Matthew 3 Part 1–John the Baptist

It was God’s plan to make Jesus arrival known, just not in a rock star sort of way. God picked John the Baptist, to begin to change the hearts of the people of Israel, and to let them know the time was drawing near.  John lived simply, spoke boldly an saw what was to come quite clearly.  He knew his place was important but limited. He also knew he was the person to introduce the Messiah–he was not the Messiah.

Still people were coming from all over to hear his message and be baptized. The Jewish leaders were coming as well to check the competition.  These men, who knew the law and prophets better than anyone, should have seen the prophetic significance–but they did not.  To them, he was just a crazy guy making a splash. John was changing lives and preparing the way for Jesus–He was an amazing man.

In our lives God uses us all in different ways if we allow him to. Like John, we simply have to do what he has called us to do; and not question his plan.  We may feel we insignificant, but, then God may be using us to prepare the way for others to know him.  If we remain in him and trust him, we can be assured–God will use us to further his kingdom.  Stay focused, stay available and stay ready–then know God will change lives through you!

God Bless You

In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:

“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
    make straight paths for him.'”

John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan.Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 10 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

11 “I baptize you with[b] water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with[c] the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

Matthew 2 Part 2–God Is Never Surprised

After the Magi returned to there homes, it did not take Herod long to decide to make sure he protected his kingdom. Herod ordered his troops to kill all boys aged two and under born in and around the town of Bethlehem. This horrible feat, prophesied in Jeremiah, was not completed by some foreign enemy–no, it was done by Israel’s king.

God knew, however, and guided Joseph, Mary and Jesus away to safety in Egypt. They stayed there until Herod was dead and the hunt for Jesus was over.  From there, God led them back to Nazareth, where, from all indications, the family built a very normal life. All the fanfare over, and all the  danger past, Jesus was now being made ready to be in this world, and become it’s Savior.

In our lives, God carries us through great and dark times. He has a plan for us, according to his word, and wants us to have full and meaningful lives. But, as with the Savior, a good part of our lives are simply normal day-to-day living.  The great news is, that as with Jesus, God is as interested in those normal days of our lives, as he is with the trials and the amazing events.  He is always there and always cares about each event and happening.

Remember, we are never alone; and God is never surprised by the events in our lives. He loves us and knows the plan He has in place! (Jeremiah 29:11.)

God Bless You

When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”[c]

16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. 17 Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:

18 “A voice is heard in Ramah,
    weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
    and refusing to be comforted,
    because they are no more.”[d]

The Return to Nazareth

19 After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt 20 and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.”

21 So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, 23 and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.

 

Matthew 2 Part 1–The Magi’s Visit

During the exile in Babylon, Daniel and his friends were used and blessed by God. Because of the dreams he interpreted, Daniel was considered the chief of the magicians–the Magi. Even back during that time, they were told to watch for the birth of the Messiah–the one that would bring freedom to Israel.  Still, most were looking for an Earthly king to lead the uprising that would again make Israel a great nation on earth. They did not realize his Kingdom was heavenly and reign eternal.

Now, hundreds of years later, the signs told to the Magi appeared, and the star of Bethlehem had beckoned for them to come and see the Messiah–the King of the Jews.  They made the journey and found the Messiah.  When they informed Herod of what they considered great news, he immediately felt fear and threat–of course…after all he was king, right? Still, the Magi were able to complete the journey, bless the Messiah and fulfill the prophecy.

In today’s world, the Gospel of God–Jesus is the best news we can get. While we were yet sinners, Christ came and died for us. He wants nothing more than to redeem us from the sin and death we carry. That is the stuff of miracles and celebration.

Sadly, like Herod, most of our world sees that as a threat. They fear that they will have to give something up or quit having fun. So, the name and thought of Jesus puts them on edge and drives a wedge between them and any who would follow the Lord.  Still, like the Magi, the rest of us celebrate Jesus’ birth and His life.  We see the gift Jesus is, and are grateful and thankful for our redemption, and his promise of eternal life. We offer our lives, talents and treasures to the one that gave everything for us! We are not looking for an earthly king, instead, we are looking for our redeemer and our Lord!!!

God Bless You

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi  from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born.“In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
    who will shepherd my people Israel.’[b]

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

Matthew 1 Part 2–How to Make an Entrance

esus was obviously unique. God chose Mary as the mother of Jesus; but he also chose Joseph to raise the Savior. It must have been a mixture of heart rending emotion as Mary was to learn that God chose her for such an important mission. She knew it would be amazing, but, also terrifying to expose her betrothed to such scorn. Then, young Joseph–having to deal with the feeling of betrayal; followed by the gravity of raising someone else’s–GOD’S son. Sure, he was was of noble lineage–as was Mary; but, to parent the Messiah! Really!

These two young people were about to embark upon a journey to change the world. God chose carefully and as always, perfectly, to place  His son in the world with the right folks, at the right time, to carry out the most important mission of all. Jesus came to reintroduce God to men, and to make a way for them to reconnect with God, and personally join him for eternity.

God rarely does things as we would. If it was my son, I am sure there would have been one heck of a celebration. CNN, Fox News, angelic banners and big old celebrations–announcing Jesus entrance, and making sure people knew and followed him! But, that was the point–God wanted His chosen to follow Jesus willingly and without fanfare. The Father wanted people to be in relationship–simply because they saw the need and desired the life.

God truly demonstrated His love for us–In that while we were sinners–he did this…sent his son to live and die in an ordinary way, as an ordinary guy, with ordinary parents in an ordinary place.  He came to be one of us–the obvious best of us, but, still just one of us! That really is true love!

God Bless You

This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet  did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”[g] (which means “God with us”).

24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

Matthew 1 Part 1–The Genealogy of a Savior

Matthew wanted the Jewish people to know that they were given the Messiah that they had been searching for forever. Jesus was the Savior that the prophets had promised.  From Matthew, the tax collector’s perspective, a systematic approach would be best.  So in his mind, he started at the beginning. Not Jesus’ beginning, Israel’s beginning.  

Matthew traced Jesus genealogy back to the father of the nation, Abraham. He then took the people through the 42 generations from Abraham to Jesus.  Among those generations were some of Israel’s most beloved. Abraham, Isaac, Israel, Judah, Ruth, David and Solomon all who left rich heritages in Israel’s history. But, the lineage also included the stories of incest, prostitution, adultery, murder and chaos galore.  

Jesus’ ancestry was not spotless or awe inspiring. It was real, and made up of real people–with real life issues, sins and problems. Jesus was God’s only begotten son; but, he was also a part of a heritage of people that made huge mistakes, and left God big messes to clean up.

The Gospels are the “Good News” that God understands us, and wants to have a relationship with us. What a great way to show us his intentions are real. He is one of us who came from a real family line; with real heroes and real villains.

God loves us and accepts us just the way we are–He did that with Perez-(Son of his own Grandpa),Rahab(prostitute from Jericho), Ruth(the Moabite), David,(murderer and adulterer), Solomon, (son of that tramp Bathsheba..)and so many more broken folks–and he will do it with us.

Thank you, Lord that our pedigree starts and ends with you; and that is good enough!!!!!

God Bless You

This is the genealogy[a] of Jesus the Messiah[b] the son of David, the son of Abraham:

Abraham was the father of Isaac,

Isaac the father of Jacob,

Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,

Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar,

Perez the father of Hezron,

Hezron the father of Ram,

Ram the father of Amminadab,

Amminadab the father of Nahshon,

Nahshon the father of Salmon,

Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,

Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,

Obed the father of Jesse,

and Jesse the father of King David.

David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,

Solomon the father of Rehoboam,

Rehoboam the father of Abijah,

Abijah the father of Asa,

Asa the father of Jehoshaphat,

Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram,

Jehoram the father of Uzziah,

Uzziah the father of Jotham,

Jotham the father of Ahaz,

Ahaz the father of Hezekiah,

10 Hezekiah the father of Manasseh,

Manasseh the father of Amon,

Amon the father of Josiah,

11 and Josiah the father of Jeconiah[c] and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon.

12 After the exile to Babylon:

Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel,

Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,

13 Zerubbabel the father of Abihud,

Abihud the father of Eliakim,

Eliakim the father of Azor,

14 Azor the father of Zadok,

Zadok the father of Akim,

Akim the father of Elihud,

15 Elihud the father of Eleazar,

Eleazar the father of Matthan,

Matthan the father of Jacob,

16 and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah.

17 Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah.

Matthew–Introduction

Each of the Gospels has a theme and a flavor. The gospel of Matthew was written for the purpose of helping the Jewish people see that the life and acts of Jesus were in line with hundreds of years of prophecy.  Matthew wanted the people to see that Jesus did not simply happen onto the scene–He was the one spoken of across Jewish history.

The Gospel of Mark was the 1st gospel recorded and it was the Dragnet–“Just the facts!”  version.

Luke was written by Dr Luke, Paul’s companion and was more of an outsider’s look at the facts and a comprehensive history of Jesus Life, it was also the only part 1 of 2-the Acts of the Apostles

John was a love story–Jesus best friend writing an account that showed not only Christs life, but also his heart. A perspective that could only come from a dear friend.  

As one compares and contrasts the accounts, there is plenty to discuss and argue about, but two things are clear from all accounts–Jesus was God, and he came and changed the world and our lives forever.

We will be studying Matthews account–what a great continuation of seeing God in all his greatness. Matthew reminds us that Christ’s life and death was planned and executed flawlessly.  What’s more He came to show us the heart and mind of the creator and to help us to live in a way that is purposeful and eternal.  I can’t wait to walk through the gospel together.

God Bless You

MaMatthew 6:33 New International Version (NIV)

33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Transitioning–The Gospel

It is time to transition out of the Old Testament and back into the New. Since we started looking at the names of God last fall, we have seen a very detailed profile of who God is, and how He was perceived by those that passionately sought him.  Still, with that rich history, the people of Israel continued to stray away from God and attempt to live lives that were independent of His love and leadership.  So, after  leading them to the promised land, establishing them as a nation, watching them push Him away as their leader and demand a king; God still loved them. Next, He attempted to place them in the hands of Godly kings–only to have the kings also reject him and try to lead the nation independent of him.

Finally, it was time to execute His promise from Genesis–send the Messiah. The people of Israel had been watching for Him for generations, the one that would finally deliver Israel from their enslavement and make them free.  The sad news was, that Israel still had no idea that the freedom they needed was not the freedom they sought. God sent Jesus to free them from sin and eternal separation from Him. He was restoring to them a life of purpose, and an eternity of completeness and joy.  The people, sadly, were still looking for a warrior king to make them great on the world stage and in the world’s eyes.  As we track through the book of Matthew, it is going to be amazing how God made clear that He was fulfilling the prophecies laid out throughout the Old Testament.

God had delivered on the promises to His people; all he had left to offer–was himself.  He loved us and as any loving father would, He did not spare even His own life  for those He loved! That is the Good News, That is the GOSPEL!

God Bless You

Romans 5:8 New International Version (NIV)

But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.