February 27: Thought Protection

Read Philippians 4:1-8

Imagine for a moment, that you live on a busy street and have a 2 or 3 year-old boy. Of course, you wouldn’t just allow the little one to play outside without supervision. No, you would be very careful to watch him, steering him away from certain areas that are dangerous and toward areas that are safe. In fact, you might even build a fence around a portion of the yard as a means of keeping him safe. You would be proactive in protecting your little guy.

In some ways, your thoughts are like that little one. They are prone to wander. At times, they stay in safe areas. At other times they venture out into areas where danger abounds. I wonder, though, have you seen your thoughts as things over which you have little or no control? Have you seen them as things that just sort of run wild?

According to Philippians 4:8, we can steer our thoughts away from unhealthy and dangerous areas and towards eight specific, God-pleasing patterns.

  1. Think on what is true – God and His word are true. Do your thoughts measure up against those standards or are they lies?
  2. Think on what is noble – These things are sacred rather than profane. Do you fill your mind with and meditate on things that please God?
  3. Think on what is right – Not everything measures up to God’s holy and just standard. Do you choose to focus on God’s perspective or on that which man defines as good?
  4. Think on what is pure – There should be no impurities, nothing unclean that infiltrates our thinking. Do you entertain impure thoughts?
  5. Think on what is lovely – Man does not always consider those things “lovely” that God does. Are your thoughts centered on beauty through the eyes of heaven?
  6. Think on what is admirable – Even though the world around us is often characterized by wrong thinking, there are still godly actions and kindnesses that are appreciated by most. Do you dwell on those kinds of things?
  7. Think on what is excellent – This speaks of outstanding goodness and virtue. Do you discipline your thoughts to focus on the virtuous?
  8. Think on what is praiseworthy – These are things that would garner applause . . . from heaven and earth. Would God cheer about those things you think about?

sbk

Posted in Big & Little

February 26: Big and Little. Opening Thoughts.

Read 1 Kings 18:16-19:18

Our study this week is not about “the power of positive thinking.” You have heard that idea before, right? Many outside of Christ proclaim the so called “benefits” of not allowing negative thoughts to dominate brain space and think time. Well, that is not the bottom line on where we are headed. Instead, our reading over these next several days will focus on our need to think biblically and truthfully.

Elijah portrays this all-important need for us. His story is an amazing one. God had used him and provided for him in incredible ways. Through Elijah’s prayer, a drought came over the land. God miraculously provided for him through ravens and through a widow. The Lord used Elijah to heal a dead boy and to humble pagan idol worshipers. Clearly, Elijah had an anointing from God and was used in unique ways.

But he was not perfect. His thoughts led him down unhealthy paths. That’s a good reminder to all of us. None of us is immune to the danger of wrong thinking. For Elijah, it seems that both opposition and exhaustion led him to two inaccurate thoughts:

  1. “Life isn’t worth living!” It doesn’t seem that he was suicidal, but he wished that God would take His life.
  2. “I am all alone!” He felt like he was the only one who really cared about God and the nation of Israel.

Of course, if you read the story, you know that neither thought was accurate. Elijah’s life was of incredible value, and there were 7000 others like him who had not compromised their faith.

Elijah’s thoughts, you see, were his attempt to process and interpret his experiences and observations. Your thoughts are like that too. While there may be no question about the reality of your experience or observation, how you process it is not always accurate. In other words, the thoughts you have about yourself, your situation, your life, others around you may not be correct.

Elijah needed to have his thoughts challenged. He needed a truthful assessment of his situation.

You do too! Why not start this week by acknowledging the fact that just because you have a thought does not mean it is valid? Why not start this study by acknowledging that you do well to examine what you think and why you think it?

sbk

Posted in Big & Little

February 25: Matthew’s Choice, Your Choice

Read Matthew 28:1-20

As soon as Jesus called him, Matthew followed. Then he threw a party and invited his friends to come and meet Jesus, the Messiah who’d saved him. Because Matthew knew he had met the King he and his people had been promised through the prophets of long ago. He left everything to follow the Messiah they’d been waiting for.

His burden for his people to know Jesus the Messiah shines through all 28 chapters of Matthew’s gospel account. He wrote it for his own people in order to “proclaim the words and works of Jesus Christ so (they) could make an intelligent decision about Him.” (Talk Thru the Bible, p. 309)

And now here we are, approximately 2,000 years later, reading his account with the very same decision bearing down on us.

Will you believe that Jesus is the Messiah, King of all, sent from God the Father to save us?

The one they had tortured, flogged, mocked and hung on a cross in the middle of their capitol city killed death and left it in the grave. His body had laid there for three days. The King on whom Matthew’s own people had turned was now alive, walking and breathing and appearing in their midst.

Jesus was King over all. Even death itself.

Jesus is King over all.

Do you believe it? Will you let Him be your true Lord?

Jesus Christ took death to the cross and left it in the grave with its clothes and all. No doubt, Matthew’s history informed his re-telling of the day Jesus arose.

That He would have first given to women the task of reporting His victory to His disciples is something Matthew would have noticed. For he’d been looked down upon and disregarded by his own people just like the women of that day were.

Matthew was a sinner whom the King had noticed that day he stood in his tax-collecting booth. A guy whose government job was to rob his people of their hard-earned money. He was the kind no religious leader of that day would associate with. But Jesus chose him. And he followed.

Maybe you’re not sitting in your thieving tax-collecting booth like Matthew, but Jesus is calling you to follow Him too. Follow His way. He wants to be your Lord. He is the Promised One from ages past and the Lord of Life forevermore.

Let Him be yours and follow Him.

brw

 

Posted in Matthew, Uncategorized

February 24: The Centurion

Read Matthew 27

Wow! This passage of scripture encapsulates so much-the trial, torture and crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ. There are so many great truths, and passages we could study today in this chapter, so it was hard to pick up on just one. But, after reading this chapter again, one verse just kept sticking in my mind. I’ve read this chapter so many times, yet never really thought about this verse, and now I look back and think to myself how did I miss it?

“When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!” Matthew 27:54

Can you imagine being this guard? I can’t! After coming to this divine revelation, his life would surely never be the same again. In fact it’s eerily similar to the revelation you and I have when we first come to faith in Jesus by recognizing that He truly is the Son of God – the savior of the world. When we accept Him into our hearts our lives are never the same either!

What a unique line of events this man would have witnessed. Mockers mocked, the women were weeping and all of heaven looked on in shocked silence and awestruck wonder, as Jesus Christ fulfilled His final promise to please the holy conditions of a holy God. The earth was shaken to its very core; the sun was turned dark as dense darkness clouded the bloody scene of this beautiful ‘life-giving death’. The veil of the temple was torn and the Son of God, Who had drained the bitter cup to its bottom, placed Himself into His Father’s hands, willingly giving up His life for you and I.

This guard had surely witnessed dozens of crucifixion. He had likely seen hundreds of men find their death on a cross. But this one… this one was different. Something was in the air. Something wasn’t right. He had picked up on the divinity of the moment. God, Jesus Christ, handing over His life for humanity! He had witnessed firsthand the ultimate act of love. An act so reckless, so scandalous, so fierce, that it would shatter the worldly view of religion once and for all and restore it to what it was always meant to be a- a caring, compassionate, grace filled, loving relationship between the creator and the created. The guard had witnessed the saving power of the Gospel first hand.

I’m in tears even thinking about this moment in history. Why would a God so big, so powerful, so mighty, so perfect, ever want to have a relationship with us, yet alone die for us? The answer is so complex, yet, so very simple-Love.

 

TAB

Posted in Matthew

February 23: The Great Exchange

Read Matthew 26:36-56 or Matthew 26:1-75

Long before He knelt in the Garden, Jesus had entrusted Himself to the Father, even as the Father had entrusted His beloved Son with the call to bear man’s sin, save His people, kill off death. Still, as His impending torture and insufferable pain approached, He needed one more moment of heart-to-heart time with the Father. He needed the kind of praying in which He would exchange His own will for the will of the Father.

We know from Luke that His time in that garden, swelled with such heaviness that blood wept from His pores. Before Jesus shed His blood on the cross, He sweat His blood in the garden and shed His will for the will of the Father in the great exchange.

“. . . (N)evertheless . . .”

So when the soldiers approached and Judas kissed Him for the price of a piece of land, the heavy lifting of sin’s burden had already begun. And when Peter swung his sword at that servant’s head, Jesus had to put Peter in his place for trying to thwart the perfect plan of God.

Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way” (vv. 53, 54)?

Jesus had exchanged the temptation to avoid His call to suffer with what He knew to be the Father’s perfect will. He knew that in His very breath He held the power to obliterate those who’d come to lead Him into torture. But He had handed it to the Father, committed to drink His bitter cup. Jesus had determined not to call His angels to task. He chose the pain and trusted the Father to fulfill His perfect plan.

His example gives us hope. You and I can choose the Father’s way over our own desire to avoid the uncomfortable, the suffering, possible pain. So you’ve been called to visit your recently widowed neighbor but your heart doesn’t want to and your schedule is already full. Choose His way. Risking ridicule or worse, you can resolve to speak truth when your boss encourages you to lie to protect the department. The only time you can find to be alone with Him and listen to His Word is early in the morning, but you really like your sleep. Exchange what you want for what He wants.

Choose to trust the Father.

brw

 

 

Posted in Matthew

February 22: When will Jesus come? Part 2

Read Matthew 24:42-25:46

Recently, friends of ours noticed that some of the furniture on an enclosed sun room on the back of their house was tipped over. They have some younger children, so it wasn’t out of the question that one of them had wandered out there and left things in disarray. But they also have a video camera fixed on the sliding glass doors leading from the main house to the sun room. After reviewing the footage, they discovered that a man had attempted to break into their house at midday. The man was brave…but our friends were ready with locked doors and a rolling camera.

The break-in of a thief is but one of several illustrations Jesus uses to help us to understand how critical it is that we are prepared for His return. If you remember from yesterday, Jesus had just given His disciples some of the signs that will be associated with His coming. Now, in this final portion of His “Olivet Discourse,” He warns listeners then and readers like you today of the importance of being ready.

We should prepare for His coming…

  • The way a homeowner considers the potential of a break-in (24:42-44). The thief never calls to make an appointment!
  • The way that a slave cares for a master’s household and treats his fellow slaves kindly as he anticipates the master’s return (24:45-51). The slave may justify bad actions with the expectation that the return is yet distant, when it really isn’t!
  • The way that bridesmaids anticipate the coming of a groom (25:1-13). Weddings didn’t include a “save the date” announcement at that time. The groom could come anytime and the wedding party had to be ready.
  • The way a faithful servant uses the resources entrusted to him/her until the master returns (25:14-30). There is an accounting that the servant should anticipate.
  • By treating others the way they would treat Christ (25:31-46). This sheep/goat judgment looks beyond words to actions.

Before I pose a closing question, let me remind you that believers are anticipating first His return in the air at the rapture. The return spoken of in these chapters will happen years later as believers return with Christ to the earth. The question introduced by the above illustrations is still valid: Are you ready? Do you have a relationship with God through Christ? As a Christ follower, are you living your life in a way that pleases Him?

sbk

Posted in Matthew

February 21: When will Jesus come? Part 1

Read Matthew 24:1-41

If you read the passage today in a “red-letter” Bible (pointing out words spoken by Jesus), you saw how virtually every word in the text was uttered by Christ. Matthew 24 and 25 represent extended instruction that Jesus offered to His disciples on the subject of His return. Named after the location (v. 3) where He taught, these chapters are often referred to as the “Olivet Discourse.”

So, what will be the sign of Christ’s coming and of the end of the age (v. 3)? First of all, we must clarify what is meant by His coming. This is not a reference to His return in the air to snatch away genuine believers who represent His true church. That event, called the “rapture,” represents the next imminent event on God’s prophetic timeline.

No, the “coming” spoken of here is indicative of a later event where Christ returns to the earth to reign upon it as king. When will that happen? Here are some of the guiding thoughts that you hopefully picked up on:

  • Be careful about precise predictions (v. 36). We cannot say precisely when Jesus will return.
  • Don’t read too much into international conflict and natural disasters (vv. 6-8). These will indeed happen, but they are just part of the beginning.
  • Recognize that tribulation precedes His return (vv. 9, 16-22). Christ’s return to the earth will follow a seven-year period of tribulation described in passages like Daniel 9:27 and Revelation 6-18.
  • The “abomination of desolation” should cause people to sit up and take note (v. 15). At this event depicted in Daniel 9:27, the antichrist will seat himself in the (rebuilt) temple and demand worship (2 Thess. 2:1-4).
  • Christ’s return will be unmistakable (vv. 23-32). People will not have to worry if Jesus returned without them knowing it. They should not respond to rumors of His presence. Instead, His coming will be obvious to “all the tribes of the earth” (v. 30).

Tomorrow we will take a closer look at some of the personal implications of His future return. For today, however, it is important to understand that He will come back. He will keep His promise. Jesus does not make promises that He does not fulfill. Even though the world may seem to be getting progressively worse, He will one day return and reign majestically and perfectly.

sbk

Posted in Matthew