January 9 – Gospel Readthrough – Matthew 7-12 Review

The day after Christmas, Jeff Walter challenged us to draw closer to God by reading through the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John leading up to Easter.

This week, you read Matthew 7-12.

We thought that it would be important, as we continue to make our way through the gospels, more specifically Matthew, to pause once a week to reflect over what we have read so far.

A huge part of reading the Bible, or internalizing any kind of biblical truth for that matter, is application. How are you aiming to apply what you’ve read to your life? In what way are you going to become a more fully devoted follower of Christ as a result of your reading?

So, whenever you are reading this Sunday, January 9th, what lessons are you taking away from Matthew 7-12? What stood out to you? What do you have questions about? I know there are a lot of takeaways from these chapters, but I challenge you to focus on even just one.

Take today to reflect on this past week’s readings and pray for God to open your heart and ideas to the principles you will receive this next week as we read chapters 13-18.

Thanks for taking on this challenge!

FYI, we have a private Facebook group for this challenge where people can interact with others and share what they’re learning. If you are interested in joining this group, email Sharon (skarhan@woostergrace.org) to receive an invite!

Jake Lawson

January 8 – Gospel Readthrough – Matthew 12

Read Matthew 12:1-50

Jesus > Religion

This phrase graced the screen at the beginning of a video that now has 34.8 million views on YouTube. A guy named Jeff performed a 4-minute spoken word describing the relationship, or lack thereof, of Jesus and religion:

“Religion says, ‘Do’. Jesus says ‘Done’”

This was a very tough pill for the people of Jesus’ time to swallow and was normally at the center of the conflict that Jesus experienced during His earthly ministry. The religious leaders at the time were so focused on the Old Testament law that they completely overlooked the fulfillment of that law that was standing right in front of them.

Often, we, as Christians, can get so bogged down with “do’s” and “don’ts” that we can completely miss the point. It can be frustrating when you read the gospels, on how much the religious leaders of the day did just that. Jesus would heal someone and immediately His life would be in danger. He would speak out against them and, instead of taking the constructive criticism, they would conspire to kill Him.

How often do you find yourself focusing on stuff that doesn’t matter? The Pharisees were just so blinded by the law that they overlooked the life change which was happening right in front of them! When reading the gospels, I often get frustrated by how blind the Pharisees were by hate and disagreement that they never grasped the truth.

“[The Church] isn’t a museum for good people, it’s a hospital for the broken.”

If you’re honest with yourself, how often do you find your faith in something that you can physically do? Do you think that reading your Bible, not cussing and going to church secures for you eternal life? No. Good fruit comes as a result of being grafted into Christ. These actions that we do in obedience come as a result of a changed heart.

When you think about it, do you get caught up in the “to do’s” of Christianity so much so that you find yourself blind to the reason behind them?

There’s nothing we can do to deserve the grace that we have been given through Christ. There is nothing we can read, nothing we can do and nothing that we can say that will put us in right standing with God. We were justified when Jesus died on the cross for our sins and rose from the grave a few days later, thus conquering death.

As you continue to read through Matthew and, in the future, through the rest of the gospels, this “Religion v Relationship” is a common theme that you will read about.

What about you?

In what ways do you need to overcome the “religion” in your life? In what way are you just going through the motions and missing the biggest picture? Are you planting your stake in the ground for something that doesn’t truly matter?

I encourage you to check out Jeff’s viral video and allow his words to ring true for you:

Jake Lawson

January 7 – Gospel Readthrough – Matthew 11

Read Matthew 11:1-30                  

Doubt.

Chances are that sometime in your life you have wrestled with doubt. Doubt in your ability, doubt in others, even doubt in God’s love. You’re not alone. Many biblical heroes we place on holy pedestals have fought the battle of doubt. Read Hebrews 11, the chapter often referred to as “the hall of faith”, and notice how many of these “heroes” overcame one of our greatest obstacles – doubt.

Although John the Baptist is not mentioned in Hebrews 11, he has almost a whole chapter dedicated to his testimony of faith in the eleventh chapter of Matthew. Let’s set the scene. John, God’s prophet, chosen to prepare the way for Jesus’ message, was in prison. Captive to his unpleasant surroundings, he only heard of Jesus’ works. He was not part of the crowd who walked with Jesus, ate with Jesus and witnessed Jesus’ miracles. Perhaps this was not how John expected things to turn out. He knew Jesus was the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, but as he sat in a cold, dark, lonely prison, doubt crept in. “Are You the Expected One or shall we look for someone else?” John questioned. In other words, John wanted evidence. He wanted assurance that Jesus is who He said He is. Jesus responded by sending back a report to John. Jesus said that all the downcast of society have been helped, healed and set free from their circumstances.

But not John. Jesus had the power to set John free from his circumstances. Instead, John sat in a Roman prison, missing everything he prophesied about, only hearing secondhand the amazing works Jesus had done.

There’s another chapter 11 wrestler of faith. We find a desperate and doubting woman named Martha in John 11. After the death of her brother, Lazarus, the tension of faith and doubt pulled at her. She believed Jesus was able to heal Lazarus but doubted why He came after her brother died. The crowd that had gathered around the tomb expressed their doubt too. “Could not this man, who opened the eyes of him who was blind, have kept this man also from dying?” (John 11:37).

Have you been there?

Wondering why God hasn’t shown up or changed your circumstances? Faith cries out that you know He can. Doubt shouts louder, wondering why He hasn’t. We learn from both John the Baptist and Martha that faith isn’t so much about believing God’s ability, as it is trusting His sovereignty. When God seems silent, rather than doubt, look up, for God always has a greater purpose. He had a greater purpose for John and for Martha and both were rescued from doubt. Read the entire chapter and hear John’s accolades from Jesus himself. Hebrews 11:6 says, “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”  Both John and Martha sought the Lord and I have no doubt they received their reward for faith- and I don’t doubt He will do that for you too.

What doubt are you experiencing in your life? What role does your faith play in overcoming that doubt?

Just believe.

Charline Engle

January 6 – Gospel Readthrough – Matthew 10

Read Matthew 10:1-42

As Matthew originally penned this gospel directed by the Holy Spirit, it did not include chapter and verse divisions. Those two added features serve us well as they allow us to quickly identify a specific reference. On the downside, however, we can end up limiting the attention we give to the greater context beyond the immediate chapter or verse. Let’s not make that mistake here.

As Jesus sends out the twelve apostles, don’t forget that this comes on the heels of His own teaching, proclaiming, and healing. It comes after His compassion for the crowds. It follows His request of the disciples that they pray that the Father would send out laborers (9:35-38.) That request to pray in chapter 9 became an invitation to go in chapter 10.

The ones who were to pray for more workers became workers themselves. Like Jesus, they were to bless others by addressing felt needs while announcing the importance of spiritual needs. They were to trust God for His provision and be faithful in the midst of opposition. In fact, they were to expect opposition . . . not only from strangers they encountered but also from people they counted as family and friends. But He assured them that there was eternal reward in His service.

Granted, you and I may not be first-century apostles sent out with the same assignment. Still, don’t miss out on the appropriate parallels.

  • We, too, can pray. The need for people to carry the compassion and message of Christ to other parts of the globe is real.
  • We, too, can go. To be sure, our going may not require plane travel, but it could include a trip across the street to a neighbor, across the hallway to a classmate, across our place of employment to a coworker.
  • We, too, can expect opposition. Not everyone will be thrilled at our expressions of care and verbalization of truth.
  • We, too, can anticipate reward. As we, one day, stand before Christ, we may also hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

Join me as we pray and go!

“Lord of the harvest, would you raise up workers to plant, water, and harvest in your fields around the world? And, Lord, send me today to those people I can reach for You!”

Steve Kern

January 5 – Gospel Readthrough – Matthew 9

Read Matthew 9:1-38

Have you ever wondered why 4 books of the Bible go through the same timeline? Speaking of the gospels, we’ve got four books written by four different men. Three of the four were disciples of Jesus and one came after, so intrigued that he went and studied Jesus by talking with the people who lived life with Jesus. When looking at each of the gospels, we can see four different perspectives. Matthew focuses on the words of Jesus, Mark on the works of Jesus, Luke brings about His life in chronological order and John looks at the conflict that He faced. 

Here we are in Matthew. One of the biggest themes we see in what Jesus says is the faith of those around Him. From the first encounter when He got back home, calling Matthew to follow Him, raising the little girl, to healing the woman and the blind. 

The thing that sticks out the most is the faith that all of these people had in Jesus. 

Have you had a faith check recently? 

In what is going on around us, it is hard to keep the faith. It’s hard to keep the kingdom perspective while living in a not so biblical worldview. 

The one part in chapter nine that I always like to reflect on is that of the woman who bled. Her faith was so strong that she knew she didn’t need Jesus’ attention, all she had to do was touch some part of Him and she would be healed. Her faith was so strong that she knew with just one small touch her life would change. 

How often do we forget that Jesus changes everything? From the very small to the very big. It isn’t because our circumstances change or “get better”, but it’s because we know with the help of the Holy Spirit that we are going to be okay because we know, we believe that Jesus loves us and is for us and makes all things better for those who love Him. 

The most recent example of this test in my life was when Jake and I miscarried our second child in August of 2020.

It was so hard.

The only thing that kept my heart and mind above water was keeping the Kingdom perspective in mind, knowing that our child was where they were intended to be. Knowing that God loved me and Jake, our family and our baby and had the best in mind for us. Did I doubt? Absolutely. Did I get angry? Of course. But…just as the woman who bled, I believed and still believe that Jesus changes everything. He was what we needed most in those times and the times to come and, in that, my faith grew stronger. 

Have you examined your life recently when it comes to your faith? Do you have the faith of Matthew who left his career and way of living to follow after Jesus? Do you have the faith of that little girl’s daddy who knew that Jesus had the power to heal? Do you have the strong faith of the woman who bled, who just needed to touch Jesus’ robe in order for her life to change?

I challenge you to examine your life. Examine your circumstances and allow Jesus’ power to enter into those situations and change your perspective.

Kelly Lawson

January 4 – Gospel Readthrough – Matthew 8

Read Matthew 8:1-17

It wasn’t just a good day for Jesus. It was His life. The humble, compassionate tender-hearted power that Jesus gave to everyone who’d have Him could do nothing less than show itself true through every encounter He directed.

This was a day full of healing. Jesus’ touch. Jesus’ word. No matter the method, He healed people who needed wholeness.

“He Himself took our weaknesses and carried our diseases (v17).”

The healing, the life-giving — this is why Jesus Christ left heaven’s comfort. He is the very Creator of each person who saw Him, heard Him, followed Him that day. Jesus stepped off His perfect and glorious throne in heaven and onto the broken and hurting earth so He Himself (could take their) weaknesses and carry (their) diseases. So He could take our weaknesses and heal our diseases.

When the man with that terrible skin disease, who hadn’t been touched in who knows how long stepped forward and asked, Jesus took away his disease with a tender touch of love-come-down. 

And when the Roman soldier, whose servant lay dying as he stood believing, approached Jesus, He Himself carried away the man’s weakness with the breath of His word. Literally. Jesus Christ spoke healing for that man’s servant. And the servant was well.

His transformation went from faith to fullness in the amount of time it took for Jesus to say:

“Go; let it be done for you as you have believed (v13).”

A faith Jesus hadn’t yet seen showed Him to be the all-powerful Creator that He is. Healer of the broken. Breath of life.

The centurion’s was a faith that leads me to marvel at Jesus’ power, the breath of His Word, the power of His being. I wonder about my faith. I wonder about yours. Does it display the nature of God and show off who He is? What does our faith show others about Jesus? What step of faith can you take today that might lead others to see the wonder and might of Jesus Christ? Ask Him to show you your next step of faith. Then trust Him and take it. And watch Him work through your faith.

Bria Wasson

January 3 – Gospel Readthrough – Matthew 7

Read Matthew 7:1-29

I’m 4 months away from turning 30 at the time of this writing. I am beginning to notice that there’s an entirely new language coming up behind me that I don’t understand. It’s not totally uncommon for me to hear and say the phrase “that’s what the kids are saying now-a-days”. I have just not heard these words or phrases before.

One such term is “full send” which, according to Dictionary.com, references the sense of intense, hardcore or without regard to consequences. “Full send” is to go all out and being okay living with what happens.

When my brother and I were still living with our parents, upon coming home from school in the winter time, we would (attempt to) drift our little Ford Escort into their driveway, trying to slide right into our parking spot. Now, there was no half-hearted drifting with Wade and I. In order to get maximum satisfaction, we had to punch it or “full send” down the street, hit the brake and yank the steering wheel to initiate the slide.

There had to be zero hesitation.

I should probably say that this is a horrible idea which no one should try as we got in trouble every time we tried as we would normally leave some tire marks in the front yard (sorry, Dad).

Today, we are finishing up reading what is called the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) where Jesus tells His followers what it takes to be a true follower. People usually pick and choose in what way they follow Jesus but the truth is that you are either in or you are out.

There is no grey area.

In Revelation 3, God is very clear in His dealing with lukewarm people:

“So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.”

You will see at the end of chapter 7, Jesus concludes His sermon on the mountainside by giving people a clear narrative: are you in or are you out?

As you read about the gate to enter, the tree and its fruit, and your foundation, there is the sobering realization of 7:21-23:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”

Today, I challenge you to think to yourself if you’re ALL IN with Jesus. Do you pick and choose how you want to follow Him while conveniently leaving out the uncomfortable?

Allow these 3 chapters to serve a reminder for what needs to characterize your life as a follower of Christ. Are there any compromises that you are making? In what ways do you fall short of a FULLY DEVOTED follower of Christ and what changes are you going to make immediately to reposition yourself?

Don’t be on the fence. Don’t be lukewarm. Be all in!

“Full send” it!

Jake Lawson

January 2 – Gospel Readthrough – Matthew 1-6 Review

Last week, Jeff Walter challenged us to draw closer to God by reading through the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John leading up to Easter.

Congratulations as your first week of this challenge is complete!

We thought that it would be important, as we continue to make our way through the gospels, more specifically Matthew, to pause once a week to reflect over what we have read so far.

A huge part of reading the Bible, or internalizing any kind of biblical truth for that matter, is application. How are you aiming to apply what you’ve read to your life? In what way are you going to become a more fully devoted follower of Christ as a result of your reading?

So, when you are reading in Matthew this Sunday, January 2nd, what lessons are you taking away from Matthew 1-6? What stood out to you? What do you have questions about? I know there are a lot of takeaways from these chapters, but I challenge you to focus on even just one.

Take today to reflect on this past weeks’ readings and pray for God to open your heart and ideas to the principles you will receive this next week as we read chapters 7-12.

Thanks for taking on this challenge!

FYI, we have a private Facebook group for this challenge where people can interact with others and share what they’re learning. If you are interested in joining this group, email Sharon (skarhan@woostergrace.org) to receive an invite!

Jake Lawson

January 1 – Gospel Readthrough – Matthew 6

Read Matthew 6:1-34

Have you ever wondered why people flock to Amish restaurants?  Could it be the REAL mashed potatoes from REAL potatoes and not a box?  Fresh fruit pies from REAL fruit and, of course, REAL sugar that contains REAL calories?  Maybe it is the REAL whipped cream from REAL fresh cream – no cool whip there! 

Nothing beats the real thing in food and in life!

Genuine, real, honest, authentic – all are words we look for but often find missing in people we encounter these days. We seek them in politicians, journalists, doctors, friends, spouses and even used car salesmen, but often we are disappointed and find we are left with only empty promises and artificial relationships. Someone you might have trusted only used you to get what they wanted. Maybe it was to get a bonus, a promotion, a committee assignment, or reward of some kind that they were willing to trade their integrity for. 

When I read this chapter of the book of Matthew, I can almost see a big flashing “Be Real” sign right before my eyes. God wants us to be real with, not only Him, but the people around us.  Why did you help that poor person?  Was it because you really wanted to or was it to be recognized and praised by those around you?  But what good was it after the applause and everyone had gone? You might have even gotten a plague to hang on your wall but, after a while, it just gathers dust.

Jesus tells us that, even though the people around us might praise us, God sees what is really in our hearts.  There is no need to be fake with Him.  He knows you better than even you know yourself.  He sees your tears.  He knows your pain.  Flamboyant prayers that go on and on to impress the people around you are just like wisps in the air to God, while a simple whispered sincere, “Help!” can move mountains!

When I was young, there was a man on TV whose stage name was Captain Penny.  He used to always end his show with this phrase: “You can fool some of the people all of the time, all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool Mom!  She’s pretty nice and she’s pretty smart.  Do what Mom says, and you won’t go far wrong.”  

I like to substitute “God” for “Mom” in that saying!  All God is asking you to do is to be REAL with Him and the people around you.  You aren’t fooling anyone except yourself when you aren’t.

Are you willing to help others when no one else is around and no one knows about it but you?  Do you pray when no one else can hear you?  Be real with God and He will be real with you.  

What are some ways that you can live a more genuine life?

The lyrics to a Sandy Patty song should be our prayer:

The stage is bare, the crowds are gone
Lord, now’s the time I need your song
To give me joy and certainty
When no one else is watching me
I need you more than words can say
Tomorrow’s such a daily day
And I so need to feel you then
Holding my hand, please hold me then
I need You, Lord!

Pat Arnold

December 31 – Gospel Readthrough – Matthew 5

Read Matthew 5:1-48

As a father of two daughters and grandfather of five granddaughters, I now see the world from a different perspective – the female perspective. I am still learning how to brush long hair and how to put a dress on a little girl. I may never learn it properly.

I have learned that women like to be treated with respect. Some are taught by movies and others to treat those of the opposite sex like they are objects.

Isn’t that what Jesus was talking about when He said, “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart”? By lusting after someone who isn’t your spouse, we are treating people as objects.

“Chesed” (Hebrew for love) means affection, action and commitment in English. That is a definition of love – just the opposite of lust. Look for opportunities to love other people with affection, with action and with commitment.

Affection: Words of affirmation, quality time and physical touch are examples from the book The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. This is a book every engaged or married person should read.

Action: A man can demonstrate respect for a woman in many ways, including patient listening, helping with daily tasks, being careful with his tone and being selfless. It is the attitude and actions which demonstrate affection.

Commitment: In football, there is an “unsportsmanlike conduct” penalty and in basketball, a “technical foul” players can receive. In both sports, a second foul may be disqualification. In life, if you commit the foul of adultery, you will disqualify trust. And that is a big mistake.

When someone poisons their mind with immoral things of any kind of movies, magazines, websites or immoral discussions, it can infect their thinking. Could this pollute their view of the opposite sex?

What do you fill your mind with?

“It’s the second glance that ties your hands as darkness pulls the strings.”

(Casting Crowns)

Honor others. The life of Jesus is full of evidence of Jesus showing honor to women. Godly women stand out in Jesus’ life and ministry. Examples would be the virgin Mary and mother of Jesus, the woman at the well and the women who accompanied the disciples on missionary trips. It was women who stayed at the cross until the burial and who were first at the empty tomb.

Jesus’ respect for females is obvious and it is awesome. The sermon on the mount is Christ’s instruction to us for godly living in the present world. This includes honor, courtesy and respect for others. Love includes affection, action and commitment. Let’s make it our focus and make it a habit.

What do your actions, affection and commitment convey about the type of relationship you are willing to work for?

Tom Weckesser