Jesus is Crucified

Matthew 27

Today’s reading is familiar to all of us.  Jesus is delivered to Pilate.  The crowd choose Barabbas.  Pilate delivers Jesus to be crucified.  Jesus is crucified, died and is buried.  We know this story.  The disciples also knew this story as Jesus himself predicted his death many times.  In Matthew along, we read:

Matthew 16:21–28 says that Jesus “from that time”, i.e. on a number of occasions, Jesus “began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed …”.

Each time Jesus predicts his death, the disciples do not believe that this event will happen.  Jesus tries to continue to teach them new things.  Matthew 17:22–23 as follows:

He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.” But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it.[10]

Then, the third prediction in the Matthew 20:17–19 discusses his crucifixion:

Now as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside and said to them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!”

The fourth prediction in Matthew is found in Matthew 26:1-2 immediately precedes the plot made against him by the religious Jewish leaders:

“As you know, the Passover is two days away—and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.”

Yes, the disciples did not want to believe.  As their leader, friend, hero, they wanted to listen but not really hear what Jesus was predicting.  How could this happen?  When?  What could be done to stop this horrific event?  Yet, as Jesus is foretelling his fate, it appears to the reader that he is calm, almost matter-of-fact.

We also read further into Pilate’s thoughts.  Pilate sat in judgment of Jesus.  I always think about the attitude of each man in this situation.  Pilate tried to push Jesus to talk.  He prodded him to save himself.  Yet, Jesus would not say much.  He just repeated what Pilate said “if you say so”.  Pilate must have been a bit irritated with Jesus for not engaging in the conversation.  He saw that Jesus was at peace with what was going to happen.  Pilate could have released Jesus, but he did not.  He turned the decision over to the crowd.   He gave the crowd the option to release him.  As Pilate lead Jesus out to the crowd, he may not have anticipated the reaction.  The word “crowdsource” comes to mind.

  1. obtain (information or input into a particular task or project) by enlisting the services of a large number of people, either paid or unpaid, typically via the Internet.
    Now of course there was no Internet back then, but this crowd seemed to feed off each other.  They could hardly hear Pilate.
    21 The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” 22 Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” 23 And he said, “Why? What evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”

    As we know, Jesus is mocked, spat upon, crowned with a crown of thorns, bruised, and crucified.  There is so much to today’s reading!  What a turn of events.  Jesus is preaching and teaching, healing and feeding thousands.  Then, things turn, for him and for his disciples, for Pilate and also for the crowds who may have even been following Jesus!  Crucified, died and is buried.  How crazy.  How awful it must have been even if he predicted his own death, and all of these events happened in such a short time frame.

Two thoughts as you move from today’s reading into your daily life:  1)  Count every day with friends and family as a blessing as you never know when things might take a turn for you or your family; 2)  Be thankful Jesus died on the cross for us, to save us.


Prayer of Submission

Matthew 26 covers the last days of Jesus with his disciples, the betrayals of Judas and Peter, the Passover when Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper and the arrest of Jesus. After the Lord’s Supper and before his arrest, Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane, along with Peter, John and James. Jesus knew what was coming soon. He knew He was to be betrayed by Judas and denied by Peter. He knew He would be sentenced to death on a cross like a common criminal. He knew there would be excruciating physical pain and torment. He knew this had been ordained of His life since before His birth. He also knew that the Father was in control of all of this – that if He willed it, the Father could remove this burden from Jesus.

v. 38-39 Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.”  And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”

The concept of Jesus as man in the flesh, yet part of the triune God is not easily comprehended by my finite mind. Jesus the man is crying out to God the Father asking that the work he was sent to earth to accomplish be taken away, but more importantly, recognizing that even though this may have been possible, it may not have been God’s will.  “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” Jesus was sorrowful. He was desperate. He was lonely. He, the son of God, asked something of God (that he knew God could do) yet he submitted himself to God’s will.

We know that Jesus suffered, died and rose again. We know that he sits at the right hand of God the Father. Jesus knew what his life on earth and death were meant to accomplish. But he was still sorrowful. He still asked God to take away his pain. Struggling with what God calls us to do is not a sin – if it were, then Jesus – who never sinned – would have been wrong in this prayer. I do not think that God (who knows our hearts, minds and souls completely anyway) is disappointed in us when we despair or struggle. It is when we refuse to submit to his will that we sin.

I challenge you (as I am challenging myself) to remember to include this line in your prayers and supplications to God, “not as I will, but as you will.” Ask for the desires of your heart, beg for mercy and healing and relief. But follow that up with a sincere acknowledgement that God may not have the answers you think you want in mind.

Sunday Love Letter

Today’s Reading: Matthew 25

Recently I started receiving these random emails with the subject line: Your Sunday Love Letter. I didn’t sign up for them and I don’t know the person or should I say personality that is sending them. I haven’t unsubscribed because honestly, I sort of look forward to reading them! The email addresses me by name and proceeds with an inspirational note and is signed, “Carley.” Today my email said: “Hey Jillian…What a beautiful like it would be if we learned to treat ourselveswith the love, kindness and patience we so freely give to others.”

As I sat down to write to you this week, I started thinking about Matthew 25 as a love letter from Jesus. So often we feel a little lost in our own circumstance. Prayer and obedience can feel like a one-way street as we wait for His response in one form or another. But when we go to God’s word we don’t have to wait. His response is right there on the printed page. Since it is Sunday, and I have my Bible open to Matthew 25, I’ve decided to write you a love letter from Jesus (Carley style!). I don’t have the magic algorithm to populate your name into the subject line so I’m going to need you to fill it in.

Dear _________________,

I hope you are not growing tired of waiting for my return. When I am away from you, I long for the sound of your singing and praise. It is so important to me that you remain vigilant in your anticipation of my return. For when that day comes the moment of my arrival will be sudden and unexpected. Do not give in to the temptation to become lazy in your faith. I am your bridegroom, you will find your salvation in me if you can be a true disciple.

I delight in giving you gifts so that you may prosper. I love to see you use those gifts to bless others. Please know that the more you share your riches and talents the more I will bestow upon you. Do not be afraid to generous, I will fill your cup. Be humble and compassionate. If your neighbor is hungry, give him food to eat. If she is homeless and alone, let her in. Visit the ones that are imprisoned, they are my disciples.

I know that the journey is long, dear one. I know that so often the spinning of the earth roars loud in your ears and drowns out my voice. But I assure you that what you do for the least of my people, you are doing for me. I am with you always. You have freedom and rest in me.







Matthew 24 records Christ’s outline of the temple being destroyed (1-3), what will lead to the destruction (4-28), and additional things to watch for with His second coming (29-41). This chapter is theologically heavy and we could spend 800 words on each verse. But DON’T WORRY 🙂

Verse 10 pricked my heart and covers something I’ve wrestled with over the recent years:

“And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another”.

I don’t know that it’s as linear as A leads to B leads to C… or even A + B = C.  But when I think of my own circumstances of being offended or being the offender… I can quickly see the path leading to betrayal and hatred.

In a time where there is great division as a church, as a nation, as a world, and on SO MANY DIFFERENT TOPICS, offense sure has a lot of places to hide and take root.

I love healthy dialogue, talking through hard issues, listening to a position different than my own. But we all know that those conversations can quickly escalate and go south.

Offended is described as resentful or annoyed, typically as the result of a perceived insult.  

I don’t think there’s a question about the bigger, black and white offenses that occur. God doesn’t call us to be doormats. Persecution for sake of the kingdom – YES… Doormat… NO. I believe we are called to use our voice when we can, especially for the kingdom’s sake. To protect the weaker. To stand for truth. But it’s in those smaller things, it seems to get a little grey. And also in those smaller things that bitterness and discord can take root in the body of Christ. I wonder if this is exactly what Jesus is warning about – destruction will come from offenses, betrayal, and hatred. And let’s face it – we’ve all offended someone and we’ve all been offended.

I need wisdom and guidance from the Holy Spirit to know when I need to just move on from an offense and rely solely on the Lord to heal my heart… and when I need to have a conversation, set healthy boundaries or share my truth. There are relationship we care deeply about and don’t want an offense to continue and cause more damage.

Some questions I’ve been asking the Lord to reveal to me – Where have I allowed offenses to take up space in my heart? And am I more offended when people sin against God or against me? Am I aware of the ways I offend others?

For a small example… when I learn that a friend has said something hurtful about me, gossiped, or made inaccurate statements, do I address it as an offense or let it go? And by let it go, I mean pray like crazy to not hold a grudge, but often it still creates distance and the relationship feels strained. It can take time for the heart to heal.

Personally, I’d prefer someone come to me if I’ve hurt them, even with a small offense. I’d like the opportunity to learn from it and make it right. I’ve talked to other people on this topic that do not want conversations about small offenses…it’s exhausting and there’s an unspoken level of grace and forgiveness among friends. Not to mention, resolution doesn’t always occur.

Take a really minuscule offense, for example’s sake, of going to the DMV to renew your driver’s license. You know the drill. Line A so you can get in the right line for what you’re there for. Line B to show you have a license, prove you live at the same place, etc. Line C to get your photo taken. Then you wait for your number to be called for Line D, to actually get your license. You’re SO CLOSE and then the employee at Line D tells you that you can’t renew your license because you have an unpaid traffic violation from 2000. Yes, EIGHTEEN YEARS AGO. Sure, the “said person” has renewed their license several times since 2000 and can’t recall the ticket, let alone not paying it. The DMV has no info on the ticket, only that it was only reported to the DMV in 2015 and the state lost a lot of records for 15 years and then suddenly caught up. The ticket has to be paid in the county it was issued (an hour away).

In this scenario, do you just leave with kindness and a smile and give them the ol’ Chik-Fil-A “it was my pleasure to spend 45 minutes with you today”. Or, do you (in the least snarky way possible) ask if this could have been figured out in Line A or even Line B and saved everyone’s time? I mean, really? Why do I feel the need to go all Six Sigma on the DMV? What value or gain is there? I mean, this “said person” – whoever they are 😉 are they really going to change the DMV?  While this is just a small and humorous example, it plays out the same way in bigger things.

Somewhere rooted inside of me is this spirit of truth, record setting and harmony. It all sounds good, until it turns into a spirit of self-righteousness, obsessing over the facts, or carrying around the heaviness of my own offenses to others.  I’m in a season of prayer, asking God for peace over both sides of offenses (offender and offended). To take away the weight of my offenses to others that I’ve sought forgiveness for. And to show me the difference between addressing offenses that will bring good, and when to LET. IT. GO.  This meme captures the humor of my brain at times.

Lord, thank you for forgiving me of my offenses against You and Your children. Thank you for walking with me when I’ve sought forgiveness of those I’ve offended. God, I need your healing from hurts I’ve felt. Please show me when and how to address offenses that need to be addressed. Please protect my heart from any root of bitterness, betrayals, or hatred. Fill my heart with gratitude for your grace and leave no room for an offendable spirit. Amen.

Every single week for over a year

This week I had the opportunity to have dinner with Jim; a friend, colleague, and brother in Christ from America.

Jim said he scores very low on the spiritual gift of evangelism. This was interesting to me because “evangelist for Christ” is the first thing that comes to mind when I think of him! Jim has a way of showing Christ in the way he lives out his life with his actions matching his words.

When I first came to know he was a Christ follower, it was in a business setting where a large group of people were being asked about what is most important to them. Perhaps it would have been easy to translate the question into “what is most important in business, etc.” and avoid the spiritual realm, but not Jim. He unashamedly responded with “my faith, absolutely number one”.

Jim speaks openly about his relationship with Jesus Christ. More than words though, in an attempt to describe him, all of the fruits of the spirit came to mind:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

People seem to quickly open up to Jim because he is so approachable. I believe it is because of the fruits of the spirit that he exemplifies. He’s just someone you want to talk to and share thoughts, struggles, and joys with.

Jim points to Jesus by asking questions and loving people, not by telling them what to do nor telling them they’re going to Hell. He prepares his heart, waits for an opportunity, listens, prays, and just loves and gives out of obedience to Jesus.

My boys got a glimpse into Jim goodness this week. When I told them I was having dinner with Jim, they grumbled a little bit because this meant no family dinner that night. I said, “well Jim is very special. First, he loves Jesus, and second, he has prayed for me every single week for over a year.”

The look on the boy’s faces was priceless. Someone cares enough about their dad to pray pray for him every week (even when he barely knew who I was). It might seem small but the boys understood this act of selflessness. They smiled and embraced this night away from me. I’m thankful for having people in my life who exemplify the kind of man I strive to become, the kind of man I want my boys to become… a person of integrity and love, humbly submitting to Jesus Christ, with good works that are a reflection of a truly good heart.

The opposite of this plays out in Matthew 23. In my own very basic summary, Jesus rebukes the pharisees for their hearts not being right; for hypocrisy, selfishness, and ultimately for not truly loving God.

so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. (Matthew 23:3)

Our God is serious about sin, about his message and his will for our lives. Jesus does not mince words. Sometimes we paint Jesus too mildly; he is dead serious and today’s chapter is a good example (note the many explanation points; we don’t want to be against him).

Please consider reading Matthew 23 out loud. Here’s a link to a version (NLT) with more common words that are easier to pronounce: Matthew 23.

Father God, show me where I am like the pharisees, and have mercy on me. Forgive my hypocrisy, greed, selfishness, and ignorance. Cleanse my heart as I go out today. May your will be done. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Could You Say No?

Today’s reading:  Matthew 22

In May, my 11 year old got braces. This was not unexpected, as she sucked her thumb for the first 4 ½ years of her life.  (I knew letting her suck her thumb was going to cost me a pile of money at some point.  But, she was so cute and so happy I decided I was willing to pay for braces if it meant more sleep for me in those early months!)  Her teeth were pretty crowded and she was anxious to get them corrected.  The treatment plan started with a jaw expander, braces on her upper teeth, then braces for her lower teeth.  Ugh.  It was pretty painful the first couple of days, but she eventually got used to the mouth full of hardware she will have for the next 24 months.

Three months later I was back at the orthodontist with my son. He was a little different story.  His teeth were fairly straight, so he wasn’t sure he really wanted braces.  Turns out, his bite was pretty messed up.  What I thought was going to be a pretty quick, easy and cheaper treatment plan, turned out to be just as significant as my daughters’.  Even with a sibling discount and insurance, it was still going to cost me a ton.

It was at this point, Freddy and I had a heart to heart.  My advice to him was to get his teeth fixed while someone else (his parents) was willing to foot the bill.  Before I shelled out the cash, however, I wanted to make sure he was committed to the plan.  I wanted affirmation that he was going to follow the strict instructions of the orthodontist – brushing and flossing every day, using fluoride mouthwash, and avoiding certain foods.  I was not interested in wasting my money on braces that were not going to work because he wasn’t willing to do his part.

As you’d expect, he agreed to the plan, and I am thousands of dollars poorer today than I was in May.  But I am a mother, and I am willing to make sacrifices for the good of my children.  As I reflected on our scripture for today in Matthew 22, it became painfully obvious the things I do for my kids really aren’t that much of a sacrifice.  In fact, they pale in comparison to the sacrifice God made for us by sending Jesus.  Let’s look a little closer at the parable of the wedding feast.

The king prepared a wedding feast for his son.  When it was time for the guests to come, they all had excuses for not showing up.  So, the king sent out servants to find others.  They too didn’t come and even went so far as to mistreat the servants.  Eventually, the king sent the servants out with an invitation for all – the good, the bad and the ugly – to join in the wedding celebration.  They came and filled up his tables.  Okay, this made sense.  God invites us all – the good, the bad, and the ugly to his table; even though we often turn away, he keeps giving us more chances to be part of his plan.  Then I got to verses 11-13…

But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless.

“Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’ (Matthew 22:11-13).

If the King sent his servants to find people who weren’t originally invited (nor necessarily fit) to come to the wedding feast – the poor, homeless people on the street – why then did he attack one of them for not wearing the right clothes?  It didn’t make any sense to me until I understood a little more about the customs of the day.

In Jesus’ time, it was customary for the host to provide wedding guests appropriate clothes to wear to the feast.  (How great would that be?  Never having to figure out what to wear to the event would make things so much easier!)  Without the right clothes, guests couldn’t be part of the celebration.  Guests didn’t want to insult the host, nor did they want to signal that they weren’t interested in participating, so they never refused to wear the wedding clothes given to them.

Is this starting to make sense?  This story isn’t just about God’s invitation for us to be his people.  It is also a picture of his amazing grace.  See, God cannot live with sin because it goes against his perfect nature.  We have to somehow get rid of our sin in order to spend eternity with him.  Because we can’t do this for ourselves, God chose to make a way for us.  His solution was to send Jesus, his only son, to pay the price for our sin.  By taking our sin upon himself, then giving his life as a sacrifice, Jesus became our “wedding clothes”.  Accepting him as Savior and Lord is how we become acceptable to God, “clothed in righteousness”.  Not everyone, unfortunately, will make this choice.  Like the wedding guest who wouldn’t accept the clothes, those who deny Jesus will eventually be cast out to spend eternity apart from God.

How humbling. I love Freddy with all my heart, but I was unwilling to spend $4,000 unless he affirmed he would follow the orthodontist’s treatment plan.  God, on the other hand, was willing to give his son’s life as a sacrifice for all even though he knew many would reject him.

Given what you know about Jesus today, how could you say no to him?

Thorns on his head. Spear in his side. Yet it was a heartache that made him cry. He gave his life so you would understand. Is there any way you could say no to this man? – Mickey Cates (1981)

Matthew 21

Wow, does Matthew 21 have a lot of great stuff!  Tonight/this morning, we take you on a walk through the eyes of a simpleton.

“Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey”

Jesus was all about fulfilling the old testament prophesy…in this case Zechariah 9:9:  “Rejoice greatly, O people of Zion!  Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem!  Look, your king is coming to you.  He is righteous and victorious, yet he is humble, riding on a donkey – even on a donkey’s colt.”  To me, it is very meaningful that Jesus goes out of his way to fulfill the writings of the old testament…and to validate his prophets.  I did wonder what it would be like for the two disciples that were sent ahead to get the donkey.  Jesus tells them what to say if they encounter anyone, but it doesn’t say that they did encounter anyone.  What do you think the conversation was like between the two disciples on the way there?

“Jesus clears the temple again!”

This one is short, but much to it.  It is clear that the people who needed Jesus, put their faith in him and knew who he was.  After Jesus drove out the merchants and their customers, “The blind and the lame came to him, and he healed them there in the temple.”  Then, once again, he used old testament scripture to set the doubters straight:  “Haven’t you ever read the scriptures?”

“Jesus says the disciples can pray for anything.”

Do you ever wonder what “funny” stuff Jesus may have done that wasn’t recorded in the bible?  In this case, he wilted a fig tree that didn’t have any fruit…to create an example for the disciples.  If they had faith, they could do much more than wilt a fig tree…they could make a mountain thrown into the sea.  The verses like this make me wonder how strong my faith is…could I make a grain of sand thrown into a creek?  Why couldn’t I have a mountain thrown into the sea?

“Religious leaders challenge Jesus’s authority.”

THESE ARE GREAT!  Every time the religious smart guys try to catch Jesus in his own words, he turns the tables on them…baffling them…they have no idea what to do…except get mad.  “So they finally replied, ‘We don’t know’.”

“Jesus tells the parable of the two sons”

I wonder what these ‘leading priests’ thought after hearing this parable.  Do you think any of them changed their ways?  Surely, they all weren’t completely stubborn and set in their ways.

“Jesus tells the parable of the evil farmers”

I really wonder what all of them felt after they heard the parable.  “When the leading priests and Pharisees heard Jesus, they realized he was pointing at them – that they were the farmers in this story.  They wanted to arrest him, but they were afraid to try because the crowds considered Jesus to be a prophet.”

Our all church study is focusing on “remembering” this week.  We had a great discussion tonight going over the Armstrong and the Thomas family history.  Shelly and I also shared where we were on 9/11.  Shelly was working in the pediatric ICU in Peoria and I was at the State Farm facility in Canada…it was a month plus before we were to be married.  I was amazed at how much our kids were interested in these stories.  Don’t sell your story short…and share it with others…God may be using it…and/or you!


Humble Hearts Kingdom

One statistic that I often share when talking about the Front Porch Initiative is the statistic that self-centeredness has increased 30% in the past 30 years among college students according to a study conducted by San Diego State University.   This narcissism has impacted our ability to show empathy and will continue to have an impact on our communities. That’s why deepening our relationships and getting to know others is so important.

Today in Matthew 20 we read about a mother putting her own desires first for her children above God.

Jesus had just got done telling his disciples on their journey to Jerusalem that he would be leaving them soon. That He would be mocked, flogged, and crucified.  Still, just like we can do, just like I can do, we think of ourselves and what’s in it for us.  Not what is eternally most important. Sadly, the next story shared in Matthew 20 after Jesus foretelling His death is the request of power/position in Heaven and being able to sit on the right and left of Jesus.

But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, 28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus gave his life for us.  Every way He physically lived  was for us.  Every living word written is for us.  In a world and time where being great is about self promotion or pride.  Jesus has been saying to be great in His kingdom we must be least.  Reflecting personally easily brings tears to my eyes.  Even in this day as I on reflected Matthew 20 I made so much of this day about me.  I focus on things I may have to do for work, whether or not my favorite team will win, how my children are behaving.  Not really thinking about what is truly important. In listening to Grace To You by John McArthur on this chapter I think about the question John Mcarthur was asked many times, ” Who will be those who receive the greatest reward in Heaven?’ He will say, ” Those who suffered the most in life for the cause of Jesus Christ.”

I can only repent and pray for Jesus to work on my selfishness. To grab hold of my heart and mind as I look not to myself or this world, but to Him.  Put my pride in check.  Here are a few reminder verses that can remind me God’s view on pride.

Proverbs 21:4 Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, are sin.

Proverbs 16:5 Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord;
    be assured, he will not go unpunished.

That in Psalm 31:23 it says He recompenses the proud or in Psalm 18:27 the proud will be brought low.

So instead of a prideful heart, I know I need to be more humble. Micah 6:8 says He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth Jehovah require of thee, but to do justly, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with thy God?

Proverbs 15:33 says The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom; and before honor is humility.

Colossians 3:12 says, ” So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience;”

So here are a few verses to help us put our pride in check.  That or worldly desires will mean nothing next to our place in Heaven.  I pray to always be a servant leader without asking… what’s in it for me? I pray for us to live with humility and selflessness knowing and trusting that God has a perfect plan for all of us. Our greatest plans won’t ever compare to the reward in Heaven through a selfless, humble, and faithful life.

God told us it wouldn’t be easy.  We need to continue to trust and have faith in His plans for us!  What do you need to let go of? To humbly ask Him to work on your heart. To put away our earthly desires and spread His good news!

Have a blessed Tuesday in all you do.

Matters of the Heart

Today’s Reading Matthew 19

Marriage, children, and money: all of these are subjects that are very taboo and personal, yet Jesus uses these to examine the heart of us.  These subjects have been for several ages the most difficult topics to discuss with our family, friends, or even acquaintances.  The reason is the true emotions and passion that is associated with each of them can result in beneficial or detrimental consequence. For instance, if your friend had something to say about your spouse or children they would have to have a deep understanding of your family to impart any advice or suggestions.  You would not be able to tell any friend your opinion on how they are should:  treat their spouse, or raise their children, or how to spend their money without first creating a bond with them.

What Christ is doing in Chapter 19 is reexamining these topics with individuals that have alternative motives but there are some very powerful pieces of knowledge and joy to attain from this passage.

  • Marriage is a blessing from God. In all forms of marriage, God has created a union to bring together two individuals.  The human though of marriage as in Deuteronomy and as seen in today’s society is when the toughest time arise, then you can dissolve the marriage at anytime. In Deuteronomy, before Moses created the law, people would marry a person, then divorce and remarry, then divorce and remarry the previous person.  People were not able to work things out and create harmony in the midst of conflict.  But Christ states that the reason that Moses made the law was because the hearts of the people were not able to compromise and resolve their intimate issues.  God created marriage as a forever bond, but the heart of man has allowed other influences to change the initial intent.
  • Children are a blessing from God. We have been very fortunate and blessed our present society with the birth rate high and birth mortality low.   There are places that still the child mortality rate is significantly high. Sometimes we may take for granted our children and want them to grow up faster.  I have three beautiful children, and there are times that we are tired and need rest, but we must continually not hinder them in any fashion.  Many times, I am out with my children and they will ask me about 500 questions in an hour and it continues.  Or they will have endless “recycling” projects everywhere.  But, we must be attentive to their questions, and their projects, and them daily.  When we attend to them, we can see how God attends to us and our needs and wants and questions.
  • What we have is a blessing from God. In the chapter the young rich man doses not fully understand the concept of management and ownership.  He has been given so much in the terms of possessions that he forgot whom the true owner of the possessions.  We are God’s stewards and are the managers of the gifts that he has given us.  If only his heart knew the true return-on-investment that was in store.  All that is given to us is a gift from God and we have to be the best managers of this bounty.

In these examples that Christ have given us, Christ has a central message: God wants your heart.  In all the examples, the individuals were not fully devoted to God in their heart and this causes them not able to see the beauty of his Creations in a different light.  As God conveyed in the story of Abraham and Isaac, God is not concerned with the sacrifice, but the true heart and obedience of the person.  As we mediate on these thoughts and this passage, lets ask ourselves: Is our heart in the place that God wants?  If not, what can I do to align myself with God to become a better steward of my heart?

Become Like Children

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”  And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.                                           (Matthew 18:1-4)

I have been taught over the years that the verses above tell us about coming to Jesus with faith like a child, to have the attributes of a child when we approach Jesus.  Attributes such as:  innocence, trusting, believing without complication, contentedness, and faith to move mountains.  And, while it is good and helpful to have these qualities, Jesus nowhere in the Bible actually tells us to have faith like a child.  In the passage above, when Jesus says to “become like children” he isn’t talking about faith (although faith is important as stated in numerous Scriptures). Nor is Jesus calling us to be filled with wonder in every moment the way a child so often is.  When Jesus says we must “become like children,” he is talking about humility.

In this passage, we see the disciples seeking prestige and honor for themselves.  Jesus corrects them by pointing to the example of a child.  Jesus points out the importance of humility in the life of those who claim to be His followers.  The life of one who follows Jesus is not about putting the focus on ourselves;  rather, we should be about pointing others to Jesus.  

Faith is a very humble quality, which is perhaps why it is associated with childlikeness.  Jesus was pointing out the truth that a child is completely dependent on adults for safety, sustenance, and knowledge.  Similarly, the faithful person depends on God in a way that is absolutely dependent.  The faith God looks for is humble, like a child.  In this way, we Christians are to have childlike faith.  

Childlike faith is saving faith, because it looks outside itself for salvation.  Salvation is a gift;  man does not pay for or contribute to his salvation, it is only of God.  

For by grace you have been saved through faith.  And this is not your own doing;  it is the fight of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.  (Ephesians 2:8&9)

Just as a child depends on his/her parents for everything that he needs, we depend on God’s provision for everything.

Faith always has an object, you always have faith in something.  It would be worthless to hope for something and not have a source to hope in.  The faith that saves is faith in Jesus.  To have faith in Jesus means that you have become like a child, you humble yourself and see that God is your Creator, your Father, your Provider, your Protector, your Savior, and your Lord.