disciples? Have I made a commitment and gotten “on the boat”, but when things get difficult and Satan starts to gain a foothold, do I ask “Can you see this, Lord?  I obeyed and this is what happens?”

Am I like the citizens of Gadarenes?  I’ve heard and seen God do amazing things.  I know He has always been faithful, but am I content to try do life apart from Him? 

Father, I know that You are trustworthy, yet I choose not to trust.  I know You have great power to accomplish all things, yet I choose to do things in my own strength.  I know You are in control and working all things for my good, yet I choose to worry.   Please give me a faithful and trusting heart that is desperate for You.  

Jen

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2 Kings 9-10; Psalm 49; Matthew 7

Photo by Mandy Baldwin

Who do you follow?

I don’t know about you, but who I follow depends on how I feel. This can be a dangerous reality because there are so many things that can influence how I feel. Having something that anchors my actions helps to make sure that I’m continuing in the direction that is led by God.

In our 2 Kings passage today, we see how King Jehu followed the direction of the prophet as laid out by God. He stayed the course. I have to confess that I don’t understand a lot of the direction that God gave to kill and destroy. I recognize that it is the consequence of sin. I understand the theology and struggle with the physical expression of that theology.

13This is the fate of those who trust in themselves, and of their followers, who approve their sayings.
14 They are like sheep and are destined to die; death will be their shepherd.”

Psalm 49:13-14

The importance of being anchored in God is expressed in our Psalm passage. As much as I want to trust myself, I also need to have an unshakable trust in and guidance from God who is outside my emotions and thoughts and yet present in the midst of them. Even in my lack of understanding of the Old Testament theology, I have learned to trust the wisdom and compassion of my God.

28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.”

Matthew 7:28-29

My God speaks with an authority that others do not have. His words are good. His love is pure. He is trustworthy. That is why I anchor my life in Him. I follow Him because of Who He is…not because of His specific teachings or how I feel. I am not perfect in my trust. My God is perfect and I am seeking to trust Him more.

Dear God, Thank you for being trustworthy, compassionate and present. Thank you for being the strong and constant anchor for my soul. May I continue to rely on you and follow you.

Mandy

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