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Category Archives: Matthew

Matthew 2:1-2

Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.”
Matthew 2:1-2

Dear God, it’s amazing to me how I can still learn things from this story that are either new to me or I’ve been wrong about. In the case of this story, there is something in the way the story has been told/songs have been written that I learned just yesterday isn’t actually in the text. How many wise men were there? We’re they initially following a star? The text is neither specific about their number (there could have been two, there could have been 200) nor that they were “following a star” (until something guides them to Mary’s and Jospeh’s home in Jerusalem). But at this point, they were an indeterminate number of men reading a celestial sign from a prophecy.

Why is this important to me this morning? It’s simply a reminder that I’m an ignorant person and my theology is flawed by my own biases and flawed teaching I’ve received from others. It humbles me and affirms that I haven’t figured you out, and I haven’t figured life out. I’m just a guy who is loving you as best I can for the simple reason that you have proven faithful to offer me peace and forgiveness, mercy and instruction when I need it. You are worthy of my worship, and worshipping you makes my life better.

Father, I celebrate you. I celebrate everything I know about you and the fact that there is so much I don’t know or understand. You are my God. I am your child. Thank you.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on December 21, 2021 in Matthew

 

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Matthew 11:12-13

And from the time John the Baptist began preaching until now, the Kingdom of Heaven has been forcefully advancing, and violent people are attacking it. For before John came, all the prophets and the law of Moses looked forward to this present time.
Matthew 11:12-13

Dear God, we are so ignorant. Jesus is talking here about the Kingdom of Heaven forcefully advancing, and I’m sure the people listening interpreted his words to mean that revolution was coming. They would have been shocked to learn that John was about to die, and Jesus wouldn’t be terribly far behind him.

So we have the wrong image of what “advancing” looks like. For us, advancing looks like power, influence and control. For you, it seems like advancing looks like enacting an unseen plan that might look like losing. I go back to Andy Stanley’s sermon from August 2020, Not in it to Win It. And I can take that concept and apply it to every area of my life—not just politics. What does your Kingdom advancing in the lives of my children look like? What about my work? My marriage? My relationships with family? The politics of our community or our country. My intelligence tells me that the fastest way to get where I think things should be is a straight line, but maybe we have to take what looks like losses so that we can ultimately be part of your Kingdom advancing.

Father, I don’t even need to understand your plan. I never could anyway. I just need to be faithful and trust you. Help me to trust you, worship you, and give you glory for everything you’ve done that I can and cannot see. You are my God, and I am grateful for you.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on December 10, 2021 in Matthew

 

Matthew 8:5-13

When Jesus returned to Capernaum, a Roman officer came and pleaded with him, “Lord, my young servant lies in bed, paralyzed and in terrible pain.” Jesus said, “I will come and heal him.” But the officer said, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come into my home. Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed. I know this because I am under the authority of my superior officers, and I have authority over my soldiers. I only need to say, ‘Go,’ and they go, or ‘Come,’ and they come. And if I say to my slaves, ‘Do this,’ they do it.” When Jesus heard this, he was amazed. Turning to those who were following him, he said, “I tell you the truth, I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel! And I tell you this, that many Gentiles will come from all over the world—from east and west—and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the feast in the Kingdom of Heaven. But many Israelites—those for whom the Kingdom was prepared—will be thrown into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Then Jesus said to the Roman officer, “Go back home. Because you believed, it has happened.” And the young servant was healed that same hour.
Matthew 8:5-13

Dear God, so faith is more important than sinlessness. I find this story interesting because we are talking about a sick slave here and Jesus doesn’t seem to care about the slave part. He had a goal and a mission. He had a limited amount of time. T

here were all kinds of societal issues of the day he didn’t address. I guess it is significant to examine what his priorities seemed to be: Faith, love, no hypocrisy, repentance, caring for poor, etc. He didn’t seem to even notice Rome or its power over everyone. He was grassroots, bottom-up, not top-down.

Father, help me to start with the basics Jesus taught and then build everything else in my life upon those things. Help me to create a foundation of repentance, faith, love, caring food the poor and no hypocrisy. Then I can put up walls that includes loving my family and those around me. I can put on a roof that sees me serving my community. And ultimately I will have a house that represents you to the world and invites them in to build the same for themselves—from the ground up.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on November 29, 2021 in Matthew

 

Matthew 6:33

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided to you.

Matthew 6:33

Dear God, a couple of months ago I started to see the idea of your Kingdom coming as something we have to wait for as possibly errant. Perhaps it’s something we have to wait for and something that’s already here. Perhaps you want your kingdom to come into the world today. At this moment. Through me. Through your body.

So when Jesus tells me to seek first your kingdom and righteousness and then these things will me added to me, he’s once again encouraging me to be about your kingdom coming into the earth in this moment. When I take my eyes off of myself, and even the needs of food and clothing Jesus mentions in the previous verses, when I stop the worrying Jesus is talking about here, and simply seek to keep myself pure and love everyone I can, doing the work the Holy Spirit calls me to do, then something special can happen. To quote the hymn, “the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of [your] glory and grace.”

Father, I have a budget meeting for work today. We are going to be talking about growth for next year. New programs. Helping others. Helping more people in new ways. It will obviously cost money and people resources. Help us. Help us, Holy Spirit, to ask good questions, be humble in the answers we seek, and find the best path for your kingdom to be here on earth, or at least in our community, as much as possible. Help us to do it for your glory and not ours. Give us your eyes, and make us about your righteousness and glory, not our own agenda.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on September 27, 2021 in Matthew

 

Matthew 23:15-16

“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you cross land and sea to make one convert, and then you turn that person into twice the child of hell you yourselves are!

“Blind guides! What sorrow awaits you! For you say that it means nothing to swear ‘by God’s Temple,’ but that it is binding to swear ‘by the gold in the Temple.’”
Matthew 23:15-16

Dear God, this is just one small section of the daily gospel reading for some denominations today, but it struck me as I read it this morning. It’s a reminder to not take lightly being your ambassador. If I represent you to others around me and I draw others to you, am I showing them the real you? Am I suggesting wrong things about you?

Even as I publicly journal some of my prayers to you, do I pray errant things that mislead some who read them? My original motivation in starting this was to hopefully encourage some people to do their own prayer journal. To sit down and think through what your scripture might be saying to them personally. Has the public part of this journal morphed, even in my own heart, into something I use to pontificate and try to teach what I think I’m learning from you? Have I harmed your children through misunderstood lessons you’ve tried to teach me?

Father, my encouragement for the world is that they be followers of you and not just believers in you. I think of the people around the world right now, especially in Afghanistan, who are killing in your name. It’s hard to imagine them being true followers of you, the God of Abraham. I see them much like I see those “Christians” who stormed the capital on January 6. They were believers, but I doubt they were followers. So help us to all follow you. Show me the role you have for me to play in your kingdom today so that it can come to earth and so your will can be done on earth. Come, oh Lord!

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on August 23, 2021 in Matthew

 

Matthew 6:13a

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil
Matthew 6:13a (KJV)

Dear God, before I get into this verse, I want to talk a little about my experience at church this morning. In fact, I might end up spending all of my time on this and the verse can wait until tomorrow.

Although I am not Catholic, I attend Catholic mass with my wife. Once or twice a month she is the canter, so she leads in the songs and the psalm. When she does this, I sit in the pew right in front of where she stands so that we can sit with each other when she is not up front. The way the church is laid out, and being a Catholic Church, there is a practically life-sized crucifix right in front of that pew. From my seat, I can literally reach out and touch Jesus’s feet if I want. Normally, I will look up at Jesus during the service. Or during the “Gloria” song I will look at the painting at the top of the church that shows Jesus on his heavenly throne. It is always an interesting juxtaposition to see the crucified Jesus in the foreground and the exalted Jesus in the background. I like the imagery of it.

Today, however, was different. I couldn’t bring myself to look up. I just looked at his feet, with the spike through them and blood tastefully painted on them (nothing too gory). For whatever reason, I didn’t want to approach Jesus with any feelings of equality today. I wanted to be there as if I were really in Jesus’s presence. How would I react if that were really Jesus? How would I act if Jesus was standing in front of me? My answer was that I wouldn’t be able to look up. My eyes would probably only be able to look at his feet—his bloody, hole-filled feet. So during the service I only looked at his feet, and when I knelt on the kneeler to pray, I was literally on my knees at the foot of the cross. The prayers I offered to you seemed to take on a new meaning today. I don’t know that I’ll ever look at praying and worshipping from that particular seat in the same way again.

So now, as I come to you and ask that you lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from evil, how serious am I about that prayer? Am I thinking of it as kind of an abstract request that isn’t realistic, or am I at the foot of your cross, looking only at your feet—the feet of your son whom you sacrificed—asking for mercy as I make my way through life? What do I do to keep myself out of temptations way? Do I make your job impossible? And when I have evil being done around me or to me, either passively or aggressively, is my prayer truly that you would be my protector, or do I take it upon myself to avenge the wrongs done around me?

Father, as I pray to you right now, I am doing I my best to put myself literally at the foot of your cross. I am asking that you truly keep me from temptation. Open my eyes to it. Open my eyes to my own foolishness. And the only evil I feel I have a right to ask that you keep me from is the evil that Satan wants to do to my soul. All other evils done around me or to me might just be part of your kingdom coming and your will being done on earth as they are in heaven. So take my life, Lord, and let it be consecrated, Lord, to thee.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on July 29, 2021 in Matthew, The Lord's Prayer

 

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The Lord’s Prayer — Matthew 6:12b

… as we forgive our debtors.
Matthew 6:12b (KJV)

Dear God, this isn’t groundbreaking theology, but it’s still worth noting: the key concept Jesus included in this prayer is represented by the word “as.” Because I think this word is so important, I doublechecked several translations (NIV, NAS, and NLT) and they all used the same word: as. I think my thoughts are in two directions as it pertains to this passage:

  1. What kind of forgiveness do you offer me that I am supposed to offer others? As I think about yours and my relationship, it occurs to me that you do expect something on my part. You expect humility. You expect repentance. Now, there are times when I don’t know that I’ve sinned and grieved you. But there are other times when I know I have sinned against you and others. There is a reason that the AA 12-step program includes making amends when it won’t do harm to the other person. But there is a step of repentance on my part before relationship with you can be whole. I can’t just walk obstinately doing what I want and then expect to be in relationship with you. The Prodigal Son was not in relationship with his father until he came to the end of himself and repented. And I’m not talking about heaven, hell, and what happens in the afterlife. I’m talking about right now. An important part of my daily relationship with you is humbling myself before you in relation to who you are and the things I’ve done wrong and then asking your forgiveness. Of course, you are quick to forgive me because you love me. So is that my model for the forgiveness I’m supposed to extend to others? That leads me to my next question.
  2. Where do I draw the line when it comes to releasing someone vs. staying in relationship with them? If I am to forgive 70 X 7, does that mean I should just continually take abuse and absorb the wrongs someone else does to me when they are either repentant but incapable of change (I think that’s the 70 X 7 one) as opposed to the person who simply does whatever they want regardless of how it impacts me?

I spent some time with a woman yesterday whose husband is a severe alcoholic. She has school-aged children and finally told him to leave a couple of weeks ago. He would promise to change but never would. Finally, for her own sanity she had to make a hard decision for her and her children.

As for me, I have some incredible anger right now towards loved ones who have repeatedly done the same thing to me over and over again for the last 20+ years. And they’ve never really asked forgiveness for any of it, but I’ve tried to keep showing mercy and grace. Now, however, this last offense has left me wondering if I made a mistake to not walk away 23 years ago. Have I been foolish to try to maintain relationship? Did it cost more than it should have?

Father, maybe I need to understand more of how you forgive me before I can understand how I am supposed to forgive others. I love others. I truly love the people who have wronged me. But if there is no humility–if there is no remorse–is it possible to be in relationship? It seems to me that the answer in my relationship with you is, no, if you have made me aware of my wrong and I do not repent then our relationship while I am on this side of heaven is impacted. So I am sorry. I’m sorry for the hurt I’ve caused you. I’m sorry for the hurt I’ve caused others. Please help me to be willing to examine my heart and my actions as I am confronted with any of these things so that I might be part of your kingdom coming to earth and your will being done on earth as it is in heaven.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on July 26, 2021 in Matthew, The Lord's Prayer

 

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The Lord’s Prayer — Matthew 6:12a

And forgive us our debts,…
Matthew 6:12a (KJV)

Dear God, I started this verse and almost focused on the second part, skipping over the first, so I decided to avoid my mistake of skipping over “Our Father which art in heaven” and going straight to “hallowed be thy name” in verse 9. I don’t want to miss Jesus’s instruction that we should ask forgiveness of you.

The humility to ask forgiveness of you is the first step on the road to discipleship. None of us can come to you in our own power or under our own authority. None of us can stand up before you. You are good and perfect. We are flawed and sinful. You are loving. I am too sensitive and get my fragile ego hurt too easily. I need your mercy. I need your grace. I need you to forgive my debts against you and against others.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that one of the steps in a 12-step program is for a person working the steps to make amends when it won’t do harm to do so. And there are certainly times when it would do harm. But the humility it takes to come before you and before another person to ask forgiveness is an essential element, if not a huge part of the foundation, of the Christian life.

I still remember hearing a politician who called himself a Christian telling an interviewer before a large Christian audience that he had never felt the need to ask you for forgiveness. He had had multiple divorces and affairs. He had left creditors hanging with unpaid debt. Heck, even without all of those things, he was an imperfect human. I was very confused with the audience applauded his answer.

Father, forgive me of my debts, please. We will get to what I need to do about others’ debts to me tomorrow, but for the debts I owe to you and to those around me, please forgive me. I am sorry. I’m sorry I fail you. I’m sorry I hurt others for my own gain. I’m sorry I sometimes pick the path of least resistance for my own comfort and at the expense of others. I’m sorry I sometimes take revenge on others for the wrongs done to me (that gets into tomorrow’s verse, but it counts for today as well). Thank you that the man who taught us to pray all of this is the pathway to you. Thank you that I can stand before you on his authority and with his blessing. Thank you for making a way for me to reach you.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on July 25, 2021 in Matthew, The Lord's Prayer

 

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The Lord’s Prayer — Matthew 6:11

Give us this day our daily bread.
Matthew 6:11 (KJV)

Dear God, what does my daily bread look like? On the surface, I think it communicates that it provides for my basic physical needs: food, shelter, clothing. So to what extent should we be satisfied if those things are met? When is enough enough?

I have a vested interest in the current Big 12 Conference situation since the school I attended will likely get lost in the shuffle. This morning, I read an article about OU and Texas wanting more. For Texas’s part, they are already the wealthiest program in the nation, generating the most revenue. But that apparently is not enough. They want more. And I’m not blaming them. The school I went to has enough, but I want more for it too. We seemingly always want more.

But Jesus didn’t seem to want more in terms of material things. It’s important, I think, to notice what is not in his prayer. He did NOT say, “Give me influence. Give me power. Make my name great so I can make your name great.” He just kept it at the basics. After we ask for your will to be done (see verse 10) then we simply ask for your provision of our basics so that our greed will not get in the way of accomplishing your will.

I mentioned the material basics. What are the other parts of our daily bread about which we don’t normally think? For example, someone to love us. Someone to love. Work to do. I think those things can be as important and critical to our lives as the food, shelter, and clothing that sustain us.

Father, show me what my daily bread is, and help me to be completely satisfied within its provision. Thank you for the food, shelter, and clothing I have. Thank you that I feel safe in my day-to-day life. I don’t experience racism because I’m a white male. Please help to be sensitive to the daily bread that others around me don’t experience and show me my role in being part of your provision to them. Whether it be through giving of material things or the other needs they have, please help me to be your ambassador, your hands, your feet, your ears, and your heart for them. And the them includes my wife, children, family, friends, and the strangers I meet.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on July 24, 2021 in Matthew, The Lord's Prayer

 

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The Lord’s Prayer — Matthew 6:10

Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Matthew 6:10 (KJV)

Dear God, I confess that I have zero idea what it would look like to see your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. What was Jesus envisioning here? Was it literal, or was it a combo with the idea of your will being done on earth? Well, anyway, if it makes a difference, I ask that your kingdom would come. Is it the end of the time you’ve prescribed for the earth to live without your kingdom in it? Is the the hour? I doubt it. But Jesus seems to have instructed me to ask for it, and I can’t say I’ve ever asked. So please let your kingdom come.

As for your will, we’ll, that does seem like a whole different thing altogether now that I think about it. If we are living among the earthly kingdoms and not yours then your will might look very different than what I want it to be. In an imperfect world, I might not get my perfect outcomes. The butterfly effect of how the things you might have to do to accomplish your ultimate goals is much more than my feeble brain can comprehend. Heck, I can’t even figure out how Baylor will come out of the collapse of the Big 12. How could I possibly discern what actions are required to accomplish your will being done here on earth as it is in heaven? But I do know I trust in submitting to your plan. It might mean seeing things in my life I don’t understand and don’t like. For my children. My wife. My family of origin. My work. My own life, including health, financial security, and career. All of it is up for grabs, but part of the peace I’ve found comes from submitting all of my will to the idea that your will being done on earth as it is in heaven is worth overriding my will.

Father, help me to actually believe and live the words I just typed above. Help me to want to see beyond my selfish desires—both for me and for the ones I love—and be at peace regardless of the circumstances. Let me be part of your kingdom coming to earth. Let me be part of your will being done on earth. My utmost for your highest. I’m sorry I turn that around so often and ask that you give your utmost for my highest. I’m sorry.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on July 23, 2021 in Matthew, The Lord's Prayer

 

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