In Case You’re Interested…

I started a new blog at mypsalmsproject.wordpress.com!

After I finished meditating through Matthew, I started going through the Psalms and actually started writing my own psalms in response.  My husband said I should post them, so that’s what I’m doing.  Come join me if you’re interested!

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Read This First

Before we begin, I need to make it absolutely, 100% clear that we must come at all of this through the lens of the Gospel.  Specifically, we must acknowledge that we are not the ones doing any of the work here because we are incapable of righteousness (read “right-ness”) apart from Jesus and Jesus has done all the work of making us right.  All of us are sinners whether we have been following Christ most of our lives, for the past day and a half, or not at all.  We all desperately need the saving grace of our Savior every day, the question is whether or not we admit that.  The gospels repeatedly point out that it is the people (Pharisees and religious leaders) who think they’ve got it all together and are great at following the rules who are generally the worst off when it comes to their relationship with God.  They were constantly trying to win God’s approval with their impressive acts of  showy religiosity, but trying to please God with works on our own, apart from Him, is like the sippy cup I found under the car seat the other day.  It looks great from far away, but get too close and you’ll start to notice the hot mess of smelly curdled milk on the inside.

Fortunately, God saw our desperate situation as sinners in need of a savior and sent His Son to take the punishment we deserved.  It was gruesome and awful, but His love for us runs so deep that He left His throne in Heaven to come to earth, tell us in person how much He loves us, and then die in our place so that when we come before God, it is not our curdled-milk, sinful selves God sees, but the sinless righteousness of Christ.  That is the Gospel.  So as we go through the Gospel of Matthew and we begin to ask ourselves how we can become more like Christ, we must understand that we can’t become more Christ-like apart from the Spirit of God in us.  We can’t even want to pick up our Bibles without the Spirit of God driving us toward God.  So good news!  God is working in you!  If you have any interest in reading the Bible, it’s because God wants to talk to you.   As we examine our lives and what Jesus has to say to us, I’m not interested in creating a list of laws to follow and ways to “be good.”  I don’t ever want to imply that I can do anything to improve my situation before the throne of God Almighty.  But I do think that this is a great opportunity to ask God what He wants to do in us and pray that He would help us to be receptive and submissive to His work in our lives.  The questions I post will not all be applicable to all of us.  They should never be considered a Checklist Of Things I Must Accomplish Before I Will Become Acceptable To God.   But by asking ourselves these questions and thinking about them, I hope we can make ourselves available to hear how He may want to change us, help us grow, and draw us closer to Himself.

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Enough for Now

After some thought and prayer, I’ve decided not to move on to another book of the Bible on this blog right away.  I do plan to continue my slow journey through the Bible, but for now I need to keep it just between me and God.  If I hear differently from God, I will be back!

I hope you have gained a greater understanding of how much God loves you and what He is asking of you, not through anything I had to say, but through your time chewing on God’s word.

Keep reading your Bibles, keep seeking His Kingdom first!  Further up!  Further in!

Christy

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He is Risen Indeed! – Matthew 28:1-20

Every time I think of Jesus’ resurrection, I get all happy inside and wish I knew how to play the trumpet so I could do a little fanfare.  This is such good news people!  Jesus is alive!

I’ve been writing my own psalms inspired by the actual Psalms and today I just happened to land on Psalm 98.  I thought I would share since it fits the occasion so well.

Sing a song of praise everyone for the King of Heaven has conquered death!  Shout praise to the God who created the wold, then saved it! 
 
Never before has anyone conquered death for the sake of His murderers.  Shout praise to the God whose infinite love has saved you from hell!  No other man or god has made such a sacrifice that ended in such victory: Jesus Christ willingly subjected Himself to torture and death, never even opening His mouth in protest, so those dead in sin could live forever in God’s light and love. 
 
And then!  And then!!  Victory!!!  Death vanquished by Life! 
Our risen savior is King in Heaven so PRAISE!  Lift up your hands and shout!  Throw back your heads and sing!  Musicians, at attention!  Trumpets, trombones, tubas and cornets – blare a fanfare for the God of heaven!  Violins, cellos, zithers, lutes, erhus, bow your strings in a sweeping welcome to God Almighty.  Flutes, clarinets, saxophones, oboes, bassoons, and pan pipes, rams horns, didgeridoo join in!  Now percussion lend us your beat and let’s bring the house down!  Everyone giving all they’ve got to praise their creator! 
 
But why stop with people and instruments?  Birds, soar in formation before your king!  Fish, dance your fishy dance for the One who made you.  All animals everywhere – you’ve been waiting for this day – make the best noise you’ve got in honor of your king!  Everything on earth that’s been created by God – let’s hear it for your King!!!  Welcome your risen king as He comes to put everything right.  At last!  His kingdom has come! 

Whoo-hoo!  Ok, I’m all jazzed up!  Let’s here about what Jesus has to say.

  • V1 – It’s still the women who are faithful (and perhaps hopeful?)

◊ Do I wait on God with hope when it seems all is lost?

  • V2-4 – You’d think guarding the tomb of a dead man would be boring…  I think it’s funny that the soldiers were paralyzed with fear and the women weren’t.
  • V5-6 – Yum-ta-da-tum-ta-ta-tumm!!  (That’s my trumpet fanfare.)  So many extraordinary things happening at once!  And in one verse the fate of humanity is altered forever.
  • V7 – Jesus already promised His disciples that He would do this (26:32).
  • V8 – “…fear and great joy.” – What are they afraid of?  That it is a hoax?  Of a Messiah who can rise from the dead?  I suppose that is a little fearsome.
  • V9-10 – They touched Him so they knew He was real.  He allowed them to worship Him because He is God.
  • V11-15 – Again, no matter what they saw or heard, the elders would not be persuaded to believe.  This would have been a good time for them to admit they were wrong and seek out the risen Messiah.  Instead, they come up with a logically flawed story that they know they just made up!  If the guards were sleeping, how would they know the disciples stole the body?!
  • V16 – Matthew doesn’t mention this, but this is one of the few times when the disciples didn’t obey right away – although this time the instructions came from a messenger and not straight from Jesus to the disciples.  John 20:19 tells us they were meeting behind locked doors in Jerusalem out of fear when Jesus appeared to them there.  It wasn’t until after that that they went to meet him in Galilee (John 21)).  But for the most part the disciples seem to do as they’re told.  They didn’t always have faith things would work out, but they were pretty consistently obedient in following orders.

◊ Do I obey with my actions, even when it doesn’t make sense in my head?

  • V17 – “They worshipped but some doubted.” – Is this referring to Thomas?  To people who were standing there looking at HIm?  What does this mean exactly?  Did they worship Him in spite of their doubt?  Or were they unwilling to worship in spite of the evidence that He was God?
  • V18 – Here’s the note from my ESV: “In his risen state, Jesus exercises absolute authority throughout heaven and earth, which shows His deity.  His authority has been given by the Father, which indicates that He remains subject to the Father (1 Cor. 15:28).
  • V19-20 – Because Jesus is King of heaven and earth we should teach people how to be citizens in His kingdom based on what He taught.  Baptism is the new circumcision so now women can join in the covenant.  “Teaching them to observe all I commanded.” – Making disciples doesn’t mean baptizing people and leaving them on their own.  We have to teach them to grow in Christ and, in the process, we become more like Christ.  Remember how high He set the bar in chapters 5-7?  Good thing He “will be with us always”.  It is only through His Spirit – the Spirit that conquered death and sin – that we can obey His commands and be productive citizens in His kingdom.

◊ Who am I making a disciple?  Who am I teaching to obey His commands?  Do I teach anything apart from what He commanded?

Wrap up your quiet time by praying through the following questions:

  • Based on this passage of Scripture, what can I thank God for?
  • What do these verses tell me about God and His character?
  • Based on this passage, is there anything I need to confess to God and ask forgiveness for?
  • What do these verses remind me to pray for others?
  • What do these verses move me to pray for myself?
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Waiting – Matthew 27:55-66

This passage is short and I didn’t have much to say about it because I wanted to think about everything that just happened the day before and to sit in the emotions that the disciples and particularly the women who followed Him would have been feeling.

  • V55 – What an awful thing to witness, especially as a woman and a mom.  When everyone else had deserted, the women were faithfully there.  I like that the ESV translates it “ministering to Him” because their caring and provision of food and necessities throughout His ministry was a ministry in and of itself.

◊ How can I minister to my ministers?

  • V57 – Read Luke 23:50-51 for a little more about Joseph.  It’s a good thing Joseph stepped in with his political clout (to talk to Pilate) and resources.  At this late hour in the day, it would have been difficult for anyone else to accomplish all of this in such a short time.

◊ Is there a way I can help someone in need that others can’t?  What are my gifts?  Have experiences from my past equipped me in a unique way?

  • V58-60 – This fulfilled Isaiah 53:9.
  • V61 – I wonder if they are simply mourning and want to remain as close to Jesus as possible or if they are waiting for something to happen.
  • V63 – If these guys remember, surely some of His followers remember.  Surely there is still a spark of hope.
  • V66 – I would like to know all the emotions and thoughts that were running through the heads of the Pharisees, the women, and the disciples at this moment.

Wrap up your quiet time by praying through the following questions:

  • Based on this passage of Scripture, what can I thank God for?
  • What do these verses tell me about God and His character?
  • Based on this passage, is there anything I need to confess to God and ask forgiveness for?
  • What do these verses remind me to pray for others?
  • What do these verses move me to pray for myself?
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Death of a Savior – Matthew 27:26-54

Read Psalm 22 before you read this section!

  • V26 – I never got this.  If Pilate really thought Jesus was innocent, why did he have Him whipped?
  • V27-31 – It’s like the soldiers were putting on a show with Jesus as the entertainment.  Some day they really will kneel in worship before Him and confess Him as King. (
  • V32 – I’m sure we’ve all seen pictures/movies of the torture Jesus was put through before His crucifixion but I want to take a moment to appreciate that Jesus, a strong carpenter, was so injured and abused that He couldn’t carry his 30-40 pound cross (weight estimations according to my ESV).  The fact that Matthew knew Simon’s name suggests to me that Simon may have later joined Jesus’ followers.
  • V34 – Most translations agree this is a mild pain reliever, plus Jesus had said He wouldn’t drink wine again until He drank it with the disciples in His Father’s kingdom (26:29).
  • V35 – Seriously, if you haven’t read Psalm 22 yet, you should.
  • V37 – Whether they did this as a joke or because it was the official charge brought against Him, the reality was, again, that in their mockery they hit upon the truth.
  • V39-44 – The misquoted charge against Him must have really spread among the crowds.  This must have been agonizing for Jesus on so many levels.  Obviously He could have “come down from the cross” and saved Himself.The thing is, He chose not to save Himself so He could save others.  The bit about “Let God deliver Him now” would have been especially hard to withstand because, somewhere in His heart, He was probably still hoping that would happen (26:39).
  • V45 – My ESV says this was “not a solar eclipse, since Passover occurred during a full moon, and a solar eclipse can occur only during a new moon; rather, it is a supernatural act of God, displaying his displeasure and judgment upon humanity for crucifying his Son.”
  • V46 – Here’s the ESV note on “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” – “”Some of the most profoundly mysterious words in the entire Bible.  In some sense Jesus had to be cut off from the favor of and fellowship with the Father that had been his eternally, because he was bearing the sins of his people and therefore enduring God’s wrath (Isa. 53:6, 10; Hab. 1:13; Rom. 3:25; 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal 3:13; 1 John 2:2).  And yet, in quoting Ps 22:1 Jesus probably has in mind the remainder of the psalm as well, which moves onto a cry of victory (Ps 22:21-31); and he expresses faith, calling God “my God.”  Surely he knows why he is dying, for this was the purpose of his coming to earth (Matt. 16:21; 20:18-19, 28).  And surely his cry, uttered with a loud voice, is expressing, not bewilderment at his plight, but witness to the bystanders, and through them to the world, that he was experiencing God-forsakeness not for anything in himself but for the salvation of others…”
  • V47-49 – Once last note from the ESV: “Jesus’ call to God in Aramaic (Eli, Eli) sounds similar to the Hebrew name for Elijah (Eliyahu), which the bystanders misunderstand as a summons to the prophet.”  (Since Elijah never died, the Jews were expecting him to come back to rescue them from great trouble (Malachi 4:5).  What with the weird darkness, people were ready for anything.
  • V51 – No more separation of man from God.
  • V52-53 – Weird.  I’m struggling with the timeline here.  It makes sense the tombs were opened during the earthquake and the bodies were raised but they didn’t come out until after Jesus’ resurrection.  Maybe they hung out in the cemetery until then…
  • V54 – These Romans were convinced by the miraculous events but the religious leaders, who had already witnessed plenty of miracles, and demanded more (12:38) would not have their hearts changed no matter what they saw.

Wrap up your quiet time by praying through the following questions:

  • Based on this passage of Scripture, what can I thank God for?
  • What do these verses tell me about God and His character?
  • Based on this passage, is there anything I need to confess to God and ask forgiveness for?
  • What do these verses remind me to pray for others?
  • What do these verses move me to pray for myself?
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He Did Not Demand His Rights As God…or Even As a Human Being – Matthew 27:1-25

In less than 24 hours, starting in the middle of the night, Jesus is arrested, stands before at least 4 courtrooms/judges, is condemned, beaten, crucified, dead and buried.  And to think the elders didn’t even have a witness to testify against Him when they started this process.

  • V1 – My ESV says they gathered enough elders to make a quorum and have an official vote so it would look more legal than a bunch of angry guys making rash decisions in the middle of the night.  They also had to come up with an accusation that would fly with the Romans since “heresy” wasn’t of any concern to Caesar.
  • V3 – I’ve always theorized that Judas was less interested in having Jesus killed than he was in starting some action – making Jesus hurry up with His revolt against the Romans.  When I think about how he may have had his own ideas about what Jesus should be doing and that he did what he thought was best rather than waiting for God’s timing, I can relate to him in a scary way.
  • V3 – The ESV points out that the Greek for “changed his mind” can mean “felt remorse” but is different from repentance.

◊ Does my remorse for my sins lead me to repentance?

  • V4 – The priests were, in essence, telling Judas they would not bring his sin before God to ask for forgiveness, which was their job.  In only  a few more hours Judas would have been able to approach God in repentance for his sins himself (when the curtain in the temple was torn).
  • V5 – There would have been a lot more hope for him if he had waited around for the end of the story.

◊ Have I given up hope in God for a situation that may not be over yet?  God’s timing/ways are different from my own.

  • V6-8 – This highlights the backwards priorities of the religious leaders.  They are concerned with what they can legally do with this money but not concerned with doing their job (when Judas tried to repent) or with the life of an innocent man who, incidentally, happened to be the Son of God there to save them from their hypocrisy.

◊ What are my religious priorities?

  • V9-10 – How astonishing the details predicted hundreds of years earlier!
  • V11 – Jesus uses this answer a lot.  It basically means “If you say so.”
  • V12-14 – Obviously, Jesus could have defended himself against every accusation.  He always wins verbal debates and can sidestep every time they try to trap Him with a trick question.  But He wasn’t there to defend Himself, He was there to die.
  • V16 – Barabbas means “son of the father” or, basically, everyman.  Every child of a parent was freed because Jesus took the penalty s/he deserved.
  • V18 – Pilate sees right through the Jewish elders but He’s not willing to stand up and do what he knows should be done.
  • V19 – Pilate’s wife did listen and do what she could but he ignored her.

◊ Do I listen when people I trust give me good advice to do the right thing?

  • V20 – I wonder how they persuaded the crowd.  A few days before “the crowd” was praising Jesus.

◊ V21 – Which am I more concerned with: justice or my reputation?

  • V23 – No one bothers to answer the question about what evil Jesus has done.
  • V24 – Declaring his innocence in meaningless if he didn’t do the right thing.  He could have done something but he chose not to; therefore he was not innocent.

◊ Whose blood is on my hands because I have not stood up for their justice?  Do I buy clothes or food from companies that exploit people?

  • This harsh statement is true for every human – we are all responsible for His death.  The ESV translates it “His blood be on us…” Being covered by His blood, ironically, symbolizes our salvation rather than our condemnation.

Wrap up your quiet time by praying through the following questions:

  • Based on this passage of Scripture, what can I thank God for?
  • What do these verses tell me about God and His character?
  • Based on this passage, is there anything I need to confess to God and ask forgiveness for?
  • What do these verses remind me to pray for others?
  • What do these verses move me to pray for myself?
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How to Be a Bad Friend – Matthew 26:47-75

Jesus’ love for humanity proves unshakeable when His best friends desert Him when He needs them most.  It’s one thing to love your enemies, but it’s a whole ‘nother can of worms to love a friend who turns their back on you.

  • V47 – Matthew does a pretty amazing job of keeping his commentary to a minimum.  Since he was there for all of this, it would be tempting to emphasize stories in which he was the star, or voice his opinion about Judas.  He doesn’t do any of that.  He keeps Jesus the main character and sticks to facts, not opinions or commentaries.

◊ Is Jesus/God the main character in the gospel story in my life or do I make it about me?  (Technically, if it’s about me, it’s not the gospel.)

  • V50 – The ESV says this isn’t the term for intimate friend (philos in Greek), but rather, hetairos which means acquaintance.  “It was used previously by Jesus in parables concerning someone who has taken advantage of a privileged relationship (see 20:13; 22:12).
  • V51-52 – It seems like this is what Peter was waiting for (v35) and he probably wasn’t aiming for the guy’s ear.  Jesus’ initial response was probably disappointing and relieving since the disciples had two swords among them (Luke 22:38) and they were facing a “great crowd with swords and clubs.”
  • V53 – The Romans and religious leaders probably scoffed at this like a joke but the disciples would be pretty sure that could happen, after some of the things they’d seen.
  • V54 – Jesus instead submits to Scriptures and His Father’s plan.

◊ I often wish God would work profound miracles so I can avoid the suffering that will ultimately draw me closer to God (Romans 5:3-5).

  • V55-56 – One last verbal zing to the religious leaders to point out their hypocrisy and the fact that, while they think they’re writing this story, they’re actually fulfilling the story that’s already been written.  He gets pretty quiet after this.
  • V56 – “All the disciples left Him and fled.”  – This is so sad.  His words from earlier (v31) had to be ringing in their heads.  What could they do besides stay near Him for the sake of solidarity?
  • V58 – Peter stays close, watching to see what God will do.
  • V59-61 – In the middle of the night they were looking for people who could credibly lie about Jesus so they could kill Him.  It sounds like this trial was a chaotic mess.  What kind of people would they find in the middle of the night?!  Finally they found two guys who could agree, but they misquoted Jesus (John 2:19-21) so their “reason” for having him killed was a load of baloney.
  • V63 – What’s to say against that accusation?  It’s completely bogus and He’s not there to defend Himself, but to let Himself be killed.
  • V63-65 – This is the important question and Jesus’ answer puts the responsibility back on His accusers and makes it clear He’s not only a human Messiah but the divine Son of God.
  • V65-66 – Oh the sad, sad irony that those who spent their lives in anticipation of a Messiah have now made it illegal to be that Messiah.

◊ I have a need that can only be met by Jesus’ gift of salvation.  Am I receiving His gift and allowing Him to fill my needs?

  • V67-68 – It occurred to me that at some point these people will have to stand before King Jesus in judgement and He will answer this question and they’re going to wish they hadn’t asked it.
  • V69 – A servant girl certainly isn’t very threatening, but there were guards within earshot (v58).  He feared for his safety.
  • V71 – He moves a little closer to the exit.  It’s interesting that all the servant girls are familiar enough with Jesus that they could recognize His associates.
  • V69 – Here’s an interesting note from my Study Bible: “There were three stages to Peter’s denial.  First, he acted confused and tried to divert attention from himself by changing the subject.  Second, using an oath he denied that he knew Jesus.  Third, he swore that he did not know Jesus.  Believers who deny Christ often begin doing so subtly by pretending not to know him.  When opportunities to discuss religious issues come up, they walk away or pretend they don’t know the answers.  With only a little more pressure, they can be induced to deny flatly their relationship with Christ.  If you find yourself subtly diverting conversation so you don’t have to talk about Christ, watch out.  You may be on the road to denying him.”
  • V69-75 – This story is so sad because his heart was in the right place for so long.  Putting myself in Peter’s shoes, I think this would have been a formative and important experience for the years ahead and the trials to come.  It was a relatively safe place/time to make that mistake.  What if he had denied Jesus after Jesus had returned to heaven instead of persisting in preaching the good news in the face of persecution?!

◊ Have I learned from my mistakes?

Wrap up your quiet time by praying through the following questions:

  • Based on this passage of Scripture, what can I thank God for?
  • What do these verses tell me about God and His character?
  • Based on this passage, is there anything I need to confess to God and ask forgiveness for?
  • What do these verses remind me to pray for others?
  • What do these verses move me to pray for myself?
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Dinner and Infinite Sadness – Matthew 26:20-46

There’s a lot  I don’t understand about human free will/decisions and being “fated” to do the will of God that this chapter brings up.  Were these extenuating circumstances because of the importance of the fulfillment of Scriptures or is this how God’s will is worked out every day?  What I do know is that God always does what is good, right, and perfect.  If I could understand Him completely, He would not be worthy of my worship.  For now I will just have to trust.

  • V21 – Here’s more evidence that things are going according to His plan, not that His plans are being interrupted by people’s plans or He’s having to react and adjust His plans according to what other people are doing.  He’s been saying He would be betrayed since before they even got to Jerusalem (20:18).
  • V22 – It’s interesting that they were sad (“sorrowful”) and not mad or accusatory.  Why do they ask if it’s them?  It’s like they all realize they’re capable of it, but in their hearts they sincerely don’t want to be the one to do it.  (Except Judas, of course.)
  • V23 – The ESV says this dish is something that everyone would have been dipping into so that statement could have meant anyone at the table.  But the ESV also translates it “Judas answered” which implies that Jesus was talking to him.
  • V24 – More proof that this has been the plan all along.  The OT prophets wrote about Jesus’ death thousands of years before.  But Judas has not had his heart changed by God.  His name will be associated with betrayal for the rest of history.
  • V25 – Everyone else addressed Jesus as “Lord” but Judas calls Him Rabbi (Teacher).  That had to be a painfully tense moment for Judas.  The question went around the table, so when it came to him, he of course had to ask.  If Jesus says yes,  the other disciples are likely to take some kind of action to try to stop him.  He can’t say no because that would be a lie, but Judas is probably desperately hoping that Jesus doesn’t know his thoughts.  Jesus’ answer is a common way of deflecting responsibility back upon the one asking the question, according to the ESV.
  • V26 – The ESV says “Jesus’ body will be the once-and-for-all fulfillment of the ceremonies surrounding the Passover lamb and other OT sacrifices, as He will become the sacrificial atonement for the sins of the people.”
  • V27 – Another ESV note: This is “most likely the third of four cups at Passover – the cup of blessing, or the cup of redemption – corresponding to God’s third promise in Ex 6:6: “I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment.”
  • V31 – None of the disciples were able to stand and stay with Jesus in the face of persecution this time.  Later, the Holy Spirit would give them the strength to do so, but this time their fear and sin caused them to abandon Him.
  • V32 – He immediately reassured them, not only that He will not stay dead, but that He will be waiting for them back home.  He will not hold their abandonment against them.
  • V33 – Peter desperately wants to stay devoted to Jesus.
  • V34 – Jesus knows the reality that belies Peter’s intentions.
  • V35 – Peter’s got some serious adrenaline flow.  He can see things are coming to a head.  Perhaps he is expecting a fight in which he can defend Jesus to the death.  That would be much easier, in a way, than what Jesus asks of him, which is to stand by Him as He allows Himself to be led away and slaughtered.  Even though Jesus has been predicting His death, I don’t think anyone expects Him to go without a fight.

◊ Do I trust Jesus is in control and stand by Him and defend His name no matter what the circumstances: whether He asks me to fight for someone I love or let them go?

  • V36 – Why didn’t He ask His disciples to pray for Him?  He didn’t even ask these eight (12 less Peter, James, John, and Judas) to stay awake.
  • V37 – When He’s with His closest friends, He lets His emotions show so they can share the load.
  • V38 – He’s so sad He feels like He’s going to die.  It would have been a lot easier way to go.  Why sad?  Why not scared or angry?  Sad that He would be separated from His Father.  Sad to experience sin and the way it kept Him from feeling His Father’s love.  Sad that people couldn’t understand how deep His love, couldn’t and wouldn’t worship and obey Him, despite all He’d done for them.
  • V39 – This verse encourages and teaches me in so many ways.  His humility, honesty, and submission in this verse give me an example of how I can and must submit to God in all circumstances.
  • V40 – Why did He stop praying and go to the disciples?  For encouragement?  To urge them to pray?
  • V41 – He’s addressing Peter’s previous bravado.  You think you can, but you cannot without the help of the Holy Spirit.

◊ In what areas is my spirit willing but my flesh weak?  Do I pray about that?

  • V42 – If there’s no other way around this, I will do it.  He’s bringing the wight of the request before the Father but promising submission.
  • V43 – Why did He come back again?  Did He want the reassurance of their friendship?  He didn’t bother to wake them this time.

◊ Am I “sleeping” while a friend needs me to be awake and pay attention in prayer for them?

  • V44 – His prayers aren’t wordy.
  • V45-46 – He knows because this is all part of the plan.

Wrap up your quiet time by praying through the following questions:

  • Based on this passage of Scripture, what can I thank God for?
  • What do these verses tell me about God and His character?
  • Based on this passage, is there anything I need to confess to God and ask forgiveness for?
  • What do these verses remind me to pray for others?
  • What do these verses move me to pray for myself?
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The Plan – Matthew 26:1-19

We’re getting down to the end of the story here, folks!  Does anyone have any thoughts or requests for the next book of the Bible we go through?

  • V2 – This is the 4th time Jesus has told them He’s going to die.  This time He’s specific about when and how it will happen.  He couldn’t be any more clear.
  • Here’s a recap about what was going on before since He spent the last two chapters telling the disciples about what is to come.  Before that He had been teaching (using parables) in the temple and the religious leaders were always the bad guys in the parables.  Then they tried to trick Him several times into saying something that would turn the people against Him, but that never worked out for them.
  • V3-4 – So now the religious leaders all went over to Caiaphas’ house (he’s the one with the palace, after all) and they’re trying to figure out how they can arrest Jesus without anyone finding out about it.
  • V5 – The city is extra full because of Passover and the people from the rural towns are some of Jesus’ favorite fans.  But did you catch that at the end?  The plotters say it won’t happen during Passover, but Jesus just said it would happen during Passover in v2.  They were planning, but things didn’t go as they planned.  Matthew is really clear throughout that all things are going according to God’s plan.  That’s why he chronicles all those repeated reminders of His death and the mentions of pre-planning in 26:18 and 21:2-3.  It has to be very clear that none of this was a surprise or a mistake.
  • V6 – This must be someone Jesus healed.  If he still had leprosy, he wouldn’t be able to live in town.

◊ He kept his old nickname as a rememberance for bringing God glory.  If Simon the Leper clearly doesn’t have leprosy, people are going to ask what happened.  Is there a way I can share how Jesus has healed me so others can give glory to God and have hope for their own healing and salvation?

  • V7 – John 12:3 identifies this woman as Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus.  The ESV says the ointment was “a perfume oil used for solemn acts of devotion.”

◊ What act have I done to demonstrate my devotion to Christ?

  • V8-9 – The disciples’ argument seems valid to a point (although John 12:6 clarifies that the loudest complainer was Judas because he wanted to pilfer from the cash).  But I can’t think of an instance wehn God discouraged people from spending a lot of money on something that would bring Him glory.

◊ Am I generous towards God?

◊ What kind of things might seem like a waste to others but would be a beautiful thing to Jesus?

  • V11 – He’s not saying they shouldn’t give to the poor.  “You always have the poor with you” means you have the opportunity to give to the poor every day.

◊ The opportunity is there – what do I do with it?

  • V12 – The ESV says this wasn’t why she annointed Him, but Jesus used it as another opportunity to remind them He’s going to die.
  • V13 – I wonder if Matthew left out her name because he knows the point isn’t to bring glory to Mary, but to God.

◊ When I do somehting to advance God’s kingdom, do I leave hoping people will talk about me and what I’ve done or about God and what He’s done?

  • V14 – Whatever his motives, Judas decided to take matters into his own hands.
  • V15 – He wasn’t interested in turning Jesus over for nothing.  He was deriven, at least in part, by his love of money.  On the other hand, 30 pieces of silver wasn’t a huge windfall.  It’s only about $7500 in today’s terms.  (Incidentally, this was the price you had to pay if you accidentally killed a slave (Ex 21:32).  How ironic for this humble King.)

◊ What does my relationship with money drive me to do?  Does that bring glory to God?

  • V16 – He gave up Jesus’ mission and took on his own mission.

◊ What’s my mission?

  • V17 – The disciples think they need to prepare the Passover, but clearly…
  • V18 – …Jesus had been preparing things as well, whether He’d arraged things with this man beforehand or this was another miraculous work of God.  (Matthew leaves out a couple of exciting details you can find in Luke 22:8-13.)

◊ The success of my efforts in advancing God’s kingdom depends on the preparation God has done in people’s hearts beforehand.  And my obedience (v19).

Wrap up your quiet time by praying through the following questions:

  • Based on this passage of Scripture, what can I thank God for?
  • What do these verses tell me about God and His character?
  • Based on this passage, is there anything I need to confess to God and ask forgiveness for?
  • What do these verses remind me to pray for others?
  • What do these verses move me to pray for myself?
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What Do Homeless People, Immigrants, and Jailed Criminals Have in Common? – Matthew 25:31-46

Answer: Those taking care of their needs are the ones who get into Heaven.  (Bet you didn’t think that’s what I was going to say!)  BTW, that’s not all you have to do to get in to Heaven, but we’ll discuss that in a minute.

  • V31 – Wow.  I just gotta stop on this one for a minute because it paints an amazing picture.
  • V32 – All the nations will be together and no one will be concerned about who hates who or any other pettiness because we’ll all be focused on Jesus.
  • V34 – Did you catch that?  God’s been preparing His kingdom for us from the foundation of the world.  If He created our universe in seven days, imagine what He can do in all that time!
  • V35-36 – If I wasn’t familiar with this passage, I think I would be surprised that this was the defining factor between the sheep and the goats.  It wasn’t “For you read your Bible a lot and didn’t break the law or live a wild life.”  He doesn’t mention anything about all the sins they didn’t do.  The most important factor here is that these people took care of people who needed help.

◊ Who’s hungry and thirsty?  Homeless people, people living in poverty in our country and in others.

Who’s a stranger?  Immigrants, both legal and illegal; people I don’t know

Who needs clothing?  Generally, the same people who are hungry; unwanted babies

Who’s sick?  People in hospitals and nursing homes; people who can’t afford healthcare

Who’s in prison?  Criminals (and in some countries, people being persecuted for their faith.)

Can I put a name or a face to anyone with any of these needs?  Who have I fed?  Clothed?  Welcomed?  Visited?

  • V40 – I would be a lot more eager and less judgmental to help someone in need if I thought of serving them like I was serving Jesus.  That’s what He asks of me.  This verse demands that we set aside judgment and help!
  • V34-40 – Check out this note from my Study Bible: “This parable describes acts of mercy we all can do every day.  These acts do not depend on wealth, ability, or intelligence; they are simple acts freely given and freely received. We have no excuse to neglect those who have deep needs, and we cannot hand over this responsibility to the church or government.  Jesus demands our personal involvement in caring for others’ needs.”
  • V41 – The fire was prepared for the devil and his angels, but faithless people will end up there as well.
  • V42-43 – Again, it’s surprising that this is the deciding factor, not all the “big sins” one thinks of when you think of what gets a person sent to hell.
  • V44 – Ok, He just repeated these words four times in ten verses!  Think He’s trying to make a point?!  Pay attention!

◊ V45 – Am I putting service to those in need as a high-level priority?!  Not doing something God has asked me to do is just as much a sin as doing something He has asked me not to.

  • V46 – Eternity is at stake.
  • V31-46 – Is this about working our way into heaven?!  No.  Jesus already taught that we can do the right things for the wrong reasons and still miss the boat (Matthew 6:1-4; 7:21-23).  He also taught that faith in Him is the only way to heaven (John 14:6).  The sheep are the ones who accepted Jesus’ love and when you’re filled with Jesus’ love and understand how little you deserve that love and how much Jesus had to sacrifice to offer it, you can’t help but be moved to compassion by people’s needs.  The Spirit of God moved Jesus to compassion when He was confronted by people’s need and brokenness (Matthew 14:14, 15:32; 23:37), that same Spirit lives in those who follow Jesus.  John 14: 12 sums it up nicely: “Whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do…”
  • Check out Isaiah 58 for more on how much God wants us to take care of the poor.

If this post puts a fire under your butt, I highly recommend that you read Shane Claiborne’s book Irresistible Revolution.

Wrap up your quiet time by praying through the following questions:

  • Based on this passage of Scripture, what can I thank God for?
  • What do these verses tell me about God and His character?
  • Based on this passage, is there anything I need to confess to God and ask forgiveness for?
  • What do these verses remind me to pray for others?
  • What do these verses move me to pray for myself?
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