Matthew 11 Part 1–Are You The One?

John was languishing in prison. He ticked off Herod and was losing popularity; and now, as he was facing death, he began to have doubts. Had what he accomplished been for nothing? Did he simply make a brief stir that would quickly fade to obscurity? Was Jesus truly the Messiah, or had he been confused by the roar of the crowds.  So John did what doubtful people do–He asked the question–“Are You really the one?”

Jesus felt John’s pain. He knew John’s heart–Jesus told the crowd–John was as great a man that their has ever been, yet, even great  men can’t compare to God’s chosen.  He told John’s guys to simply remind John the difference that was being made because of the ministry he started. Tell john what you are seeing. Comfort him, let him know it was not for nothing.  John did what he was called to do–prepare the way. Jesus now was doing what he was called to do–Change the world.

Those who trust and follow God and his path, invariably hit walls of doubt and insecurity. They question, to the very core, their commitment to Christ, and the journey that they are on.  It is a confusing, frustrating walk; that seems to be out of our control–if we are doing it right. It is hard, thankless and amazing. If we will keep our focus upon Him and on what he HAS done, IS doing and WILL do in our lives–then, we will weather the walls of doubt, and gratefully accept the life the Lord has given us; a life of purpose, of peace and of eternal value. We will see a full, meaningful and abundant history and legacy. That is what John did, and that is what John left. Trust Christ, and so will you!

God Bless You

After Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee.[a]

When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”

Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see:The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy[b] are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”

As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces.Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is the one about whom it is written:

“‘I will send my messenger ahead of you,
    who will prepare your way before you.’[c]

11 Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

Matthew 10 Part 2–This Is War, Men!

Jesus sent the disciples out to do what he had been doing; to help them get the real picture, He said, “Go without supplies, swords, tents or money.”  He did that to prepare them for walking by faith. It is highly likely,  that “the 12” looked at Jesus with a mixture of confusion and horror.  As they considered the trip, they probably were highly concerned about making it through.  In the midst of the heightened concern, Jesus follows with–“This is war, men”. He shared with them the trials they would face; the deceit, the betrayal–all in His name. 

From a leadership perspective, Jesus didn’t want His guys blindsided; but, it was a horrifying idea.  Here they were traveling with a “rockstar”, and now–He said,you go do it, and , oh,by the way–this is going to be war. Here were the two take away’s for His men. 1.  He knew they could do it–even if they did not and, 2.  He knew they had to get ready–because his time with them was short.  Those men, the ones that built the early church, had visions of grandeur, palaces, chariots throngs and waving banners.  Jesus wanted them to understand that that simply was not the mission.

It is still not the mission.  Jesus calls us to prepare for war.  He reminds us that we can do what he did! He also reminds us we can expect the same treatment he received.  That is not meant to discourage us; no, it is meant to prepare us.  God is in the business of preparing, protecting and providing for us.  That is who he is and that is what he does. He does not sugar coat, but, he does arm and shield us for battle. We need to be ready for war–He will then protect and provide what we need to execute!

God Bless You

 

If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. 15 Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.

16 “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. 17 Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. 18 On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. 19 But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, 20 for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

21 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 22 You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 23 When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

24 “The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master.25 It is enough for students to be like their teachers, and servants like their masters. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household!

Matthew 10 Part 1–Now You Try

One of the most difficult things that a leader and teacher has to do–is to let go and allow them do the work on their own.  Jesus called the disciples together, one day to do that very thing.  These were, after all, the men that were going to build the church.  He needed them to see that they were following more than a radical teacher. He wanted them to realize they were following Almighty God. So, Jesus empowered each of them to do what He had been doing–heal the sick, cast out demons, clean lepers and if necessary–raise the dead.

He gave them specific instructions–they were to focus on the people of Israel, not the Gentiles or Samaritans. They were to encourage the people by letting them know The Messiah had indeed come. They were to trust God; not only for the ability to carry out the mission, but, also for what they needed while on the mission.  They were not allowed to take money, spare clothes or food.  They had to step out in faith and watch God provide, protect and prepare them.

In our lives, like the disciples, we are called to spread the Gospel. God will equip us to do the job for which we have been called.  We have to trust Him for the power to do the job. (Hebrews 13:21) He will also provide for your every need–(Phil 4:19). That is why we need not fear the journey, nor try to avoid executing his plan. We were saved to be God’s ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20). Jesus knew then and knows now that our faith is one that gives back–not one that simply absorbs blessing! 

God Bless you

Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.

These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy,[a] drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.

“Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts—10 no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker is worth his keep.

Matthew 9 Part 3–The Harvest

 ​As Jesus continued His ministry, He worked to touch as many lives as He could. Each group Jesus came upon, reminded Him of the purposeless existence that sin and the world had spread among the people. The crowds moved through their days like tortured prisoners or aimless wanderers.  Jesus came to bring back that purpose. While His mission was one of sacrifice, Jesus was compelled to show love, mercy and restoration to everyone He could. Like the Father, Jesus could not bear to see people suffer–when He knew that He could help.

So, as Jesus moved from town to town, He touched and healed the sick. He freed the ones who were demon possessed. He loved the loveless, blessed those that were cursed and even raised the dead. Jesus was never trying to impress people, He simply could not help but love those God the Father had entrusted to him.  He was committed to showing His disciples, those that would build the Church, that “the Church” was about these people. 

In our world, like in the Savior’s, folks are walking aimless and purposeless through life. They are sick, sad, entrapped and ensnared. They are seeking something…anything to provide peace and purpose. The great news is that Jesus is just as much the answer today as he was those days when he walked among us. Jesus loves us just as much, and He wants nothing more than to restore, guide and complete us; so, that we can live a purposeful life here and an eternal life with Him in Heaven.  Our world is ripe for harvest–just as His was–Jesus calls us to be the harvesters. He asks that we bring the people out of emptiness and into a life of meaning. Please join Him in the compelling mission–of loving those that are unloved, and seeking to save that which is lost.

God Bless You

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

Matthew 9 Part 2–Focus on God not on Rules

During his ministry on earth, Jesus knew he not only had to reveal God to men, But he also needed to help them to distinguish between following a rule and following the Ruler! The religious leaders of the day were all about following the rules–they took God’s 10 commandments and clarified them into hundreds of rules and regulations.  It was not that the law was at fault, it was that the people lost complete sight of God, because of their myopic focus on the law.

It broke God’s heart–He called Israel to be a kingdom of priests. They were to be committed to the proposition that the God of Israel would become the Lord of all.  Jesus came to refocus people on the ruler, not the rules.  As he slowly worked to shift the paradigm, the religious elite became jealous, fearful, resentful and territorial. They grew more intent by the day of taking this Jesus out of their religion.  It was the most visible expression of what the nation had done for generations.

Not so surprising, we see the same thing today. The mainline religions and denominations have systematically taken Christ out of the church and God out of Christianity.  They replace Him with relativism and issues of the day–but, refuse to stand for the basic principles of faith, family and community.  That is why this is known as the post-modern christian era. The great news is that while the church has moved away from Christ–Christ remains the same, and continues to  call us to focus on the Ruler and allow the rules to take care of themselves. 

God Bless You

 As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.

10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’[a] For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Jesus Questioned About Fasting

14 Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?”

15 Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.

16 “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. 17 Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”

Matthew 9 Part 1–Parlor Tricks

We want to see the parlor tricks…In Jesus day, both religious leaders and sinners alike thronged to follow Jesus place to place. In their hearts, they thought, “What is he going to do next?” On this particular day, Jesus was preaching and some men brought Jesus a paralyzed man on a mat. In Luke’s account, it says they cut a hole in the roof and lowered him down to Jesus–none the less-Jesus told the  man that his sins were forgiven.  This caused an uproar among the religious leaders–but, Jesus was not concerned. In modern language; I am sure he would have looked at them and said, “Really? parlor tricks trump real restoration?”

Jesus knew what the young man needed–he needed restoration of his life more than of his legs–Jesus, being God, knew what the man needed and granted him peace probably for the first time in a long time; but, to stop any confusion from happening, Jesus went ahead and finished what he started–Jesus healed body and soul. The religious leaders were amazed and flabbergasted all at once. Jesus was just saddened; they simply would never understand. Jesus came to restore the link between Holy God and sinful man–not to perform parlor tricks.

In our lives, our prayers sometimes mirror the comments of the religious leaders–“Forgive my sins? I came for you to fix my body, my family, my career or my finances…Forgive my sins?? What?” Jesus is here for us to completely restore us body and soul. Mostly, He is concerned with the link for eternity between us and God–Forgiveness of sin! We are the ones that get all atwitter about the rest.  We have to have the faith of the friends and of the man–“Do what it takes to get to Jesus, but, then trust Him to complete His purpose in us!”

God Bless You

Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town.Some men brought to him a paralyzed man, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.”

At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, “This fellow is blaspheming!”

Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” Then the man got up and went home. When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to man.

Matthew 8 Part 2–The Daily walk of Jesus

Being the Savior was no easy task. In His early ministry, Jesus healed the sick, told people of God and His message, and trained his disciples.  People began to gather and crowds started to form. They crawled out of the woodwork to see the Master, be healed or be part of His band.  Jesus kindly met the crowds, healed the sick, spoke the truth and trained His folks. But it became more and more difficult to share the message over the noise of His celebrity.

The great news is that Jesus was not about the celebrity. He was about changing the world and saving mankind from itself. So, as He healed the sick, raised the dead, spoke the truth and trained His men–He always did it with the mission in mind. He would become the sacrifice; so that people could again have a personal relationship with God. A meaningful, eternal relationship–without the need of an intermediary like a high priest. He knew such a change would have dramatic impact and make Him unpopular among the religious elite. But, never the less, He continued to make each day count.

It is difficult too make each day count on the journey. It sometimes seems pointless or hopeless–in today’s Godless culture. Jesus knew it would require discipline, and He promised to provide His spirit to bring hope, training and comfort.  We need to seek Him with the faith it takes to trust His plan is the right plan. We need to set our hearts and minds on things above (Colossians 3:1-2). Like Jesus, we need to walk toward the goal; with our purpose in mind–execute the mission He has laid out for us. It may not always seem glamorous, but, it will prepare us for an amazing Journey that ends in Glory!!!

God Bless You

When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. 15 He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him.

16 When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick.17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:

“He took up our infirmities
    and bore our diseases.”[b]

The Cost of Following Jesus

18 When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. 19 Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”

20 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

21 Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”

22 But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”

Jesus Calms the Storm

23 Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. 24 Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”

26 He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.

27 The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”

Matthew 8 Part 1–It is About Faith

After finishing the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus picked back up with his ministry. Immediately He was approached by two unlikely candidates for faith–A leper and a Roman Centurion. The  amazing thing, was that Jesus neither hesitated, nor did He act uncomfortable with these two sets of outcasts from the Jewish people. Lepers were “unclean” and to expose oneself to them made that person unclean.  Jesus did not even hesitate, He healed the leper, told him not to tell anyone that He had done so–but, to go make the proper showing and offering to be free from the curse and stigma he was under. Jesus was interested in the leper’s faith not his social position.

Next, a Roman centurion, considered the evil overlords of the Roman outpost, Israel. The Jewish people despised the Romans generally; and especially the leadership. They were gentiles,after all, and they were the nation that invaded and had taken them over, and they often exploited the Jewish people financially, physically and abused them verbally. So to have a centurion ask politely for the healing of a servant was not only unusual, but it was a test of will.  Jesus was amazed at the centurion’s faith and gladly healed the servant. Jesus was not defined by cultural predispositions! He was blown away at the man’s faith! He wanted to honor it.

In our lives, we need to trust and follow Jesus’ teaching and allow Him to lead our lives. Like Jesus, we need not equate our faith with church attendance, tithing or other ritualistic benchmarks. We need to simply trust and follow His lead, love others and love Him most of all. As with the leper and centurion, Jesus accepts us as we are. He meets our needs without fanfare or expectation of remuneration. We also need to do the same. We are to love folks and realize that like us, most people are a mess.  It is all about faith–faith in God and faith in our daily walk with him.  As he said in the sermon, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to You!” Matthew 6:33

God Bless You

When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy[a] came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”

Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy. Then Jesus said to him, “See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”

The Faith of the Centurion

When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”

Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”

The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

10 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. 11 I say to you that many will come from the east and the west,and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment.

Matthew 7-Final–It is More than Hearing, It’s Doing

Jesus ended the “Sermon on the Mount” by saying what every teacher wants to say–“I have given you some pretty life changing stuff here, thanks for listening, BUT, now go do it!” (Mike Smith paraphrase)  He gave them the illustration of building a house on a solid foundation or on a sand pile–one will last and the other is assured to collapse. Jesus knew that many would walk away saying that what he said was great, but, then they would resume their lives of defeat and hopelessness. As one that loved them as only God could, he hated to see them miss out by simply filing the message away as “good advice”. 

God’s way runs counter to the ways of the world.  As men face each day, there is little to point them toward God. All life’s influences are opposed to the very simple truth that if we will seek God first, He will add the rest. (Matt 6:33) Jesus, knowing this, urged those listening to not only listen to the message, but actually put it into practice. If they would, he explained, then they would build a life of purpose that would stand up to the many trails and temptations that life presents.

Here, 2000 years later, we are faced with the same choice. We can either choose to follow the Lord, heed his advice, and live selfless purpose driven lives; or, we can follow the world’s leading and attempt to live independent of God. If we follow him, when the storms of life hit and rock our world, we will be able to bear up under it-because our foundation is solid. Conversely, apart from God, our lives will inevitably become a pile of sticks, stones and debris–because our lives are then built on the ever-shifting and never lasting culture we call the world. 

One need only look back at the last 20 years to see how much values and morals can shift. There are no absolutes, no perameters, no solid foundation–on which to build a life. Jesus knew then, and still urges us today–don’t only hear this message; live this message!  Help me, Lord, to not only hear your message, but also live it!

God Bless You 

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.

Matthew 7 Part 3–The Message is to Focus

Jesus starts to wrap up the “talk for the ages.” Clearly, He has the attention of the crowd–So, now He delivers the message within the message; the core, the main thing…

The message is to focus–FOCUS! Life in this world is extremely tough, So focus.  Focus on what you need, Jesus called them to focus upon turning to and turning your  needs over to  God! You need not be afraid to ask God for what you need–He is a Dad! Dads that understand loving their kids, give them their needs and desires-neither maliciously or with an agenda! God is so much more loving, selfless and kind! Search for Him, you will find him–knock; He will open up for you! He is God.

Next, Focus upon where you are going. He wanted folks to know–His path is the narrow one! It is neither easy; nor is there a great deal of room to maneuver. God wants our hearts and our submission. It is a non-negotiable. He offers to be our Lord AND Savior not Lord or Savior. The journey leads to life, peace and purpose! So, while it may be a narrow path, it leads to an amazing life–for now and eternity.

Finally, focus on who you are following and becoming. He reminded the people that there would be false prophets–they will look good and speak better! But, their fruit will be awful. Just focus; not only on their words, but, also upon their deeds and their mission. If they are not s glorifying God, they are simply like a wolf wearing a wool  sweater! It may look good, but, it does not make them less of a wolf! In the same vein, just because someone acts religious, it does not mean they even know God! they can put on a great front, but Jesus looks at the heart! So should we! 

We must focus–on what we needwhere we are goingwhom we follow and whose we will be! Unless God is the answer to the question, the results will be empty and short lived. This–is the message! This–is the life.

God Bless You

 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! 12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

The Narrow and Wide Gates

13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

True and False Prophets

15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

True and False Disciples

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’