Friday, December 29, 2017

Psalm 50: Sacrifice Is Not A Bribe

"It's easier to ask for forgiveness than permission."  While there is a ring of truth to that statement as it may be practiced in the world, it would be a tragic mistake to apply such a cynical philosophy to our spiritual relationship with God.

Matthew 28: Famous Last Words

"His Last Command...Our First Concern!"  

These words hung on signs in every classroom at the first United Methodist Church in which I served as an associate pastor. 

Matthew 27: Who Killed Jesus?

Who killed Jesus?  In studying His last hours, we find a number of guilty parties who could be said to share in the responsibility for His death.

Matthew 26: A Story That Must Be Told

"Truly I tell you, wherever this good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her" (vs. 13).

Matthew 25: In The Meantime...

We find three consecutive parables of significant length in Matthew 25, and they all share one theme in common:What should the followers of Jesus do while we await His return?

Matthew 24: The Boy Scout Motto

You know the Boy Scout motto, right?  "Be prepared."  

Jesus would agree.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Matthew 23: The Horrors Of Hypocrisy

Merely a quick scan of Matthew 23 will reveal that Jesus is unloading on his old rivals, the scribes and the Pharisees.  The primary target of His attack is their hypocrisy.

Matthew 22: Stump The Messiah

The Bible contains some vivid scenes of antagonism and opposition.  Shepherd boy David versus warrior giant Goliath.  Elijah's spiritual contest with the false prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel.  Daniel in the lions' den.  Paul on trial before Agrippa.  To this list we must add Matthew 22 with Jesus questioned at the Temple.

Groups of Jesus' opponents line up to take their best shot at the presumptive prophet.  The Herodians, those politically-connected wily collaborators with Rome.  The Sadducees, the religious establishment that trusts in the security of the Temple rather than the promises of God.  The Pharisees, smug in their own self-righteousness and spiritual pride.  Each school has an explosive question to lob at Jesus, confident that it will de-rail the growing support of this so-called Savior.  It's time for a little game of "Stump the Messiah!"

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Matthew 21: Fever Pitch

Jerusalem circa 33 A.D. was a pressure cooker.  Roman oppressors alongside revolutionary zealots.  Galileans rubbing shoulders with Judeans.  Pharisees pitted against Sadducees.  Scribes versus sinners.  And everyone had messianic hopes and fears that were reaching a crescendo as Passover drew near. 

Matthew 20: Grace Is Not Fairness

Some people look to God for justice; others pray to Him for grace.

Matthew 19: Relationships Vs. Riches

Matthew 19 is a study in contrasts.  The Pharisees come to Jesus seeking approval for the termination of marriages.  Jesus tells them a marriage is the spiritual merger of a man and a woman into one flesh; it is not so simply ended.  Meanwhile, a rich man approaches Jesus seeking to gain entry into the kingdom of heaven.  Jesus tells him that spiritual perfection for him lies in the renunciation of all his goods.  This the man cannot accept; he would rather cling to his possessions than follow Jesus.

Psalm 49: Do You Believe The Ransom Has Been Paid?

"The ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough" (vs. 8).  Psalm 49 could be taken as a very depressing song, even one of the "blues."  It is a meditation on the inevitability of death for everyone - rich and poor, wise and foolish, powerful and weak.  At best, the Psalmist's point could serve as a cold comfort to the downtrodden: Don't be overawed when people get wealthy and influential - their time of death is coming, too.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Matthew 18: Childlike Faith

There are many who accuse Christians of being childish; a more apt description, however, is that we strive to be childlike.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Matthew 17: Mountaintops And Valleys

Matthew 17 begins with Jesus and His inner circle ascending a high mountain.  Something incredible and otherworldly is about to happen: Jesus is going to be transfigured!

Matthew 16: Torn Between Two Kingdoms

Simon Peter is a fascinating individual.  At times, he could be counted on as a bold and fearless leader of the early church.  At other times, he could not be counted on at all; he would waver and lose faith.  Whether courageously getting out of the boat to walk on water (before doubting and sinking) or cowardly denying three times that he even knew Jesus (before repenting and returning), Peter's spiritual highs and lows resonate with a large majority of believers in Christ.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Matthew 15: Cleanliness Is Next To Godliness?

What's more important?  Clean hands - or a clean heart?  Should we be more concerned with what we put into our bodies - or what comes out of our bodies through our words and actions?  Jesus is pretty clear in Matthew 15 that God's is not so much concerned with the raw materials that go into making up our bodies (physical) as He is with what we do with them (spiritual).

Monday, December 11, 2017

Matthew 14: Narrow-Minded John

What would today's culture make of John the Baptist?  Sadly, I think our world would view him as judgmental and hopelessly old-fashioned. 

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Psalm 48: The Testimony Of Zion's Hill

There is an indelible link between God and His people, between heaven and earth, between the spiritual and the physical.  Many other philosophies and religions make this crucial error: they believe that the divine and human realms are completely separate and never the twain shall meet.  Judeo-Christian faith, however, consistently sees God at work in His world.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Matthew 13: Wild Kingdom

Can you imagine describing a vivid sunset to a blind man?  Or a magnificent symphony to a deaf woman?  I believe Jesus faced a similar dilemma when He endeavored to instruct us about the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 12: Keeping The Sabbath Holy

In Matthew 12, a dispute arises between Jesus and the Pharisees regarding the proper observance of the Sabbath.  Jesus seeks to follow the original intent and spirit behind the Sabbath Law; the Pharisees are more interested in enforcing the Sabbath traditions set up by men.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Matthew 11: Reaching A Verdict

Matthew 11 contains a lot of imagery about the process of spiritual discernment - coming to a judgment or reaching a verdict about what God is doing.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Matthew 10: Marching Orders

Some of Jesus' sayings are harder than others; His marching orders to His disciples as He sends them out in Matthew 10 definitely fall into the former category.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Matthew 9: Everyone's A Critic (Almost)

Some advice that I was given early in my ministry calling still rings true: If you're not being criticized for something, you're probably not doing enough!

Psalm 47: Sing Praises!

Psalm 47 is a call for us to rejoice and praise God, the King of the earth.  All the nations belong to Him.  All rulers serve under Him.  And He has established beloved Israel as His people and put all the other nations under them.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Matthew 8: The Unexpected Messiah

One thing you can say about Jesus: He consistently confounded the expectations that people would have placed upon Him as the Messiah.