Read with Real Life
JANUARY 19TH: MARK 4
Jeremy: In Mark we visit the story of Jesus in the boat during a storm. We’ve encountered this story in Matthew’s account of the life and ministry of Jesus and we will revisit it in Luke’s account. These three Gospels appear to have some significant similarities that John’s account doesn’t have. SIDENOTE: Matthew, Mark, and Luke are referred to as the “Synoptic Gospels.” Without going into too much detail here let me say a few words. First of all, normal reading of the Bible probably won’t be affected too much by whether you understand why these three Gospels seem to be connected. They seem to share most of the same stories and they seem to put them in about the same order. Biblical scholars generally hold to Mark being the primary Gospel account of the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus. Matthew and Luke seem to draw some of their perspective from Mark as well as another source that we don’t have access to except through the writings of these three Gospel writers. This is not to discount John. John seems to come at Jesus from a different perspective, one that is unique from the other three while still very much up close and personal to the story of Jesus. So what? So … as you read you may wonder why John seems to be really different than the first three. That’s okay. It isn’t that he is wrong … just different. It would be somewhat like my three kids telling us the story of their mother and then me telling you about her. Obviously, they have a different perspective than I do. It’s not about who is right and who is wrong. It’s about understand the context that informs the narrative. As we look back at the storm story, the disciples are very much afraid even with Jesus right there with them. Their surroundings were affecting them much more than the perspective they had lying in the boat with them. Actually, this is a common problem with the disciples. They, of anyone, should get it. But time and again, they don’t. They miss the mark. That’s really good news for you and I. God’s not looking for perfect. God is looking for people who will follow him with everything they’ve got and when they fall down, they get back up and keep heading in the right direction … the Jesus direction. In Jesus words to the disciples he places faith and fear in opposition to each other. It would seem that fear is a lack of faith while faith is a lack of fear. That may not be completely accurate. The issue I’d like to raise here for us is this … is your understanding of Jesus such that who he is and what he is capable of transforms every response you have to what life throws at you? Have you surrendered to the reality that Jesus can actually do something about everything? Have you surrendered to the reality that what Jesus may want to do makes no sense to you and may not even be in your realm of possibility? Are you able to get your heart and life around the reality that even a Jesus who seems to be sleeping can do more in your life than you could at your most awake moment. Faith really is about who is going to be in charge of your life? Who will you trust with the outcome?
JANUARY 14TH: MATTHEW 27
Kristie: A thought that I have been pondering today and that we talked about at during dinner tonight with the boys. In Matthew 27 we read about Judas and his betrayal of Jesus. “When Judas, who had betrayed him, realized that Jesus had been condemned to die, he was filled with remorse…’I have sinned,’ he declared, ‘for I have betrayed an innocent man.'” Have you ever put yourself in Judas’ shoes? Why would he turn Jesus in to the authorities to begin with? What did he think would happen to Jesus? Was he hoping that Jesus being arrested would force his hand to show everyone once and for all that he was the Messiah? What must he have felt like when he realized that Jesus was condemned to die in part because of him?
JANUARY 13TH: Matthew 25
Jeremy: Matthew Chapter 25 | In the eyes of Jesus, what we do to others is what we do to him. Love others…love Jesus. Hate others…hate Jesus. The disciples didn’t understand this. Let’s not treat them to harshly because of this because how often do we show that we don’t get this by the way we live our lives in the direction of others? Jesus was clear that when we feed others, give something to quench the thirst of someone, show hospitality, clothe someone, or visit someone in jail, we are doing those things to him. Do we see the connections that our actions, attitudes, comments, and behaviors have to the way we worship God? We live in a day that is quite contentious. It seems as though we are losing the ability as a society to love others … even those we don’t agree with. I understand that we are to be a people of conviction who stand up for what we believe but we are dangerously close to cross the line of forgetting that our faith in Jesus causes us to interact with others in the ways that Jesus would. As we follow the Gospels, Jesus shared his life with people he didn’t agree with. There were those who lived a life of sin that Jesus lovingly offered grace and forgiveness. There were those who took advantage of others and participated in a system that took advantage of others and Jesus invited himself over for dinner. There were those who lived a life of going from one partner to the next looking for wholeness and Jesus went out of his way to show them they were worth everything to him. The only people Jesus really had a hard time with and got pretty upset with where those who dressed up their treatment of others in religiosity while condemning them for their lives. These were people who knew all the right religious answers but knew nothing of the transformative love of God that goes out of his way to live among those who needed transformation. If you go back to yesterday’s reading you will read Jesus stern words to these people. “Hypocrites! For you cross land and sea to make one convert, and then you turn that person into twice the child of hell you yourselves are!” Those are fighting words. They are fighting words because the way of Jesus is all about living life among people (even those we disagree with) in such a way that people find faith, hope and love for this life and the next. So…on this Wednesday, let’s check our attitudes, our actions, and the words we speak. Would you have those attitudes, would you do those actions, would you speak those those words to Jesus? I hope so. If they aren’t, Matthew 25 seems to be an important reminder that whether positive or negative, the way we live life with others says everything about how we live life with Jesus. So…do we need to go to someone and ask for forgiveness today? It’s a humbling thing to say we are wrong. Doing so is the mark of those who are part of the Way of Jesus. And if you think you are the only one who has made a mistake in this area, look around you…you are not alone. The good news today is that no matter where you have been, and no matter what you have done…there is redemption and forgiveness for all of it.
JANUARY 12TH: Matthew 23
Kristie: “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy – full of greed and self-indulgence! You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too.” Matthew 23:25-26 I am reminded today of how we can be so focused on the outside and what people see or think they see that we neglect our insides that really matter. In Matthew 23, Jesus is pretty blunt with the religious leaders about their actions. Here he reminds them to start with what’s on the inside then the outside will come clean too. There is a passage in Luke that says, “From the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.” I am guilty of this and I have others say…”I didn’t mean to say that!” I have to stop and realize though that something in me made me say that thing I wish I had not. Something in us makes us talk about the things we do, react the way we do, behave the way we do. It’s a new year and a great chance to look inside and ask ourselves why? Why do we do what we do, speak what we do, react the way we do? Friends, don’t worry about what others think of you. Deal with the issues of your heart, deal with the things you try to hide. The reality is…they creep to the surface and break through the clean façade and manage to show anyway, so why not deal with what’s on the inside. Real Life is a great place to “clean out your cup!”
JANUARY 7TH: Matthew 12-13
Kristie: I thought about writing on Matthew 13:18-23 but that will come in a blog on our web page soon! A couple of other things stood out to me in these two chapters. Matthew 13:31-32 is the parable of a mustard seed. I have been enamored with this parable since I was a young girl. How could something so small become so big? From another passage…how could my faith…though small as a mustard seed…move mountains? I am reminded again today, that a small thing can yield big. My small efforts…if God is in guiding them…can yield larger than I can imagine results! Your efforts can do the same!
Jeremy: I love how Matthew gives us perspective on what Jesus had to say about the Kingdom of Heaven. Two of the ways Jesus describes it is as yeast that is used for baking and mustard seeds. Both of these create an effective disproportionate to its small size. How many times do we look for the big ways that God can change our lives while overlooking the small things that have a huge impact potential. It would be like a person going to pick apples and putting a lot of effort in getting to the apples on the top of the tree while ignoring all the apples that can be gathered while standing on the ground. Maybe we need to open our hearts and minds to the most basic of things that God wants to do in our lives and allow them to make the kind of difference they are capable of. For example, earlier in Matthew we read that we need to repent of our sins and turn to God. What might you need to repent of today? What things have you allowed to gain a foothold in your life that do more to distract you from God rather than draw you to God? And what would it look like for you to turn to God today? What do you need to go to God with rather than try and figure out on your own? May God be with us on this journey.
JANUARY 6TH: Matthew 11-12
Kristie: “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your soul. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11:28-29 This verse makes it sound so easy right? We just have to give God our burdens and he will help us carry them. For some reason though, we try to carry those burdens on our own. We try to shoulder the load determining that our own issue is not “big enough” for God to bother with. We think that the issue or burden is really something that we can take care of on our own. I looked up the definition of a burden…it is A LOAD! Anything in our life is a load on us. Any issue we struggle with whether big or small is what God considers a burden that he wants us to give cast on Him. What are the burdens on you today? Give them to the Lord!!!