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Category Archives: Matthew

Matthew 26:36-46

The above image is title “Christ on the Mount of Olives” and was created by Ernst Barlach. It is picture here as part of Revealed: A Storybook Bible for Grown-Ups by Ned Bustard.

36 Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.” 37 He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. 38 He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

39 He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

40 Then he returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? 41 Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!”

42 Then Jesus left them a second time and prayed, “My Father! If this cup cannot be taken away[f] unless I drink it, your will be done.” 43 When he returned to them again, he found them sleeping, for they couldn’t keep their eyes open.

44 So he went to pray a third time, saying the same things again. 45 Then he came to the disciples and said, “Go ahead and sleep. Have your rest. But look—the time has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Up, let’s be going. Look, my betrayer is here!”

Matthew 26:36-46

Dear God, since I just came from a marriage conference this weekend and I came across this image this morning, I can’t help but go to Ephesians 5:25

25 For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her.

This picture embodies what I am supposed to do for my wife. Everyone focuses on the other verses in Ephesians 5 and freaks out over the instructions for wives (which are probably misinterpreted to some extent), but they don’t think about this image. I should love my wife so much that I’m willing to be put in this position for her. Jesus gave no excuse. I have no excuse. No matter what, this is what you call me to do. Who you call me to be. This is my duty regardless of what my emotions tell me. In fact, for husbands, this might be the most important image in this book.

As I look closely at the image I see vague images of people strewn through it. They are probably intended to be the disciples sleeping while Jesus is in anguish. I thought they could also represent the people of the world for whom he is submitting to this pain, anguish and torment. He will literally be separated from his consubstantiality with you at some point. His physical human body will not longer be part of the divine. For that moment, he will be giving it all for me. For his church. For his bride.

And what if my wife doesn’t get it? What if she is like the disciples who are sleeping in the background, completely unappreciative of what Jesus is doing? Not that my wife is any of these things, because she really is the best. But what if? Am I called to be any less than Jesus was in this moment?

Father, it was a really good conference. I pray now that your Holy Spirit will move in our community through it. Move from the bottom up. It’s obvious not many of the pastors or spiritual leaders in our community were interested in this. So this movement will depend upon those whom you led to come. Help them to carry you into their hearts, minds, souls, and bodies today. Help them to carry you and what we learned into their marriages and give them new insights into not only their own lives, but also the lives of friends and loved ones. Let the older women teach the younger. The older men teach the younger men as well. And may the man my daughter ultimately marries be Jesus for her. Let that be her standard for the man who is good enough for her. The man she deserves. And may my son learn to be Jesus for his eventual wife. And, oh yeah, let’s not forget about me. Help me to be exactly who you need me to be for my wife as well.

I offer all of this under the power and authority granted to me by the grace of Jesus,

Amen

 

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Matthew 6:22-23

“Your eye is like a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is filled with light. But when your eye is unhealthy, your whole body is filled with darkness. And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is!
Matthew 6:22-33

Dear God, I looked at a couple of translations of this passage this morning because I wanted to make sure I was reading it right. This translation above is from the New Living Translation. It is what I read first, but I actually think I like it the best. It basically says, to me, that what I take into my body through my eyes (I would add through my ears as well) will color my entire being. If I take in hate, fear, lustful things, greed, gluttony, etc. then my being will be colored by those things. If the shows I watch, the podcasts I listen to, the music I listen to, the news I consume is filled with these things then I cannot help but be tainted by them. I wonder what the things people took in through their eyes to which Jesus was referring here were like 2,000 years ago. What kinds of things did they consume?

So what does a life look like that is dedicated to only allowing light into my body. Sadly, I cannot use my own life as an example because, while I let a lot of your light in during the day, it’s not exclusively your light. It’s not all about you. I listen to some secular music. I watch some secular movies that include violence, sex that does not reflect your intent, hate, prejudice, covetousness, etc. I don’t consume too much news, so I have that going for me.

Father, a good first step would probably be that I would allow more light in that darkness. At the end of each day, it would be nice if I could look back and see that I saw and heard things that reflected your majesty, glory, and light than I looked at things of the world. So help me to do that. Help me to let your light in today. Do it all for my good and your glory.

I pray in your name, the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit,

Amen

 
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Posted by on January 9, 2023 in Matthew

 

Matthew 11:28

28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 

Matthew 11:28

Dear God, this is the verse of the day for Bible Gateway, but it’s so easy to take it out of context. All of chapter 11 is one scene, and verse 28 is just Jesus’s closing words for the crowd. Here’s the rest of the scene–the reference for what Jesus is saying:

John the Baptist, who was in prison, heard about all the things the Messiah was doing. So he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?”

Jesus told them, “Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen— the blind see, the lame walk, those with leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor.” And he added, “God blesses those who do not fall away because of me.”

As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began talking about him to the crowds. “What kind of man did you go into the wilderness to see? Was he a weak reed, swayed by every breath of wind? Or were you expecting to see a man dressed in expensive clothes? No, people with expensive clothes live in palaces. Were you looking for a prophet? Yes, and he is more than a prophet. 10 John is the man to whom the Scriptures refer when they say,

‘Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
    and he will prepare your way before you.’

11 “I tell you the truth, of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John the Baptist. Yet even the least person in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he is! 12 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. 13 For before John came, all the prophets and the law of Moses looked forward to this present time. 14 And if you are willing to accept what I say, he is Elijah, the one the prophets said would come. 15 Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!

16 “To what can I compare this generation? It is like children playing a game in the public square. They complain to their friends,

17 ‘We played wedding songs,
    and you didn’t dance,
so we played funeral songs,
    and you didn’t mourn.’

18 For John didn’t spend his time eating and drinking, and you say, ‘He’s possessed by a demon.’ 19 The Son of Man, on the other hand, feasts and drinks, and you say, ‘He’s a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other sinners!’ But wisdom is shown to be right by its results.”

20 Then Jesus began to denounce the towns where he had done so many of his miracles, because they hadn’t repented of their sins and turned to God. 21 “What sorrow awaits you, Korazin and Bethsaida! For if the miracles I did in you had been done in wicked Tyre and Sidon, their people would have repented of their sins long ago, clothing themselves in burlap and throwing ashes on their heads to show their remorse. 22 I tell you, Tyre and Sidon will be better off on judgment day than you.

23 “And you people of Capernaum, will you be honored in heaven? No, you will go down to the place of the dead.[g] For if the miracles I did for you had been done in wicked Sodom, it would still be here today. 24 I tell you, even Sodom will be better off on judgment day than you.”

25 At that time Jesus prayed this prayer: “O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike. 26 Yes, Father, it pleased you to do it this way!

27 “My Father has entrusted everything to me. No one truly knows the Son except the Father, and no one truly knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

So that’s quite a rant on Jesus’s part. He’s frustrated and he’s serious about it. What does it all come down to? I think it comes down to verse 20: 20 Then Jesus began to denounce the towns where he had done so many of his miracles, because they hadn’t repented of their sins and turned to God. That seems to be Jesus’s frustration–lack of repentance.

Oh, there is so much for which I need to repent. I harbor all kinds of sins in my heart. They can all relate back to selfishness. Whether it’s greed, laziness, lust, ignoring the needs of others, etc., it all comes back to my selfishness. It all comes back to me wanting to do things that benefit me and do them my way. The fascinating thing about indulging my sin is that it only brings burden. It doesn’t bring love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, faithfulness, kindness, gentleness, and self control. Like a drug, it brings that momentary euphoria, but then it is quickly followed by emptiness and a longing for more. But repenting before you. Bringing my bag of garbage to you and leaving it at the foot of your cross… Well, that leads me to your yoke and burden, which is light. It’s not about me. It’s not about my advantage or comfort. It’s about your glory. It’s about your highest. And that is where my soul will find true rest.

Father, I’m sorry for my self-indulgence. As I go through this week of quasi-vacation, help me to still worship you and do the work you’ve laid out for me to do. Help me to love others. Help me to be exactly who you need me to be. Do it not only for the sake of the world, but do it for my sake as well.

I pray all of this in your holy name because I submit it to you and your authority,

Amen

 
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Posted by on December 28, 2022 in Matthew

 

Matthew 1:18-25

18 This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. 19 Joseph, to whom she was engaged, was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.

20 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

22 All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:

23 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child!
    She will give birth to a son,
and they will call him Immanuel,
    which means ‘God is with us.’”

24 When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. 25 But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus.

Matthew 1:18-25

Dear God, I heard someone ask another person in an interview recently, “If you were to find out that there was reincarnation and you learned that in a previous life you were someone famous from history, who would you want it to be?” Now, I absolutely do NOT believe in reincarnation so I’m not going there with this question, but if I could be someone in history, who would it be? Frankly, there’s no one, but I think one of the greatest men who ever lived is right here in this story. Joseph is THE man. And it starts with verse 19. Before there was an angel visit, there was Joseph’s sacrificial decision. In the midst of his hurt and feelings of betrayal, his fear and concern for his own future and survival, he decided to divorce her quietly so she would not be disgraced publicly. He continues to make remarkable decisions, but it all starts with this one. If he had done anything else–if he had shamed her publicly–it could have derailed your entire plan for Jesus.

What decisions am I willing to make though it might cost me dearly? For whom am I willing to sacrifice? I was talking with someone yesterday about pain that I carry all of the time. My hopes and my prayers for different loved ones. My leaning into the idea that maybe this is the path you have for them to walk to get them where you need them to be. Maybe you are using this at the same time to shape me and form me into the man you need me to be. To be clear, I don’t think I’ve ever been asked to make anywhere near the sacrifice Joseph was asked to make–either explicitly by the angel or instinctively by his own heart. But whatever sacrifices I need to make, I want to do them with peace and acceptance. Maybe not joy. Joy doesn’t have to be part of it. It doesn’t have to make me feel good to do the right thing. But I can be at peace in you.

Father, you are my supply. I don’t want to take my eyes off of this moment. I don’t want to dwell on the past. I don’t want to be distracted by an unreal and unknown future. I just want to live in this moment. In this moment. I give you this moment. Show me was to do in the next.

I pray this all in your name,

Amen

 
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Posted by on December 17, 2022 in Matthew

 

Matthew 6:24-34

“No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money. “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith? “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
Matthew 6:24-34

Dear God, I heard someone say recently that “righteousness” or “righteously” can be translated as “justice” when it’s translated into different languages. So, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live justly, and he will give you everything you need.” I don’t know how accurate that is. I’ve read a lot of English translations of this and I’ve never heard that, but it certainly tweaks the meaning a bit.

I think it starts with seeking your kingdom. [Note: I’m picking this up after having started this particular prayer several months ago.] And now I’m at a point where money has caused so many problems. It’s why I look at this whole NIL thing with college players and I worry for the players–the ones who are getting the money. If they were getting used before, how much more are they getting used now? The money will be fleeting and, for most of them, gone quickly. What will they have learned? Will they have gotten any education?

Money is central to some problems I am experiencing right now with family. Personally, I wish it were gone. Entitlement and arrogance are ruling the day because of it, and somehow I’ve gotten caught in the middle.

Father, there’s so much more than this going on today. I have an aunt, uncle, and cousins who are in deep pain and mourning. I have patients who are scared and need your help. I have staff who are scared and need your help. I have so much personal pain, as does my wife. But this is an opportunity to make this pain count. Without pain, nothing moves. Do not let this pain be wasted for my aunt, uncle, and cousins. Do not let this pain be wasted for my family. Make it count. Guide me.

I pray this in Jesus’s name,

Amen

 
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Posted by on December 6, 2022 in Matthew

 

“This World” by Caedmon’s Call

There’s tarnish on the golden rule
And I wanna jump from this ship of fools
Show me a place where hope is young
And a people who are not afraid to love

This world has nothing for me
And this world has everything
All that I could wanted
And nothing that I need

This world is making me drunk
On the spirit of fear
So when you say who will go
I am nowhere near

This world has nothing for me
And this world has everything
All that I could wanted
And nothing that I need

This world has nothing for me
And this world has everything
All that I could wanted
And (absolutely) nothing that I need

But the least of these look like criminals to me
So I leave Christ on the street

This world has held my hand
And has led me into intolerance
And now I’m waking up
And now I’m breaking up
And now I’m making up for lost time

This world has nothing for me
And this world has everything
All that I could wanted
And nothing that I need

Source: Musixmatch

Songwriters: Aaron Tate

Dear God, this song has about 10 layers of truth to it, and I’m not sure where to start. My wife played it for me yesterday morning, and I thought, “I really need to spend some time with this.” In fact, I’m not sure I have enough time this morning to do it justice and really think through it with the Holy Spirit as my companion–revealing to me where I have embraced the things I want in the world that I don’t need.

In the first stanza, when the write says that there is tarnish on the golden rule and they want to jump from the ship of fools, I wonder if he (Aaron Tate) is referring to the church. Disillusionment with the people in the church. Frustration with the selfishness and grasps for power that we see. Disappointment in our failure to love our neighbor as ourselves. Is he looking for a place where “hope” has not yet been jaded by disillusionment, frustration, and disappointment? Where people are not yet afraid to love.

In the second verse, the idea of being drunk on the spirit of fear is real. And it comes with a hangover. Just ask anyone who watches too much news. Fear. Fear. Fear. Be afraid. Be afraid of the future. Be afraid of the present. Be afraid of the past. Be afraid. Come and consume my content. I will feed your fear until you are numb, and when you are done you will be in a stupor. As for me, I can certainly enjoy getting this itch scratched, but the itch is like poison ivy. The more you scratch it the more you must scratch it, all the while you are only making it worse. And then when you say, “Whom shall I send,” I’m either too afraid or too entrenched in my ideology, prejudices, and presuppositions to help anyone do anything.

In the bridge we get the allusion to Jesus saying we did not help him when we saw him (Matthew 25:31-46). They are too hard to help. I heard someone present at Rotary yesterday, and he laid out a scenario of seeing someone in need and asked what we would do in that situation. When I honestly asked myself what I would do, I didn’t live up to the standard Jesus set out here. I would probably have thought the problem was too big and moved on.

The final verse is ironic because the “world” thinks it teaches tolerance, but ultimately pursuing the things of the world–allowing the thorns to grow in my soil (Matthew 13:22)–just puts be further into my selfish World War I trench and keeps me from coming out to love all of your children. But if I can come to you in moments like this…if I can wake up, then I can start to be the man you call me to me.

Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit, work in my heart today. Get me out of my trench. Be with me in my conversations. Bless the fruit of the work I do in your name and help me to be a steward of the things you give me.

I pray all of this in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,

Amen

 
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Posted by on November 22, 2022 in Hymns and Songs, Matthew

 

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Judas

Dear God, I was listening to the Catholic Bible in a Year podcast from Ascension Press by Father Mike Schmitz recently when he was reading from 1 Maccabees. As a Protestant Christian, it was my first time to hear any of the stories. While I was listening, something occurred to me. Judas Maccabeus was a Jewish military hero less than 200 years before Jesus was born. There were two of Jesus’s 12 disciples who were named Judas. I don’t remember reading the name Judas in the Old Testament other than Judas Maccabeus. Is it possible that Judas was a common name to give boys during this era in Israel? Finally–and this one is a big leap–could Judas Iscariot have been wanting to live up to his namesake and frustrated by this fact even more that Jesus didn’t seem to care about Rome’s rule over Israel?

After that, I decided to see who else in the New Testament was named Judas. Just how common was this?

  • Judas Iscariot (we all know him)
  • Judas (not Iscariot): John 14:22
  • Judas, Jesus’s brother: Mark 6:3
  • Judas, called Barsabbas: Acts 15:22 [I wonder if he changed his name because of Judas Iscariot]
  • Jude (author of Jude)–some debate if this might be a duplicate–Jesus’s brother
  • Judas of Galilee: Acts 5:37–rebel leader

Yeah, I think this naming your kid Judas might have been a thing at the time. Of course, that went away over time. Judas Iscariot has become as abhorrent in Christian circles as Benedict Arnold or Adolf Hitler have become in our modern times. I don’t know how many people in Germany currently name their son Adolf, but I would be surprised if it was many.

Father, I don’t know what is in this story for me, but it’s interesting to stop and think about how little decisions, like what to name our child, might impact their lives. I have a few things happening today. Help me as I prepare to go through this day. Let your Holy Spirit go with me. Go with me to work. Let there be healing. Go with me to Rotary. Go with me to San Antonio tonight. Go with me as we strive to bring you glory for all that you do in our lives. Help me to be part of you bringing your kingdom and will being done into the world.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2022 in Acts, John, Jude, Luke, Mark, Matthew, Uncategorized

 

The God Hole

[In the story “The Rocking-Horse Winner,”] author D.H. Lawrence describes a home where the young family is haunted by the unspoken phrase, “There must be more money! There must be more money! The children could hear it all the time though nobody said it aloud.” The balance of the story is the sad account of how the young son, by rocking madly on his toy horse, discovers a way to predict the winners of horse races. Tragically, he eventually rocks himself to death because the voices never stop. There is never enough money.

Fred Smith, “The Overexamined Life”

Dear God, I read this piece from Fred Smith’s weekly blog this morning and pulled this paragraph from it. It made me think of a few things, so I thought I would pray about it.

The overall point of Smith’s blog post was about how he has noticed some people replacing the pursuit of money with a life of service, but even that seems like it’s never enough. People end up on the same treadmill the rocking-horse winner was on. Always trying to fill a hole in their lives. Always trying to fill what was described to me as a child as the “God hole.”

The God hole, as I understand it, is that shape in our heart that only you can fill. Anything else we try to put there will fall right through and never land. And I don’t fill that hole with you by simply believing in your, praying a prayer of repentance, and then moving on my way. No, I fill that hole with you by applying two of Jesus’s parables at the same time:

15 “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.

John 15:1-5

If I do not attaching the branch of my life to you and then give you the opportunity to prune me then I won’t produce fruit. It’s that simple. I attach my branch to your vine through prayer, scripture study and contemplation, worship, and Christian community–not necessarily in that order.

The next parable is as important:

18 “Now listen to the explanation of the parable about the farmer planting seeds: 19 The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message about the Kingdom and don’t understand it. Then the evil one comes and snatches away the seed that was planted in their hearts. 20 The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. 21 But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word. 22 The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced. 23 The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”

Matthew 13:18-23

My biggest threat is verse 22: the seed that ell among the thorns. What am I doing to weed the soil of my life? What I am doing to give good soil to the Holy Spirit to work on my branch? Am I removing the “worries of this life and the lure of wealth?

I guess there’s one final thing that I think is the cherry on top of all of this. It’s what Paul says in Acts 20:24 when he is on his way to Jerusalem where he has a pretty good idea he will be arrested. People are warning him to not go and he replies, “I consider my life worth nothing to me. If only I finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me. The task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace. At the end of the day, if I died today and you had only used my 52 years to touch one person then that’s all that matters. I can let go of my own ambitions for my life. Peace is found through just submitting to you today, being obedient when I hear you speak and then praying your blessing on the work you have called me to do.

Father, I give you all of this today. I don’t want anything for myself. I just want to rest in you and work by your direction, with your blessing, and for your glory so that your kingdom might come and your will might be done on earth as it is in heaven.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 

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Matthew 17:24-27

24 On their arrival in Capernaum, the collectors of the Temple tax came to Peter and asked him, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the Temple tax?”

25 “Yes, he does,” Peter replied. Then he went into the house.

But before he had a chance to speak, Jesus asked him, “What do you think, Peter? Do kings tax their own people or the people they have conquered?”

26 “They tax the people they have conquered,” Peter replied.

“Well, then,” Jesus said, “the citizens are free! 27 However, we don’t want to offend them, so go down to the lake and throw in a line. Open the mouth of the first fish you catch, and you will find a large silver coin. Take it and pay the tax for both of us.”

Matthew 17:24-27

Dear God. I just realized something I’ve never seen before. I think Peter straight out lied to the temple tax collectors. Instead of calling him out on it, Jesus had a nice interaction with Peter about it. I think there are two interesting things about this:

  • Jesus obviously knew Peter felt like he was in a no-win situation if he told the truth.
  • Jesus decided this battle with the temple tax collectors was not worth fighting.

I’ve puzzled over this for a few minutes trying to find an application of this story to my life. I think what I’ve finally come to is that there is a line between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. There were two laws being broken in this story (at least in my interpretation, which could be wrong): Peter lying and Jesus and his disciples not paying the temple tax. Jesus seems to have given Peter a pass on the first one (at least directly, although he did passive-aggressively indicate to Peter that he saw what Peter did). On the second one, he explained why he didn’t feel the need to pay the temple tax.

For me, there are all kinds of things that are the letter of the law vs. the spirit of the law. I see it all of the time at the nonprofit where I work. One of the things we have to do is determine if patients are eligible for our services. There is the letter of the law that sets limits. But then there is the spirit of the law that goes back and asks why the limit was set where it is and if that person or family doesn’t qualify regardless of the actual rules.

My wife and I have some friends who are gay and in same-sex marriages. We were having dinner with one of the couples the other night. I have to admit, Father, that I do not know how you feel about this. I can justify it either way. But as we sat there at dinner, I looked at the two people, two humans, sitting across from me who seemed to be meeting needs–filling gaps–in each other’s lives. Does their love for each other grieve you? It was committed. It was monogamous. Honestly, as I sat there, I thought you were more concerned about their rejection of you as their God than you were about their relationship. So I just tried to represent you in that time and make you as appealing to them as I could without ever addressing sexual orientation. If they can get to a point where they will embrace you then I will let the Holy Spirit take it from there. After all, I have probably grieved you as much sexually throughout my life as they have, if they, indeed, are grieving you through their relationship.

Father, Holy Spirit, I pray for my friends–all of them–who are not your disciples. Show me how to love them. Show me how to draw them closer to yourself. Give them your peace. Give them your love. Use me in whatever way you see fit so that your kingdom might come and your will might be done in this world. Use me today as I get to know the strangers on this trip as well.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on August 8, 2022 in 2 Samuel, Matthew

 

Matthew 16:13-23

13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”

14 “Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.”

15 Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?”

16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

17 Jesus replied, “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being. 18 Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it. 19 And I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.”

20 Then he sternly warned the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

21 From then on Jesus began to tell his disciples plainly that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, and that he would suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but on the third day he would be raised from the dead.

22 But Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things. “Heaven forbid, Lord,” he said. “This will never happen to you!”

23 Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”

Matthew 16:13-23

Dear God, I know I would not have answered these questions correctly. Heck, my wife and I were talking about it the other day. I know I would not even have been there. I would have labeled you (Jesus) a heretic and not given you any of my attention. We were talking about what it would take for us to believe a modern prophet was really a prophet. What would be my test?

I didn’t come up with many answers, but I suppose the fruits of the Spirit are one way to gauge it. Do they exhibit the fruit of the Holy Spirit or not? Love? Joy? Peace? Patience? Goodness? Faithfulness? Kindness? Self control? (Galatians 5:22-23)

What of the fruit that comes from following the desires of our sinful nature? Sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. (Galatians 5:19-21) Does the person have these things?

The truth is, it’s hard to know anyone behind closed doors. Anyone can put on a show. Jesus could have been putting on a great show for everyone publicly, but then behaved a different way behind closed doors.

Father, Holy Spirit, I don’t know that I’ve really resolved anything here this morning except to say that I am pretty sure I wouldn’t have believed in you if I had been there 2,000 years ago. I’m sorry for that. I’m sorry for your sake and the deservedness you have to be loved and worshipped. I’m sorry for my sake that I would have missed you and if you showed up today I might still miss you. Show me how to love you. Show me how to love others. Show me how to not miss you when you show up in my life and teach me to be discerning so I do not listen to false prophets as well.

Through Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on August 4, 2022 in Matthew