“The Impossibly Impossible is Possible with God”

Today’s reading is John 5 and Psalm 107.

John 5 begins with Jesus healing a man who could not walk. He, and many other who were sick or crippled, hung out around a pool in Jerusalem with a spring under it causing the water to bubble up very briefly. They believed if you went into the water while it was bubbling you would be healed. This sounds simple, but we can tell here that the water did not bubble long and many wanted in making it very competitive to make it in time before it stopped.

Jesus could have just healed this man, but I find it very interesting that instead He asks the man in John 5:6, “Do you want to be healed?” It seems like an obvious answer right…”well..duh..yeah!” However, the text tells us that the man had not been able to walk over 38 years, and it’s likely that life expectancy was in the 40s-50s which basically his entire life. Instead of saying yes, he gives an excuse in John 5:7, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up and while I’m going another steps down before me.”

How many times in our lives does Jesus ask us like the man, “Do you want to be healed?” We don’t hear him though, nor do we hear the people He puts in our lives or see the signs. I think of the movie Bruce Almighty with Jim Carrey. Bruce’s life is falling apart, and he finally calls out to God asking for help and a sign while he’s driving. He doesn’t even see the “Caution Ahead” blinking construction sign, and then proceeds to get mad and pass a truck loaded with stop, caution, and yield signs. He keeps going not seeing any of this and next thing you know he wrecks his car into a light pole. How many times do we miss the signs and people Jesus puts in our life saying in some way, “Do you want to be healed?” I may have mentioned this in the past, but when going on my street ministry mission trip this summer, it was very apparent that strong believers saw proof of God in the beauty of His creation and good in people, as where non-believers saw bad things going on in the world around as proof that God does not exist. When you are going to church, praying, reading the Word, and in a small group (close community) with other believers you are more likely to see God’s signs and hear his voice calling to you and tugging on your heart. As our Pastor Mike Baker once said, “Seeing is not believing. Believing is seeing.” I had to think about this one, but when you are looking for God and listening to His voice you will see and hear Him. If you’re not looking for Him, you’ll miss Him and His awesome wonders. Psalms 107:41-43 says, “but he raises the needy out of affliction and makes their families like flocks. The upright see it and are glad, and all wickedness shuts its moth. Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things; let them consider the steadfast love of the Lord.”

Often times, I know I see God’s signs and hear Him calling and tugging at my heart, but like the man, I give an excuse. As my personal coach Jason Selk says, we all fall prey to the trap of the viable excuse. He says the viable excuse comes as truth, fact, and reason. He says we are tricked by it because there is always an element of truth in it. The man’s excuse is totally viable and has truth in it…he can’t walk to make it into the pool, and he also has no one to take him. Our excuses are viable too when God comes calling. “I’m too busy, That will take too much work. I don’t have time for that.” Or my personal favorite, “ I can’t do it (not capable).” Why is that my favorite? Because it’s the most viable excuse…you’re right, you can’t do it. But, He can! This man couldn’t walk for 38 years and so he couldn’t walk to the pool, but Jesus could heal him and whatever you are going through…He can heal you, too. Chad Parker, CEO of Cybernautic and founder and executive director of GOYA ministries said this week at GOYA’s annual banquet, “The impossibly impossible is possible with God!” So cool, and so true.

If you don’t follow Christian musical artist Toby Mac on social media, I highly recommend it. He posts some very inspirational messages. One he posted a few months ago hit me in such a way that I now have it posted on my bathroom mirror. You can see it as the picture for today’s writing. It is a beautiful night sky with the stars and a person staring up with the quote, “I made all of this out of nothing. Trust me, I can take care of you.” Signed God. Wow! How true is that?! We hold on too tight and think we are in control (but we realize we have no control really so we stress) and forget He is in control. Our finite minds can’t figure out how a situation will work out for the good…but He can. Actually, He already has. We just have to let go and realize He’s the Creator. He’s in control. He’s got this. Most importantly, He’s got you. Just listen for his voice asking you if you want to be healed. Then, no excuses. Trust him and just…”Get up, take up your bed and walk.” John 5:8

Are you ready to finish what you started?

24 The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. 25 It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?  Matthew 10:24-25

“It is enough…”.  A true disciple wants nothing more than to be like his Master.  Jesus did not have much in the world in terms of tangible things.  He was born in a barn.  As an adult, He did not have a home and all the ‘important’ people hated him.  They wanted to kill him and they did.  Yet Jesus had all the intangible things. Do we want more than what Jesus had?

“…how much more…”  Given that a true disciple does not want to surpass his Master, Jesus gives a warning to those thinking they may want to follow him.  The warning is clear, as you become more like Christ, people will treat you more like He was treated.  How do we want to be treated?  

In addition to how others will treat us, Jesus gives other warnings to those who considered following him.  Knowing the heart of each, perhaps Jesus tailored the warnings.  Do we relate to any? 

Comfort

In Matthew 8:19-20 the scribe who said he would follow Jesus is told that following Him would mean forgoing a life of comfort.  A home is the baseline of comfort.  

Inheritance

In Matthew 8:21-22 one that would follow Jesus is told that following would mean forgoing his inheritance.  Following Jesus, for this scribe, may mean a life without the wealth of his family and perhaps one full of dependence.  “Allow me to bury my father” is another way of saying, I’ll be back once he’s died and I’ve received all that is coming to me.

Family

Later in Matthew chapter 10 verses 34 thru 37 (Matthew 10:34-37), Jesus teaches that following him will mean being ready to depart from family.

Counting the Cost

Jesus made sure we knew the cost of following Him and the importance of counting the cost so we could finish what we started and receive our reward. (Luke 14:25-34, Matthew 13:45-46, 2Timothy 4:6-8, Galatians 6:9).  

Counting the cost of being a Christian means being willing to give up seeking approval and popularity, status and the favor of men, comfort, an inheritance, and even family.  

Counting the cost of being a Christian means being ready to trade all these things for eternal promises.  Not just some.  Here is a promise God made in Matthew chapter 10.  

He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it. – Matthew 10:39

Oh God, that we might trust You with all. You are good and You alone are worthy of all our trust LORD. Amen.

 

Painting: Christ Calling His First Disciples – Adam Brenner (1800–1891)

Take Notice

Today’s reading is Matthew 6 and Psalm 79.

Do you ever have situations where things happen that you know are not a coincidence, and God gives you the right message (usually multiple) at just the right time? So many times, daily devotionals fit right into exactly what you need to hear that day due to what’s going on in your life. I had a couple circumstances this week that all fit together telling me they were not a coincidence.

It started with an unplanned conversation with a successful Christian business owner with much experience and wisdom through years of faithful servanthood. He said many times in his life he became anxious and tried to push and rush initiatives on his own timeline. He said over the years he learned when you trust in God and live life for His glory He will bless you in ways you cannot even imagine, but it will be on His timeline, not your own. We just need to live for Him and trust Him, and He will provide in ways you beyond what you can think of. Does this sound familiar (Matthew 6:25-34)? He compared this to the 2017 Super Bowl. The game looked like there was absolutely no way the Patriots would win.  In fact, it couldn’t have started any worse for the Patriots and their fans. Then, in ways no one could have imagined, everything went perfectly and the Patriots won leaving everyone thinking, “How did that just happened?” If you were a Patriots fan (which I am definitely not) and you knew the ending, wouldn’t you have felt differently during it? Would there have been any anxiety, stress, and maybe even anger in what wa occurring? Absolutely not! Maybe just a thought of, “Did we really wine this game..are you sure?” As a University of Illinois basketball fan, I still feel this way when watching our 2005 game vs. Arizona to advance to the Final Four. As Christians, this gentleman said when you live to glorify God, He will make things fit perfectly to eventually “win the game” throughout life on Earth, and ultimately assure us we will “win” the only game that matters by giving us eternal life. This man is doing some amazing things with his resources with more things in the works to glorify God, and he shared some amazing stories about how God fit the pieces together perfectly leaving me shaking my head in awe.

The second non-coincidental occurence came while traveling with a Christian brother, Patrick Scheina, the same week. I was telling him about this conversation, and we both began to share very challenging situations we had in the last year where God “bailed us out” and fit the pieces together in crazy ways that if you would have given us a million chances to figure out how things would play out we wouldn’t have guessed how they ended up coming together positively. How often do we even slow down to notice how God is working in our lives? If we did, why would we ever worry? It’s really almost silly when you think about it. Not only do we have his Word hear in Matthew 6 which we know is true, but we also have our own experiences! It’s hard to not judge and condemn the disciples when they get stressed about running out of food, a bad storm, and even His death. I can read it and think…”Umm..hello..don’t you guys remember what he just did a few days ago?” Then, I sigh and think, “Am I really any different?” No…we just have to wake up and look for the ways God works and reminds ourselves of them when trials come our way. We need to listen what what He tells us in His word. “Be still and know I am God.” Psalm 46:10. And also in Isaiah 26:3, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

As Patrick and I were discussing things, he mentioned how important remembering and praying the Lord’s prayer is. He said how perfect every statement is and how if we really prayed it every day and reflected on every part, it covers everything we need to remember and request. If we applied each part to what was going on in our lives, it would be all we really need. There’s so much wisdom in Patrick’s statement. When I read Psalm 79, I couldn’t believe how much of it seemed like an Old Testament version of the Lord’s Prayer.

I was left shaking my head when 2 days after my conversation with this Christian business owner and the night I returned home from my trip with Patrick, I checked my next Bible Journal writing and found it was on Matthew 6 which included the Lord’s Prayer and a section on not being anxious. Coincidence? God is speaking and working in your life to write your story, and make it a part of His story. Are you noticing?

 

Give ear to my prayer, O God

Today’s Scripture reading includes Psalm 55, in which David pours out his heart as he laments over a betrayal of a close friend (possibly Absalom and/or Ahithophel – 2 Samuel 15-18).  The word betrayal presumes a deep trust was placed in a source that proved untrustworthy.   The Proverbs teach us not to have respect of persons. (Proverbs 28:21)  Our unfettered trust is placed assuredly in God alone.  The summit of the psalm is verse 22:

“Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.”

Amen!  Amen!  Only He is trustworthy!  

Today’s Scripture reading also includes Luke 7, wherein the famous Centurion’s faith in Christ was chronicled.  When he was in need, he placed his trust in the one true source.  

  • Have you ever encountered a situation in your life when you immediately knew that God was the only one who could help you?  
  • What would our life be like if we did not trust in ourselves or anyone for anything but submitted everything with thanksgiving to the LORD?  

Painting:  Christ Heals the Centurion’s Servant – Ricci, Sebastiano

While We’re Waiting…

Today’s reading is 2 Peter 3 and Psalm 37.

I’m always amazed at how God speaks to through His Word to tell us what He wants to tell us right when we need it. As I write this, we are anxiously awaiting our third child with my wife at thirty-eight weeks pregnant. Generally speaking, she is the more patient of the two of us, but she just left for a walk because she is willing to do just about every wives’ tale (except drink castor oil) to get this baby to come out. My grandparents on my Mom’s side were some of the most laid back people I’ve ever known. I have heard my Dad say if they were sitting on the couch in their living room watching TV and the house went up in flames my Grandpa would likely calmly look over at my Grandma and say, “Well..Berniece…the house is on fire..we should probably leave now.” Due to this, my Mom is also a very patient person. Around 3 years ago, she began to have undiagnosed back issues and has been in a wheelchair most of the time since then, not knowing if she would ever walk again. Through this, I’ve not heard her complain once. In fact, instead she will tell you this has brought her closer to God, and she’s been in the Word more than ever. She is amazing and truly an inspiration to me. Just in the last few weeks she walked up to communion and drove for the first time. God is good!

As I mentioned earlier, it is amazing how God speaks to us through His Word.  These last few weeks I’ve become frustrated and impatient with some aspects of my life with things not happening how and as quickly as I would like them. Then, God smacks me on the side of the head with His Word (metaphorically speaking) with 2 Peter 3 and Psalm 37 on waiting for and trusting in Him.

2 Peter 3:4 tells us that others will get us to question Him and His promises, and I would add the we also do so in our own minds. We are reminded in 2 Peter 3:8-9 His timeline is not our timeline. He is not slow, but instead will give us what we TRULY need when we TRULY need it.

He also gives us instruction on what to do while we wait in these chapters. Psalms 37:4-5 says, “Seek your happiness in the Lord, and He will give you your heart’s desire. Give yourself to the Lord: trust in Him, and He will help you.” THIS is what I’m called to do during this time of waiting. Keep the focus on Him, not my worldly desires, and trust in Him.  More of today’s reading points to this in 2 Peter 3:14-15, 2 Peter 3:17-18, Psalms 37:7-9, and Psalms 37:34.

While God does not promise to give us the worldly things we ask for that we think are in our best interest, He does promise to always be there for us and give us what is truly best when it is truly best (Psalms 37:4-5, Psalms 37:9, Psalms 37:23-24, Psalms 37:34, Psalms 37:39-40, 2 Peter 3:9, and 2 Peter 3:13-15). He delivered on His promise of salvation and gave us the only thing we really need in Jesus’ perfect life, death, and resurrection freeing us from the bondage of sin.  When He allows us to have what we have been asking for, be healed, or walk again like my Mom (the details of this are a whole other story on God’s amazing provision), let us give Him and no one else the credit as Peter instructs us to do (2 Peter 3:18)! Glory to God..glory to God forever!

Check out this lyric music video for “Trust In You” by Lauren Daigle. I hope it can bring you strength and encouragement as it does me.

 

3rd Heaven

What do you look forward to most about Heaven?  This was the question posed during an opening devotional at a business meeting last week.  Answers ranged from, “I don’t think about Heaven very much – I don’t think I get it and so I just trust” and “I’m ashamed to say, I’ve had thoughts in the past about the continuous chanting and it worries me – will I be bored there?” to “I look forward to reuniting with loved ones” and “I’m looking forward to seeing Jesus face-to-face.”

As we prepared to consider business here on Earth the scripture reading for the devotional was from Colossians 3:2, ‘Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.’  The discussion was Heaven.  The issue, we all agreed, was that we should be thinking about heaven more.  

What do you look forward to most about Heaven?

Have you ever been reading a book, listening to a sermon, or on your knees in prayer and been completely overwhelmed with a flood of emotion to commit everything to the LORD?  This is the time, I want to let go of everything I want and give it all to the LORD, I’m done with doing it my way, I always mess everything up, I want to rest and trust the LORD with everything: every moment, every thought, every desire.  

Expressing this feeling in words is challenging.  Perfect freedom.  Perfect trust.  Perfect peace.  If I’ve gotten close at all you may be recalling your own testimony of how you came to Christ or a renewed commitment to Christ along the way.  This feeling, in my estimation, is as good as it gets this side of life’s great divide.  

However, for me, this feeling is all too shortly followed by a failure.  My flesh realizes a victory as I choose, say, entertainment over time in the Word, etc.  

Still, If even for a brief moment, that feeling touches my soul as if to say, ‘this is what you were created for.”  I can not wait to be done with the fight against the flesh.  Until then, and through the power of the Spirit, we fight the good fight.

God would You bless us with more and more freedom from self as we wait on You?  Please be gentle with us LORD.  May our souls find rest in You.  Amen.  

Psalm 27:13-14
13 I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living!
14 Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!

Today’s reading: James 5 and Psalm 27

 

Sources for study on Heaven:

Sources for study on eternal rewards:

Fully Known

     Fully known.  How do those words make you feel?  Peaceful?  Anxious? Calm?  Ashamed?  All of the above, maybe?  Does it depend on the situation, or maybe the person?  In John 8, our reading for today, Jesus makes it very clear that He knows the people around Him.  And not only does He know them, He FULLY KNOWS them,  He knows their thoughts, even when they don’t speak them aloud.  He knows their actions, even before they take them.  He knows them better than they know themselves.  He knows their hearts.

     Sometimes, Jesus reveals His knowledge of the people around Him in subtle ways.  For example, when He speaks to the crowd who accuses the woman of adultery, He says, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7)  Jesus knew that each of the accusers was a sinner.  Yet He didn’t need to call each person out on his individual, specific sin to make His point clear.  When the crowd heard His words, “they went away one by one.”  (John 8:9)  Likewise, in his conversation with the woman accused of adultery, Jesus did not need to name her sin to make His point.  He simply says to her, “…go, and from now on sin no more.”  (John 8: 11)  Simple, and subtle.

    Later in John 8, however, Jesus reveals to the Pharisees that He knows them as well, and this time, He is less subtle.  In fact, He does not hesitate to name their sins.  Here are several examples:

– He knew that the Pharisees judged according to the flesh  (John 8:15)

– He knew that the Pharisees sought to kill Him, and He knew why –                            because His word had found no place in them (John 8:37) and because                      they couldn’t bear to hear His word  (John 8:43)

– He knew that the Pharisees did not believe Him  (John 8:45)

– He knew that the Pharisees did not know God  (John 8:55)

Not only does Jesus know the adulterous woman’s heart and the hearts of the Pharisees.  He also knows our hearts, yours and mine.  David confirms this in Psalm 139:1-4:   “O Lord, you have searched me and known me!  You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar.  You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways.  Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.”    I think that David’s tone here is not one of embarrassment but one of relief.  He sounds thankful to be fully known by his Creator – and in this, David serves as a good example for us.

We, too, can give thanks that our God fully knows us and wants to have a relationship with us.  Any relationship deepens as we allow ourselves to be fully known by the other person, and our relationship with Jesus is no different.  Furthermore, relationships strengthen when we ourselves seek to more deeply know the other person as well.  Jesus, too, wants us to seek to know Him better.  I pray that the fact that we are fully known by our Creator gives us not anxiety and shame, but peace and comfort.  And I pray that we would seek to know Him better as we rest in the security that we are fully known, and fully loved.

 

Follow Me

Today’s reading is Luke 9. A few years ago our small group studied a series called Follow by Andy Stanley. He talks about how Jesus said, “Follow Me,” approximately 23 times in the Gospel. A mentor of mine would always say that “repetition is the mother of learning.” So, if Jesus says those words that many times, we should probably take note. Ever since we covered Andy Stanley’s study, it always jumps off the page when I read Jesus say it like He does in Luke 9:23-25 and Luke 9:57-62, and I underline it in my Bible.

I believe many keep their distance from Christianity because they believe it is just a bunch of rules to abide by. We live in a society today that tells everyone to just do whatever they feel like, so if they believe all Christ does is make you follow rules then they will not be drawn to Him.

Jesus does not say to do X, Y, and Z and then you can, “Follow me.” He doesn’t say learn the Scriptures, change these habits, get your life in order, and then, “Follow me.” He just says, “Follow me.” Jesus only wants to see our faith and trust in Him. That is what amazes me so much about the disciples. They just left their lives upon Jesus invitation. Jesus did not pick guys that were scholars and had their lives together. He picked regular people like you and me. Earlier this week in Luke 5:27-28 He asks Matthew who was a tax collector to, “Follow me.” Tax collectors were Jewish outcast because they were Jewish, but collected taxes for the Roman government. Andy says they could only hang out with other tax collectors because even the worst sinners wouldn’t hang out with them. Yet, Jesus still called Matthew to follow Him and then he even hangs out with Matthew and his tax collector buddies after. While the occupations of all 12 disciples are not known, it is believed that most were fishermen or tradesmen of some kind. They were not set apart already because of their occupations or previous works before Jesus asked them to come along for the ride.

You may be thinking to yourself because of my earlier comments that the Bible and Christianity does have “do’s and don’ts” so to speak. Yes, it does because God knows what is best for us, and He knows that often what feels good at the time will eventually cause us pain later at some point. Jesus doesn’t lead with this though because He knows that by following Him our hearts will be changed, and we will stop sinful habits (Luke 12:34).

Jesus also knows we are not perfect, and we will still sin and lose faith at times. I know daily God answers prayers that could have altered the course of my entire life if they were not answered. Prayers for safe travels for family, favorable news from an uncertain doctor’s appointment, that a big meeting goes well, and the list goes on. Yet days, hours, or even minutes later I’ve forgotten already, and I’m anxious or nervous about something else! The disciples were no different though, and they even saw Jesus’ direct acts firsthand. Not only did they leave their regular lives to follow Him, but in Luke 9:1-6 He instructs them to leave and take nothing with them as they go to tell others about the Kingdom of God and heal others which they did. Then, in Luke 9:13 right after that, He instructs them to give five thousand people something to eat, and they say they don’t have enough food wondering what they should do. They didn’t even say, “Jesus can you come up with some food like you’ve done before…please perform another miracle.” They just doubted. Yet again, He delivers. Not only does Jesus always satisfy…He even leaves us with leftovers (Luke 9:17).

As we go into this week and think about our own lives and hopefully look to share the Gospel with others, let us not just share the love of Jesus with others we think are ready. In Matthew 19:16-22, a rich young man asks what good deed he must do to have eternal life. Most in our society I believe are wondering the same or think if they do more right then wrong they will earn the favor of God. But, Jesus tells the man there is only One who is good. Let’s make sure they know that they must only do one thing to go to Heaven…follow Him. He gave them, and all of us, that open invitation to do so not only with His words, but with his arms wide open on the cross.

 

Take Root

Matthew 13

Matthew 13 contains 7 parables to help explain faith and the Kingdom of Heaven. We will focus on the parable the sower.

Jesus first tells of seeds which fell along the path and were eaten by birds. He clarifies this is those who hear the message, but don’t understand and accept it. He then tells of seeds that fell on rocky soil. He clarifies that here he is describing those that gladly hear the Good News, but lose faith when trouble and persecution come. The Word did not “sink in” so to speak like the seeds did not sink in the soil. He then tells of seeds that fell among the thorn bushes. These seeds grow up, but are choked out by the worries of this life, the love of riches and the world. Finally, Jesus tells of seeds sown in the good soil which sunk in and bore great grain. This is describing those that hear the message, understand it, and bear fruit by living it out in their everyday lives.

A few years ago I told my wife how thankful I was for the blessings we have received, but that I was also fearful for how I would react when we faced what I perceived as some “real” challenges others have faced. We know that challenges will come because James 1:2 says “when” trials come and not “if.” I had attended church my whole life, but how do we make sure our faith is strong and the seeds are planted deep in the good soil? Is going to church regularly enough? Would that prepare us?

In order for the seeds to be buried deep and take root, we must have a strong relationship with Jesus. In fact, Jesus specifically directs us to do so…

“I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5 ESV

How do we foster that relationship with Him? Find a church that focuses on the Bible and sees it as the truth and never changing with time, despite what modern day culture tries to tell us. Next, be in the Word daily (finding a daily devotional helps) to provide a constant and consistent message of instruction and direction. Be in prayer throughout the day to be in communication with God and keep our heart in the right place. Join a Bible study/small group to create a community of believers and friends that can help facilitate and hold us accountable to growing our relationship with Him and our faith. There are many other great spiritual habits and disciplines. These are just a few we focused on.

Since that conversation, we have faced some new challenges we had not before, and I believe we were better prepared to face those. Putting on the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18) to create a relationship with Jesus allows us to move forward with confidence each day in knowing we are equipped to face trials and tribulations.

So, how do we now make sure we are not like that seeds that grew up among the thorn bushes and are choked out by the love of riches and the world? There is good news. The answer and steps are the same..let the seeds take root deep in the good soil through putting on the armor of God to create a relationship with Jesus!

What is one thing will you focus on in 2017 to strengthen your relationship with Christ?

Follow Me

    “As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.”  And he rose and followed him.  (Matthew 9:9)

     I’ve always been a planner.  September 1 has long been my favorite day of the year, coming just before the beginning of a new school year.  I grew up in New England, so our school year didn’t begin until after Labor Day weekend.   Labor Day itself would usually find me organizing my new school supplies and setting up my planner for the academic year.  I still love September 1  – after going to school for 17 years and then homeschooling for another 16, my love for the beginning of a new school year is probably here to stay.  For the past few years, though, I’ve also come to love the first of January, New Year’s Day, almost as much.  I love the beginning of a new calendar year filled with promise and dreams and plans.

So when I read Matthew 9, our text for today, in which Jesus calls to Matthew as he is working and says simply, “Follow me” – I’m amazed that Matthew simply dropped everything and walked away with Jesus.  I’m amazed, and maybe even a little uncomfortable!  Matthew was a tax collector, a man whose job involved important things like schedules and ledgers and money.  He was probably a planner, too, like me.  Yet Matthew didn’t even question Christ when He called to him to follow.  He didn’t ask, “May I just finish this one thing?”  He didn’t say, “Sure, but I have to come back next week for this reason.” Instead, Matthew stood up and simply walked away from the life he knew to follow a man he did not yet know.

To do as Matthew did would have been a challenge for me, to be sure, and in realizing this, it made me wonder if this step of obedience was difficult for Matthew as well.  I would imagine that it was.  Nonetheless, Matthew stood and followed, and in so doing he set a fine example for me – for all of us, really – to do the same.  In Luke 9:23, Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Clearly, just as Christ called Matthew 2000 years ago, He calls us today – and he expects our response now to be the same as Matthew’s was then.

     Even though today is January 10, and we are already almost two weeks into the new year, I’m still in planning mode, still thinking about the new goals I’ve set for this year and working to make progress on them.  But my study of Matthew 9 has reminded me of Jeremiah 29:11, in which God reminds us that, “I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  God has plans for me – and for you – that far surpass any I have for myself.  So in order to follow Him well, I need to approach any plan I make by first seeking God’s  input and His guidance.  Each plan I make and every goal I set should be placed before Him first, filtered through His perfect plan for me.  I encourage you to do the same!  May we all follow Him well, together.