The Advent Path for God’s People

Today’s Reading: Isaiah 40:1-5

40 Comfort, comfort my people,
says your God.
2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and proclaim to her
that her hard service has been completed,
that her sin has been paid for,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.

3 A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
the way for the Lord[a];
make straight in the desert
a highway for our God.[b]
4 Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain.
5 And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

Happy Tuesday Bible Journal family,

December 1st, 2020. Our last month of this very different year! Let’s continue our daily journey through Advent and the promises found in Isaiah that point to the celebration of the birth of our Lord.  In verses 1-2 written by Isaiah, it provides us a promise of hope and comfort in a time of unease. How are you feeling today?  Anything have you uneasy this morning? I know I could share a few things if you had time. But instead of letting these feelings grab hold of me and pull me under I can find some timely rest in the assurance of our Lord who promises hope, joy, peace, and comfort while already paying the price for all our sins. Romans 5:8 But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

In twenty-five days, we will celebrate the birth of our Lord through Christmas.  We can celebrate today and every day to come the victory has already been won through His life, death, and resurrection.  Our comfort can be found in the words spoken to Israel and us. He reminds us “comfort, comfort, my people“.

Isaiah 40:3-5 provides us with a visual and a reminder about preparing a way in our lives it’s the holiday season to focus on the greatness of our Lord.  We are not alone right now or ever.  Does it feel like you are metaphorically walking around a desert (even though today’s weather by me would feel like a tundra), are you in a valley seeking to try to peek over a horizon? Possibly you are standing on the top of a mountain now wondering how will I ever get down? Or maybe just this year has felt like you have been traveling down a rough path.  Take a deep breath.  Take time to read through these promises we are finding every day in His words.  Promises that say that even in 2020 God has us.  That we have traveled some roads during this time and made many mistakes.  This advent can be a reminder that Jesus came to this world born in human form to live a life for an example of us, but also died for us to live and one day be again with Him in His presence.  This advent more than ever before can provide hope and comfort that our Lord is right by your side every on every rough path, valley, or mountain saying prepare the way. I’m coming back one day for you! What obstacles are standing in your way? Don’t try to face them with our own pride.  As children of God, we must prepare a way for Him.  What an opportunity we have to show others our love, hope, and trust in Him this advent season.  Proclaim the coming of our Lord this start of advent! Have a blessed day.

Dear Lord,

We are all in need of comfort. We know that our only true comfort comes from you. As we live out each day in this Advent season help us to recognize and praise you for the love and sacrifice you made for us.  We love you and pray for us each to draw closer to you and the comfort of your love for us.  Amen

Enjoy this song on this brisk morning.

Spirit of Holiness

Today’s verse is found in the letter from Paul to the Romans.  What an amazing letter that reveals the righteousness of God.  If you haven’t read through Romans in its entirety lately I would recommend it this week.  It not only talks about His righteousness but how God has revealed it to the world.  It also tells us how the good news of the Lord should be revealed to the world.  Guess who that involves? Yes, you and me. Chapters 12-16 provide directives for those who have responded to God’s righteousness and how we can demonstrate these directives in our daily walk.

Our focus today is on the Spirit of Holiness. Romans 1: 4 and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by His resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. 

What I’ve reflected on while thinking of the Spirit of holiness is how wonderfully amazing that this Spirit that was living through Jesus has now been placed in us.  As we pray daily to submit to God’s will it is the Spirit of holiness that helps guide us in our daily decisions in our own walks.  This includes obedience to the will of God.  Alone in this mission, we will miss the mark every time.  But, when we call on the Holy Spirit the work of the Third Person in the Trinity is to make God’s holiness ours. A. W. Tozer wrote in Knowledge of the Holy that this Holiness is made available to us through the blood of the Lamb.

The Holy Spirit, being the Spirit of Christ, is the Spirit of holiness. Hebrews 12:14 says Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

It’s estimated we make 35,000 decisions a day. We need the spirit of holiness in every one of them.  The Holy Spirit doesn’t work on us, He lives in us.  Let’s look at 1 Peter as a reminder about our calling.

 

1 Peter 1:13 – 25 Called to be Holy 

13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action,[b] and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 17 And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, 18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. 20 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you 21 who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave Him glory so that your faith and hope are in God.

22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; 24 for

“All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers and the flower falls, 25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you.

Let the Spirit fill you with this awesome song of praise by Upperroom! 

Mary

Today’s reading is Luke 1:26-56 and Luke 2:1-7 with a focus on Mary.

As I read these verses and reflected, the two words that come to mind are trust and obedience. After the angel Gabriel told her what would happen, she says in Luke 1:28, “….Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” We then see in Luke 1:46-55 she sings song of praise to the Lord. It’s one thing to say in the moment when she was in the presence of the angel Gabriel that she would be a servant of the Lord, but the fact she followed through and continued to praise Him and follow His will is amazing. She could have questioned whether she was dreaming and whether the encounter with Gabriel was truly real. It’s easy to breeze over the fact she was likely ridiculed for being pregnant before marriage, yet she didn’t say “why me” or shed the responsibility God had given her. She says in Luke 1:47 that all generations would call her “blessed.” She embraced and trusted His will for her life.

Many of us have likely walked through an open door or taken a path we thought was God’s will for our life where we told God in prayer that we were his servant, and we would trust and follow Him. Yet, when trials and tribulations come later, we may begin to question whether the path we are now on was really His will, and we may even fall into sin. Again, despite Mary likely receiving much ridicule and embarrassment, she knew the promises in His Word (Luke 1:55) and trusted Him and remained obedient to His plan. We don’t know much about Jesus’ childhood and if He performed miracles or other acts Mary observed which no one else did. But, let’s assume for a moment that Mary did not observe any miracles since the Bible does not tell us she did, Mary still trusted in who the angel Gabriel told her He was years and years later when at the wedding in Cana she spurred Him on to his first miracle we know of by saying in John 2:3, “…They have no wine.” Then, she showed further trust in who He was still when she told the wedding officials in John 2:5, “..Do whatever He tells you.”

As we finish this week, let us reflect on the trust and obedience Mary showed and pray to do the same in our life today despite what might be trying to pull us away.

Saul

Today we get a chance to read and reflect on the life of Saul. I must admit it was a little difficult when thinking back to all the recent people of faith we have been sharing. Another side of me found it hard because of what you will realize about Saul when you read today’s readings of 1Samuel 18-19.

A few nights ago I was up in the middle of the night thinking of the life of Saul in these two chapters, it was marked by disobedience. When you look back at 1 Samuel 15 the Lord was not happy with Saul and how Saul had turned away from the Lord and didn’t follow any instructions from the Lord. He didn’t obey.

1 Samuel 15:22-23 says

“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
as in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, Saul’s
and to listen than the fat of rams.
23 For rebellion is as the sin of divination,
and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
he has also rejected you from being king.”

Once Saul made the decisions to not obey the Lord. Evil entered Saul’s body. 1 Samuel 18:10. Then enters fear, jealousy, and selfish desires to have David killed. Saul tries this numerous times but without success. My wish was that we would read further and see how this disobedience changed, but we don’t. Saul continues to live his life this way eventually losing everything and even taking his own life. 1 Samuel 31

There are many things we want to do, places to go-lives to change. But I realize that the first action God wants from us is to obey. God has given us His Living Word so we know exactly what He desires from us. As I looked in the back of my bible for the word obey, obedient, obeyed, obeying there are 116 (if I counted correctly) verses on obeying the Lord or His word. I encourage you to look at this in the back of your bible now. Here is one of my favorite verses.

He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” — Luke 11:28

I just want to obey. I need prayer for this daily. We see the results of what happens when we don’t. When we allow ourselves to make the decisions. We stumble and fear, jealousy, or selfishness enters. When we obey, we will receive His blessings. When we obey, others we are blessed. When we obey the Lord, we will never be disappointed.

What’s your go-to verse on obedience? Do you have one?  Look back and find one that speaks to you today.

Dear Heavenly Father,
Just like I ask my own children daily to obey me, please help me to obey you. Our temporal world speaks lies that we can do it ourselves and that our way is right, but we see and know that the only way is through you. God, we ask for a mind, heart, and body that says yes to all the things you ask and desire through your Living Word.
Amen

Rome at last

Today’s Reading: Acts 28:16-31

During the summer months many people attempt and make successful family trips to various places. Some may be right in your backyard while others take you to far off exotic places.  Now, I’m not even going to try to connect these trip to that of Paul’s journey to Rome in Acts 28, but want to just dig a little deeper into Paul’s legal trip to Rome and highlight the influence he had in a specific place God divinely brought him to, in order to influence others.

Mindset’s, or lets say faith-sets make a difference. Paul’s trip to Rome was a “legal matter“, he was a ward of the military system and placed on house arrest and guarded in Rome for two years. What did he do? Paul thanked God, he took courage. verse 15 This wasn’t the way Paul planned to reach Rome but knew God had blessed him by allowing him to get there.

What is my response?  So…maybe the trip you take for work, or the family vacation to “not your ideal location“, or a stay at the your in-laws or your own extended family is like house arrest or a trip that you don’t have any control over.  Maybe its sitting at the practice or game with other parents? Talking outside with neighbors?  Either way, let’s make these summer trips or even just our daily routines like we have the mindset of Paul.  Our journey today may not include chains, being shipwrecked, and the many other trials in a physical sense or maybe it has? We all have a story and trials we face daily. So if it has felt that way like it did for Paul, trust that God is working all things out for good (Romans 8:28) for you as well.  God may not always allow us to feel comfortable and secure, but He provides us the opportunity to do His work.  Look at the work Paul was doing. When our journey is feeling difficult, we need to lean in a little closer to God and trust in His plan for our varied journey’s or storms like Lynden mentioned yesterday.

God called Paul to see and speak with both Jews and Gentiles in Romes.  Paul knew that the hearts of the people were calloused, ears were dull for hearing, and their eyes were closed (Acts 28:26-27) still, Paul would speak of God and speak of the glorious message that can convert a heart,can heal deafness, or any loss of sight. This is the same message that have changed our hearts, opened our eyes, and opened our ears to hear His Living Word.   These verses are originally quoted in Isaiah 6:9-10 where God was using Isaiah in Jerusalem to convert hearts.

God uses Paul, He used Isaiah, He is using us to share His message.  That even today in the spaces and places where it may seem hard or not favorable to share because of hardened hearts, closed ears, and blind eyes. Jesus will use His words spoken through us to convert, change, and heal those who are hurting. Those who feel like they have nowhere to go. Those who have lost all trust and faith in others… you can point them t to God.  Maybe this was your story? I know it was mine.

This summer we have some mini trips planned, many days will be spent around our home and neighborhood. some days will be spent at work, at the pool, practices or games.  Although, we may not be on house arrest, the fact is that without others knowing about God and His love for us, many will be in a lot worse place then jail for eternity. I’m humbled and amazed to think that Paul wrote letters like Ephesians, Colossians, and Philippians, (the Prison Epistles) during this time. Paul wrote these letters for the millions that have read them through the centuries, he wrote them for you and me. Paul wrote while changing the hearts of many who were in his presence in these years at Rome.  Rome, a place that had many gods, similar to the many gods that we can focus on today.  Let’s not let these worldly things get in our way.  Let’s take today, and every day in our short lives here on Earth to preach about the Kingdom of God, and those things which concern the Lord Jesus, with all boldness and without hindrance.

Welcome to Rome biblejournal family, don’t worry about the words to say, God is with you, go with boldness.

 

What Are You Waiting For?

Joshua 18 & Proverbs 18

Chapter 18 of Joshua continues with the land division process for the final seven of the twelve tribes.  BAM!  Joshua hits them right between the eyes with his question of What Are You Waiting For?, as he charges the tribes to go get what God has given them!  I love the different ways this question is asked in the different versions of verse 3:

  • How long are ye slack…King James
  • How long will you put off…English Standard
  • How long will you wait…New International

We do not know WHY they’re slack – or HOW LONG they planned to put it off.  We do know that Joshua doesn’t mince words and clearly he wanted them to get a move on it.  I wonder if their reasons for waiting are much like mine?

  • Comfortable – were they cozy in their current stomping grounds and life was going along okay – why shake up the apple cart?
  • Fearful – were they concerned about some of the current inhabitants of the land and wanted to avoid conflict?
  • Doubting – did they question if the Lord REALLY intended this land for them? Really, God?  THIS land, for US, right NOW?
  • Unsure to Start – maybe they were ready and willing, but genuinely didn’t know WHAT to do first. Were they waiting around for someone to give them their marching orders?

What has the Lord given you that you need to take hold of? Do you have a gift or talent ready to be used for His Kingdom? Has He put a promise in your heart that you need to BELIEVE today?  Does He have something that will bring you much joy and delight?

I can think of a specific time in my life when God put it on my heart to take the next big step in healing a relationship.  While I felt God calling me to this deeper level of healing, it was definitely uncomfortable and didn’t feel like the easiest road.  In addition to the doubts I had about myself and if this was even possible, I also didn’t know HOW or WHAT to do FIRST.

When we are called to a purpose or given something to take hold of, God doesn’t promise it to be easy and without trials.  He promises to be WITH US through it. He will guide us – sometimes right through the center of a mess, that brings us to a deeper reliance and rest in Him. He will surround us with His presence when we do not know what to do.  He will place His Word on our heart that will speak to us. He will send brothers and sisters to minister to us and share wisdom.

I love how Joshua sends out 3 men from each tribe to do the survey of the land so he can assign the 7 parts for the 7 remaining tribes.  What great wisdom! Parents have experienced this with kids – they’re more likely to split a cookie evenly when they know someone else will be choosing who gets which half.  Twenty-one sets of eyes are better than seven. I wonder how many of Joshua’s decisions were impacted by the gained wisdom from the decades spent with Moses. In addition to the Holy Spirit and the Living Word, God uses His people to pass down wisdom to future generations.

Proverbs 18 is full of challenges for us seek wisdom and understanding before taking action and opening our mouths.

He that separateth himself seeketh his own desire,
And rageth against all sound wisdom.
A fool hath no delight in understanding,
But only that his heart may reveal itself.
A fool’s mouth is his destruction,
And his lips are the snare of his soul.
The words of a whisperer are as dainty morsels,
And they go down into the innermost parts.
13 He that giveth answer before he heareth,
It is folly and shame unto him.
15The heart of the prudent getteth knowledge;
And the ear of the wise seeketh knowledge.

Just like Moses to Joshua, and Joshua to the Israelites, God has surrounded me with wisdom-sharing people,  especially when I needed it.  At an early age, I had a mentor counsel me (drill into me) the importance of seeking wisdom, staying coachable and ‘easy to help’.  He taught me to proactively seek  feedback and surround myself with experienced Godly people. Over the years,  I’ve leaned on this huge life lesson.

Back to Joshua’s original question for us: What are we waiting for? When will we take hold of what God has for us? Let’s move forward with wisdom!

Thank You Lord, for your gifts. Thank you for making Your wisdom available to all of us.  Help us to seek wisdom through Your Living Word and surround us with believers to point us to You.  Amen.

Salvation Test

In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.  – 1John 3:10

The NIV starts verse 10 out this way, ‘This is how we know’.  All throughout Scripture, obedience and love are the hallmarks of a true believer.  1 John 3:10 answers the question every believer should test themselves on: how do I know that I am saved?

God assures believers of their salvation through the Spirit. (1John 3:24)  A believer’s renewed heart compels them to obey the will of the Father in obedience to His word and to love God and others in deed and truth.  The presence of Christ in a believer is unmistakable to them over time.

And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us. – 1John 3:24

Obedience and love.  Like all of Scripture, 1 John chapter 3 continues to return to these two hallmarks of a believer.  As you read through today’s Scripture: 1 John 3 and Psalm 41, be on the lookout for these.  As you enjoy the fellowship of Christ today, feel the Spirit leading you to obedience and love.  

If you have not committed your life to Christ, placed your trust in Him alone and repented from trusting in all other promises, imagine for a moment what your day would be like if you had.  Your whole life made new.  Ever going with a Companion who will reign in your heart and will never leave you.  A companion who is Master over all, King of Kings, who leads you beside still waters in righteousness, who makes you to lie down in green pastures. 

 

Refreshed

“Make room for us in your hearts” (2 Corinthians 7:2). Paul writes this toward the beginning of Chapter 7 of 2 Corinthians, and I just love it. First, a bit of context. It would never have occurred to me that some may not have welcomed Paul upon his arrival in Macedonia, where the Corinthian church was located. But many did not! In fact, Paul tells us, “Even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn – fighting without and fear within” (2 Corinthians 7:5). Paul and his companions were tired and troubled. Can you relate? I know I can.

It’s interesting to note how Paul responds when he is exhausted and stressed. First, he knows the source of his comfort: God. Next, Paul explains the means by which God comforted him: “(God) comforted us by the arrival of Titus”. Knowing Paul was stretched thin personally and professionally, God sent a brother in the faith to encourage him. Take a minute to think about when God has sent someone to you at a time when you really needed encouragement. I remember when I was going through a difficult time, my college roommate arrived on my doorstep – uninvited, after driving for an hour in the middle of a New England winter! And this was before cell phones – so she wasn’t even sure I’d be home! But she showed up. She listened. She encouraged me. She made me laugh. And when she left for work the next morning, I felt comforted. God sent her to me, knowing I needed encouragement.

Did you think of someone who encouraged you? Perhaps you might call or send them a quick text thanking them for comforting you.

Paul also notes that Titus himself was encouraged by the Corinthian people. The very people who Paul was ministering to encouraged the person sent to comfort Paul! Listen to what Paul writes: “And besides our own comfort, we rejoiced still more at the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all.” (2 Corinthians 7:13) Could my friend possibly have been encouraged by me as well, as Titus was by the Corinthians? I’m not sure – I certainly was more focused on receiving than giving comfort at that time in my life. But maybe I did encourage her in some way, and maybe someone who encouraged you also received comfort from you, or those around you, at the same time.

Finally, Paul notes that he himself was encouraged when the Corinthian people encouraged Titus. Paul writes, “But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you…so that I rejoiced still more.” (2 Corinthians 7:6-7) What a full-circle idea! Paul is troubled and tired. God sends Titus to encourage Paul. The Corinthians encourage Titus, and this fact also encourages Paul. Amazing!

How can we apply this to our own lives? First, we must look for ways that God wants to use us to comfort and encourage others. And when He calls us to do so, we must respond. Second – and this is perhaps even more difficult – we must be open to receiving comfort and encouragement. So many of us – me included – have a difficult time asking for help, or receiving it when it is offered. Perhaps if we consider the help a divine intervention from God, we will be more ready and willing to accept it, and allow ourselves to be refreshed.

Lost Letters

Have you ever talked with someone about things in their life that were hurting them? It could have been alcohol, drugs, abuse, lying, meanness… the list can go on.  Maybe you have taken it even a step further and intentionally took time to mentor, coach, or were directive and intentional about sharing steps to help lead that person to a place that would change their life for the positive. Prayerfully eternal changes.  Really, a life closer to God.

If you have children I know this is part of our daily parenting.  Besides our own children who we will leave our biggest impact on, who are you filling into? Who are you guiding, planting seeds of hope, and eternal future?  Personally,  I know I can and need to be more intentional in my conversations and recognize the need from others. To be more courageous in sharing God’s love. I plan to use some of the tips shared yesterday from Jillian in The Last Word is Love.

Next question, has there been a time where you were mentoring and it seemed like it had worked? Like it was all good.  Coaching success!  Then unfortunately, you find out they are back to their old ways.  The bad habit had crept back in and the pressures of our worldly desires or influences took hold and brought them back to where they were, maybe worse.  Then to top it off, the person you were pouring into was making negative comments about you and your motives.  I personally can relate, I’ve been on both sides of this fence.  Most of my younger years the wrong side of the fence. This is where Paul was when he started to write 2 Corinthians. Paul was feeling saddened, frustrated, displeased at the church he had founded just four years earlier. He thought they had listened and his previous letter giving specific instructions to moral issues. In this letter Paul shows courage to speak up to those who were slandering him and his ministry, Paul defends our God against those who were twisting the truth.

In referring to a couple study bibles on the themes for 2 Corinthians here are reflecting points as we read and reflect.

  • Suffering/Trials – Paul had experienced it all.  Suffering, persecution, he paid a price for service to Christ and the gospel. 2 Cor. 6:3-13,  2 Cor. 11:16 -33. Reminder – God is faithful. He will provide the strength we need for any trial.
  • Giving – 2 Cor. 8 and 9 Paul lays out detailed ways of giving. Reminder for us is our giving and generosity of whatever helps those in need and allows them to thank God.
  • Sound Doctrine/Apologetic’s – Paul shares how to represent Christ. The boldness to share the gospel and boast in the grace that we have all received.  Paul does all this with Love.  2 Cor. 12:7-10

As we read through 2 Corinthians notice how Paul affirms, defends, and stands up to false teachers. Corinth was full of people who wanted to do everything their own way.  Making others look bad by talking about them.  Paul reminds them, he reminds us, that they are a new creation, ambassadors for Christ. 2 Cor. 5:17-20.  That in all the stress, anxieties that they go through, that we go through, it is encouraging to know that God has a divine plan for us to be part of His eternal kingdom.  So our mission while in this temporal world is to point others that way and to please Him.  2 Cor. 5:9

I recently read that Paul had written 2 other letters to the Corinthians and now they are physically lost.  Let’s not lose these and their instructions for us.

 

Dear Father,

As we read your word today we pray for the courage of Paul to always want to please you.  To be ambassadors for you and to let others know about the grace you have given us and them. That these worldly desires that the Corinthians face and we face today are temporal, and that the indescribable gift of a “new creation” covered by Your love is available to everyone.  We pray for obedience in all we do and a heart that will boast of Your love and goodness always.  We pray to listen and follow Your will until the day you come to take us home to you. Amen

 

References:

Tyndale Life Applications Study Bible

The Jeremiah Study Bible

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.